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
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.