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FALL/ WINTER 2017

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Barbara Ann Branca

STRANDED BY THE ALPHABET
A B C D E

Ezekiel saw the wheel, way up in the middle of the air
A girl with a 1950s hurricane name sings this ‘spiritual’
She knew it was a slave song
Maybe prophet Ezekiel’s vision wasn’t a chariot with
Wheels taking them to paradise
Maybe it was a hurricane swirling wheels within wheels
Dark cloud multitudes taking up the old testament sky
The girl with the hurricane name runs outside to the little tree
No longer bending and swaying in the wind
In the center of the great wheel, the still point
The eye casting a sallow light
She feels free as a bird

But then Ezekiel saw the wheel in the other direction
The sky grows dark, the wind howls
Mother calls -- get in the house this instant!
She remembers when that no-name hurricane knocked her over
Crossing Flatbush Avenue getting her 13th birthday cake
Mother prepares hurricane comfort food
Can of tuna, can of peas, can of cream of mushroom soup
Swirls it round and round in an old pot over a sterno

Dad battens down the hatches
Reads the newspaper by candlelight
President Eisenhower and Patrice Lumumba
Lumumba Lumumba he sings like a spiritual
Soon Belgian Congo will no longer be Belgian
People want to be free, free as a bird

F G H I J
Hurricane Harvey hits Houston
September day same as the great Galveston flood of 1900
Storm surge swamped the island
Washed away shanties 
Flattened a thin strand of Texas land

The girl with the 1950s hurricane name
Visits the statue of Madonna and child
For the nameless 8, 10 or was it 12,000 lost that day
Survivors went to Houston
To drain the swamp and suck out the oil

She’s seen Houston’s Midas skyscrapers
Empty McMansions in flooded streets
Eaten wild boar and knocked back longnecks
With tough-it-out rednecks on the Texas strand
Irma closes Fantasyland
Jose threatens ruined paradise

K L M N O
She’s seen Fats Domino’s house after Katrina
Now ain’t that a shame
She hears how Maria ravaged Puerto Rico
Old military proving ground for weapons
Shows proof of destruction
Instead of help, a scolding for
Not paying Wall Street debts

P Q R S T
She dreams a great storm cuts an island in half
Then Sandy does it
People still wait for barons to grant payment
But they should know
They are never free

Poor people’s shanties on the strand
Make way for something grand
The barons’ greed is dependable
The underclass expendable

She hears echoes of Paul Robeson singing Ezekiel Saw the Wheel

 

 


 

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