Of the Surviving Family

Day 7 of a poem a day from Vagabonding, my second poetry book manuscript (this one from the “Relations” section). In this poem, the newly normal winds, fires, and storms refer to both literal forms of climate weirding and figurative forms of contemporary weirding phenomena (e.g., rising autism rates, the growing precariat, and other difference and instability). One of the reasons I love poetry is because it lets me use literal, autobiographical references (like my brother and I both changing our names) that people would never guess are true—with multiple meanings.

“Of the Surviving Family”

Of my family there were four known survivors,
only one of whom could be reached for comment.
Thus I am up all night, writing and rewriting the story.
I am pained that I cannot change the world.

Scientists say the wind events were unlike any they’d ever seen,
but may become the new normal. In my motherland, other scientists say
the winds are fine, but the fuel is dry: blame the forest for its burning.
The house where I grew up until the fire is still standing.

Insurance brokers projected the sea level rise decades ago,
and refused to underwrite the marriage. Other salesmen claimed
the market is absolutely stable and responsive to demand.
My mother still keeps the waterlogged ring and name she never liked.

Stronger storms come every year—hurricanes, rains, and floods.
My father who I met again after a lifetime, a smart and funny man,
could not withstand them. Turned into a tree and was broken.
One of his arms smashed into the attic and was thrown away.

At night I think of the world in flames, whether a weird new wind blows,
why my father builds a new house on the most-doomed coast,
inviting with his remaining arm wide open a newly normal storm.
My brother and I both changed our names and blew away.

We have survived each other, but only as ourselves.
Not as a family. My brother became a feather, light and easy to flight.
My mother became a mouse, stealing crumbs and ready to bite.
My father who was a laughing tree became an acorn; and, for now, a tree again.

I became what I have always been. A wolf hunting for prey and kin.