After the great storm

It has been a few days now
Since the bomb cyclone/atmospheric river/
Hippo stampede
Left town and left the citizenry
Reeling but undefeated.
And today the weather is bright and clear
Glittering, gemlike,
As light performs its flashy gymnastics
In the colorful leaves
Of the neighborhood’s deciduous trees –
Big leaf maple, sycamore, sweetgum,
Pistachio, alder, walnut, persimmon.
The old man sits in the rocking chair
By the large front window
Feeling dazzled and slightly dizzy
From the day’s brightness.
The storm was so overwhelming,
So nearly apocalyptic,
That he almost forgot
About sunshine and blue skies
The way, when sick,
One almost forgets what it is like
To feel well.
But he is well now,
And he is momentarily contented
As he watches cars drive past
On a dry street,
Kids ride bikes home from school,
Neighbors walking their dogs
And stopping to let them drink
From the water bowl out front by the mailbox.
But underneath the old man’s contentment
Dark waters flow.
Underneath his contentment
Roil troubling memories of the great storm.
Underneath his contentment
Float anxieties that such hyperbolic events
Represent a new normal
For our plagued planet.
Beneath his contentment
Swirl images of stupendous conflagrations
Cataclysmic floods
Barren wastelands
Massive migrations
As whole populations desperately seek
More congenial climes.

When the old man notices
That the dog bowl is empty
He fetches a pitcher of water
And goes outside to replenish it.
The air is cool and moist.
October shadows elongate across the street.
A towhee scratches in the dirt
Of the front yard garden,
And a crow presides over it all
From high atop a power pole.

The old man knows he will not know
What sort of world
Our grandchildren and their grandchildren
Will inhabit.
Where will they live?
How will they sustain each other?
Will they be able to create a world
Where all will flourish and thrive?
Beneath the surface
Of the old man’s fragile contentment
Lurks the unaskable question –
Has too late already arrived?

Buff Whitman-Bradley’s newest book is And What Will We Sing? a collection of protest and social justice poems spanning the last 25 years. He podcasts at and lives with his wife, Cynthia, in northern California. Read other articles by Buff.