Hurricane of 1938

(A small Rhode Island family
caught in the path of a storm)

Dark black clouds race across a blue sky
     The sun retreats, hides behind a cloud
Windows rattle in the old Cape Cod house
     Clapboards moan with the windís onslaught

Lights begin to flicker in the old house
     Fade and then die
Grandfather fetches his hurricane lamps
     A yellow flame flickers in the lampís chimney

A Glenwood Parlor wood stove sits in the middle of the front room
     Its heat pushes back the chill
Family members move their chairs closer around the old stove
     Logs disappear into the belly of the stove

Grandfather stands looking at the salt marsh grasses waving
     The last line of defense
Waves reinforced by the wind charge
     Up the beach towards the marsh

Bits of sand sail on the windís breath
     Chewing at the shuttered windows facing the sea
The house stands strong against Mother Natureís siege
     The waves march against the timid salt marsh grasses

Grandfather shuffles across the room
     Eases himself into his antique black rocker
As he twists and turns to get comfortable
     The chair groans

Tension fills in the spaces around each family member
     As they listen to wind as it growls
Grandmother settles into her matching rocker
     Fear shows in her eyes as she watches grandfather

Grandfather leans forward in his rocker looks around
     Grabbing his cane raps it on the floor three times
Talking stops, wide eyes lock on grandfather
     Slowly he looks into the eyes of each family member

His voice soft with age, voice still with authority
     Did I ever tell you about …
His words slide off his tongue with practiced ease
     Link together to create images

Each family member leans forward
     Catching each word of the story, firing up their imagination
A hush falls over the room as grandfather weaves his story
     His words push the storm back outside

Outside the storm rages, the wind howls
     Mother Nature sits back smiling at her work
Ancient trees battling the windís fury
     Cracking limbs breaking signal surrender

Inside a story banishes fear for a moment
     As grandfather weaves his tale
Images navigate through a familyís imagination
     As the hurricane plots its attack

Lost in grandfatherís words
     The family finds refuge from the storm
Hurricane lamps flicker near drafty windows
     Logs crackle and snap in the woodstove

Just as suddenly as the storm attacked
     Winds cease, the sun peeks around a cloud
The family steps out on to the battlefield
     The wind rests and recharges

Grandfather hobbles out using his cane
     Only the eye of the hurricane Ė false hope
Soon the winds stir from their hiding place
     The family once again retreats

The storm reappears with renewed rage
     Mother Nature whips up the wind
The sea renews its attack
     Boats at rest in the harbor fight for their lives

The fury of the storm sweeps
     Across the salt marsh
Rain with the force of a scythe
     Lays waste to the marsh grasses

Grandfather pushes against the front door
     Feeling the wind and rain pushing back
Putting his hands over the stove letting the warmth
     Penetrate his aged twisted fingers

Once again the family gathers around the stove
     Words from grandfather lost in the windís anger
The old house moans and groans
     under the windís assault

Time crawls slowly as the storm punishes
     More trees fall prey to Natureís rage
An old hickory witness to many a storm
     Bends and sways, its branches crack,

As suddenly as it approached
     The wind and rain retreat
The sun spreads it fingers across the sky
     Just in time for a golden sunset

Grandfather opens the door to the old house
     The late September sun smiles at him
The sea begins to calm
     Its waters reflect an azure sky

Trees shake their limbs, leaves float to the ground
     Broken limbs like a battlefield cover the yard
The old hemlock looks down at its broken limbs
     Another storm survived

— Richard Shaw

Copyright by Richard Shaw

Backgrounds by Marie

Back to Top

Poetry Home