Reel to reel

Mesmeric
– it seems that way for all the grand disasters
even smaller ones; some stop to stare
helpless, curious, maybe morbid
conceivably seeking catharsis of Greek tragedy
second-hand escapes, rescue, injury,
death by proxy purging fear and pity
relief  too that the mortal blow passed by
– this time

As a child I saw wild fires tear through the bush
hurricanes, earthquakes, whirlpools
and favourite of all were the glowing laval flows
with their slyly snaking ways, long arms
fingering far into the valleys below
I’d sit, mouth agape in the warm dark cinematic womb
the doctored documentary, sanitized and de-focused
oblivious to the suffocations and drownings
on the other side of celluloid
– only the lowered safety curtain at the show’s end
hinted that life is not all spectacle

Disasters are box-office topics, remaking the real
fabricating what-ifs
for hours we clutch the edge of our seats
riding out a storm surge of dread and drama
and after the knife-edge finale, our alarm dismissed as fiction
‘The Towering Inferno’ was just such a movie
emergency over, lights up and we all headed home
but one September, several thousands did not
and in the 17 years of settled dust
many more find no relief

In September 1953 a tropical wave off Jamaica formed into a hurricane. We lived near Kingston and in all the rain and flooding our cat had kittens. Gathering force, the hurricane eventually hit the Florida Pan handle and parts of Alabama. She was called ‘Florence’ and now we pray for the people of North and South Carolina who live in the path of her Storm Force 4 successor.

Amaya asks us to pick a word or phrase from a previous September poem and re-work it for Poetics: On a Loop.

In this poem, I’ve touched on tragedy with as much sensisitvity as my words can muster – last 9/11 I wrote a quadrille unrelated to the anniversary but from it I have taken the term ‘laval flow’ – see ‘As a Bird

17 comments

  1. With movies and video games depicting blood shed and destruction, it is easy to get jaded. But when it happens in real time it shatters all that smugness we have developed. You have shown this very well.

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  2. “…our alarm dismissed as fiction”
    The best fiction, the best art, has us realize that nothing is beyond imagination and can make us see truth so we may live more authentically. Now whether it’s a hit at the box office or not, that’s a whole other phenomenon.

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  3. Disasters are so hard to digest to comprehend and we watch real and unreal disasters near and far with varying levels of fear, horror, fascination…you’ve really delved into the depth of this topic with your poem…a thought provoking read.

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  4. Ivan Karamazov wanted to just give back his ticket to this disaster movie we are all watching. Dmitri lived it instead of watching. Alyosha immersed himself in the suffering of others and quietly lived to absorb and alleviate the suffering of others as best he could. I can feel aspect of all three brothers in the frame of this lovely poem and postscript. Live, love, or watch? Thank you 💜

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