My living room smells of the marsh
at low tide, seaweed arid in the sun.
Hermit crabs recede in the silt as the salt
water runs back to its home, leaving
a layer of detritus and sludge
on my mom’s favorite rug.

I mop the kitchen linoleum, absorbing
as much of Long Island Sound as I can,
wringing the soaked ropes into
the yellow bucket we used to clean
our toys in when I was young.

(push mop - soak water -
wring dry - repeat)

No end to the water pouring
from the cabinets. The bucket
overflows with brackish water
or sewage muck—no telling them
apart. The sea has turned on me.

Outside my parents and neighbors
pile an endless graveyard: couches,
coffee tables, lamps, books,
photo albums, hand-knit blankets.
Tomorrow, the trash trucks
will haul them off.


Our beach town had been warned, but

no weatherman can forecast

the loss Nature leaves behind.

Came hurtling in, screaming, the rain.
In droves. Drowning: trees, gardens, drains,
homes. Everything was loud

and then it was not; the quiet eye,
waiting. Destruction when the waves
came. They did not
           did not stop
           did not stop
until they reached four feet
above my living room floor.

Four days later my father
kayaked the river road
to get to our front door.


My childhood floor is gone. All the rotten
           wood has been stripped, just the bones
                       to breathe, to wait. My parents are living

with my grandmother until the house
           is fixed, until their hearts are fixed.
                       They tell me there will be no Thanksgiving

this year. My family needs me
           to help while new foundations are poured.
                       I drive to the empty beach parking lot,

stare at the ocean and scream. I beat
           my fists against the wheel like tumbled
                       glass against rocks until I can’t feel

my fingers. I hate the sea, the body
           that betrayed me. I hate that I love
                       it still and always—salt in the heart.


In Manhattan my living room
blooms, a gifted bouquet of roses.

Next to the flowers are shells
from home, arranged: respite

from living in solitude
alongside so many millions.

Back in Connecticut, my mother
dreams about flowers while

our house is lifted and rebuilt.
She loved her gardens dearly.

She taught me their varieties,
how some of the prettiest petals

belonged to weeds. I think about
her devastation when the flood—

its chemical, septic legions—
made the soil barren.

The summer after was silent—
even the evergreens were dead—

until a single rose dared to bloom.


My family’s living room glows gold
           in the noon’s summer light as it streams

through the open windows. The walls
           and floor are new, yet hung

with old familiar photos. My mother’s laugh
           is carried from the garden, where

she packs soil around seedlings
           (they are her children now that I

am grown). My father mows the lawn
           and hums while my dog turns green

from rolling in the grass. “Well?”
           my mother asks. “What do you think?”

there are flowers blooming every-
           where we dance in the salty ocean air

Poet’s Note

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Atlantic shoreline, causing extensive destruction across the board. My coastal hometown in Connecticut was flooded by Long Island Sound. The water reached four feet above the floor in my family’s home. At the time, I was living and working in New York City, quite naïve to the true damages that had been sustained. It was only within the aftermath and ensuing road to recovery that I fully came to understand the difference between a house and a home. I grew up going to the beach to find moments of inner peace and solitude. My most vivid memories of this time are saturated with feelings of rage, sadness, loss, and betrayal. This poem is an homage to many different aspects of my life: my parents; the house I too often took for granted; the home they built inside; the process of not only rebuilding a residential structure, but also family bonds; the simultaneous beauty and trauma of nature; and the changing tides of the ocean helping me to better embrace the changing tides within myself.