Stranded in that compact Nissan
on the way to Wednesday night
she realized all the ways
she’d failed at raising children
in mud country.
Water rose to my neck —
her tallest baby, as I gathered up
fabric of my sister, her smallest.
Miraculously, no one cried.
We sat calmly
and watched the water rise
to the windows, listened to our
like it knew something awful
that we weren’t yet privy to.
that moment, stranded by an Old Testament flood
in that goddamn hideous purple Nissan
why she never taught
her children that the thing
the trees that live and the
trees that die when a forest becomes
is not toughness of
bark or strength of root
porousness, of willingness to take in the
muck that would have otherwise fermented
That’s all a wetland is really —
tree soup and the dregs of
to dissolve into it. That time, we were
lucky enough to have been the dregs.
through waist and shoulder deep water,
clawing our way
the church building. Sanctuary.
She laughed with the other soaked
Her voice cracked as she recounted
how easily her family could have been electrocuted —
laughing as though she were the living kind of tree.
As though she hadn’t been hardened beyond repair.
the water recedes and herons make new
homes in old wetlands to the East and
mamma no longer acts as though it wasn’t
her resolve that killed her. It’s a beach day and the
only blows hot here. It riles up the sand which
scrapes against our faces, sandpapering
If you look close enough, you can see it ripping off
her bark and casting her bits to the wind but
if you look closely. Otherwise, all you’ll see is a woman
who gathers a sea sponge that’s washed up
it into four equal pieces to give
to her children. She tells them
not to worry.
Eliza is a poet and essayist from Baytown, Texas. She is a sophomore studying English and
Philosophy at Amherst College. Her work has appeared in Glass Mountain and Circus and she
has read at the Five College Poetry Festival and at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.