Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2015  v14n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Flood of ’97

In the flood of ’97 everything went to shit.
Somewhere in Canada the Red River clogged
and coated the roads in downtown Fargo
as high as the stop signs. Not much was saved.
Dark water churned for a moment as the river
tipped over, then a stillness filled the basements.
It was the same all over town. The rambler rooftops
looming like islands. Foundations rotting
in the afternoon silence. Everybody camping
in a cousin’s backyard, or staying with an uncle
down in Fergus. The old folks at Eventide
had to move to Oak Grove and spent two weeks
sleeping on cots in the brick chapel.
When the ice sheets broke and the brown water
flowed up to Hudson Bay, the basements drained
and people opened their own front doors
like strangers. They walked through the rooms
and ran their hands over water-warped walls.
Went in the kitchen and swore the fridge
had been moved. All summer, people found
rusty things they didn’t recognize. Things
that must have floated in from other homes.
Fathers walked the silty streets and knocked
on doors, trying to find the rightful owner
of a shovel or a broom. An elderly woman returned
to Eventide and discovered a soggy photograph
on the mildewed carpet in her tiny room.
She peered at the blurry faces and tried to remember
going to Egypt. Wondered who the man could be,
standing beside her at the Sphinx.  end  

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