#364: In Case of Emergency

(for Trisha Wick)

Twenty-four years ago I wrote a poem,
a sonnet, about the flood of ’96.
It described the six feet of river water
in my wife’s parent’s basement, that whole
devastation, and the kids and families
in the neighborhood who came to help
restore and repair the house, the home,
and hope. A student of mine, her family’s
home was flooded, too, but I didn’t know
that when I shared the poem with the class.
Later, this student brought to me a gift:
She had embroidered all fourteen lines and
framed it. In the case of emergency,
like now, art is the healing property.


Here’s the original sonnet–one that more closely follows the rules! Composed in the spring of ’96, the embroidered version was gifted to me the following spring from Tricia Wick, who I think was graduating from high school that year. She would become a teacher, too, and later, serve on my school district’s board of education!

A Sonnet After the Flood (1996)

Winter was harsh this year, and if that’s not
enough, then came the flood that washed away
our parents’ basement.  It was just their lot
to find five feet of sewage in their way.
The first victim sometimes is hope itself;
they’re aging, tired, too much so to rebuild
what took three decades, an enormous wealth
of spirit, and two lively kids to fill.
But what looks like a winter of despair
turns into something else when, looking up
the driveway, they see answers to their prayers.
Children with shovels, strangers in pick-ups.
Next time we hear the talk, “Our kids are doomed,”
we’ll think of these and note how faith resumes.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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