Cleaning Up After the Storm

– Eric Paul Shaffer

Audio Poem

an epithalamion for Joella and Steve

From the beach this morning, the sound of waves breaking on the reef
is lost in wind rushing through palm leaves. Beneath cloudless blue,

a solid line of litter marks the sand, sticks and bark and leaves and trash

left by high tide after last night’s deluge washed the cliffs clean,

and to the horizon, the sea is brown with earth. The storm was Biblical,

battering the island with crashes and flashes. Rain tore laundry

from lines and floated rubber slippers to the beach. Nobody could sleep

through the lightning, and thunder rattled the panes in their casings.
Dogs quivered beneath the bed. Wind banged doors in their frames
so loud I didn’t hear the neighbor knocking, but the candles kept us

awake, and I finally saw him dripping on the porch. Today,

he went home to inspect his house. His car is sunk to the door panels,

his living room floor lost beneath muddy water, and his garden is gone.
Newly-painted kitchen walls are streaked with leaks he never knew
he had. His power is out. From puddles, I plucked floating clothespins

and searched for gardening gloves, beach mats, and dog food bowls.
He smiled as he splashed to the wall of lava rock between our yards,

pointing at the steep cliff behind me, rising hundreds of feet skyward
from papaya trees, coconut palms, heliconia, red ginger, and mango.

I turned, and he said, “Look at that. Look how green the mountain is.”

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