Monday, August 22, 2011

Tuesday Poem: I'm Starting to Speak the Language, by Nicole Cooley


I’M STARTING TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

of disaster, he says and we keep driving through Mississippi,
Highway 90, Hurricane Alley, on our way to New Orleans,
while Johnny Cash sings, Go on, I’ve had enough.
Dump my blues down in the Gulf
.
And he says, that one’s blue-roofed, that one’s gone,
and we stop to see an address on a tabletop leaned
against a tree, a FEMA number spray-painted on wood.
There’s no house. Private Property. Keep Out. Do Not Demo.
We are here together on a tour of the Gone: three porch steps
For Sale By Owner, a beached trolley at the edge
of the road like a huge stunned animal -- Tour Historic Biloxi!
Gulfport Economy Inn. IHOP. Jefferson Davis’s Beauvoir House.
All that’s left of an address he calls the new lexicon,
the spray-painted X, the house marked O,
Dog Found. Stone foundation threaded with weeds
that are no language. Still, you can tell
where a house once stood, he says, by the clearing.
A front gate is For Sale by Owner. All that’s left
of an address. Missing a whole story.

- Nicole Cooley

One of the blogs I read regularly is Brian Brodeur's How a Poem Happens. Each post contains a poem and an interview which reveals how it came about.

Last week I found this poem by Nicole Cooley there. She has kindly allowed me to repost it for Tuesday Poem. For the related interview, visit this link.

Although the situation in New Orleans, and Mississippi, is not the same as the situation in Christchurch, I felt immediate recognition on reading this poem. We too, are starting to learn the language of disaster. The signs spray-painted on our buildings may not be quite the same, but the emotional territory is recognisable. "All clear" we read, as we travel round the city, "No Go", times and dates that buildings are checked, and others are labelled with contact details for the owners and engineers, in the hopes that they will not be demolished without notice. And then there is the growing number of vacant sections as damaged buildings come down.

I'm about to take a blogging break for a couple of weeks, but particularly wanted to post this powerful poem before I take a much-anticipated break from earthquakes and snowstorms. For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

6 comments:

Janis said...

Great poem. Sad and bleak, but so vivid.

Joseph Harker said...

Beautiful, thank you for sharing! And enjoy your vacation, you have more than earned it. :)

Helen Lowe said...

Wonderful poem, Catherine---and you're right, it speaks to our Chriscthurch situation, as does the TV drama, "Treme" (also post-Katrina) I'm finding ... We have our EQC assessment tomorrow, which brings both hope and trepidation in terms of the path back to normal. And fingers crossed for no more 'big ones'resulting from the recent 'swarm.'

Jan said...

So glad to see that poem, Catherine. I think about you all in Christchurch a lot.

Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

Have a great break Catherine - a well-deserved one. Thanks for all the photos and updates.

Jennifer Compton said...

wonderful