By David J. Rothman
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of a cold, wet day in a hot, dry year,
Of the twelfth of September, in 2013.
Listen and learn what it can mean
When the rains begin and will not stop
Until creeks, streams and rivers go over the top.
It had been a dry summer, the flowers were done,
But what worried us most was still late summer sun,
Heat day after day, old forests so dry,
The moisture count low, the grass brown and high.
What troubled our sleep was ignitable fuel,
Beetle-kill deadfall, some old power-tool.
But then the rains came. On the ninth and tenth, one
Inch fell each day. A big, high low spun
Above the Great Basin, couldn’t move north or east,
Blocked by high pressure, a beauty, a beast
Above the Pacific Northwest. That low
Pulled in water, a wide, thick, rich flow,
North from the Pacific and moist Mexico:
A classic upslope stuck against our divide.
And it spun and it spun and the clouds came untied,
And the water came down, first a shower, then faster
And faster, and it gathered itself and became a disaster,
Until on that day, the twelfth of September,
The waters broke through, forcing us to remember.
When we need to remember things, we write them down.
So write the names: Estes Park, Jamestown,
Lyons, Longmont, Evans, Eldorado Springs:
Fifteen-hundred homes gone, ruined heaps of wet things,
Seven dead, drowned cars, more than eighteen inches
Of rain in places, folks hauled out on winches,
Walls of liquefied mud, bridges broken, roads shredded,
Young kids swept away, a kind man embedded
In his own home, now tomb. Remember, remember,
This was the destruction.
And then….also remember
How our sometimes imperceptible good, like an ember
Overlooked in ashes, can be nourished and burn.
Just as we needed the sweet water to return
In our relentless drought, just so the spark
Of who we can be when we need to in the dark
Can flare up and catch. I know its ends:
Students, teachers, family, friends
On a bucket line, sixty strong, pulling gallons by the thousand
Of alluvial filth from an inundated house and
Dumping it with good cheer back in the creek
From whence it came. Deep in the reek
Of such loss, mired in muck, no one shirked
Whatever there was to give: we worked.
We told jokes, we drank beer, and we got down to labor –
And such laughter and tears made each stranger a neighbor.
That’s what I saw, and I’ll bet you saw the same,
Putting paid to flood damage with your own good name.
So let’s mourn and let’s build, let’s weep and let’s fix.
Bring on engineers – they know a few tricks.
And while we’re at it, let’s admire the source:
Nature, who’s taught us again about force.
After all, it’s only a natural disaster
When we get in the way, and claim to be master.
Otherwise, without people, well, it’s just nature.
It doesn’t depend on a paralyzed legislature,
As we apparently must. But that’s another tale.