Monday, September 5, 2022

When the Heavens Burst


(Zahid Hussain/AP Photo)

The heavens burst, roaring down upon us
a river of rain, too much for the land to absorb.
We stood in the window and watched
the water rise, cover the street, creep
up the sides of cars. They kept driving,
in denial that they were now on a river,
no longer a road. Their red taillights
gleamed, then flashed. Car doors opened
and people climbed onto their roofs.

The heavens burst, and huge trees
started floating down laneways,
or falling onto cars, their roots
coming out of the ground,
sticking up, looking like the
wisdom teeth of the planet
had been pulled, without novocaine,
no mercy for those who don't hear
when the planet is speaking. It rained
like the apocalypse, like Noah's flood,
but nobody had built any arks.

The heavens burst, and 30 million new
climate refugees began to wade across Pakistan,
small bundles of all they had left lifted high
above water. Under the surface, how many bodies,
furry and not, lay lifeless? How far
will they walk to find a dry place to stop?
How long before the world sends them tents
so their new life, even worse than the old,
can begin?

The heavens burst with a biblical roar
that felt like the world was ending.
When it stops, everything will be different,
including our hearts.

for Brendan at earthweal: An Atmospheric River Roars At Us


  1. The current conditions in Pakistan are sobering. The words in this poem also reminded me of an experience I had 9 years ago. I was working in Boulder, Colorado in September 2013 when the Hundred Year Flood hit. The description of the taillights in the rain reminded me. I was driving to work and should have turned back when I saw how bad the rain was but I didn't want to let my co-workers down. My car was hit by a wall of water and I was afraid I would be washed off the road into a field that had become a lake. I wrote about the experience in this piece if you're ever curious to read about it.

  2. This is a solid poem about the horrors of climate change and what is truly climate injustice where the parts of the world carrying the burden are not the ones causing the bulk of the emissions. What will it take for corrective action at the scale and immediacy required? Clearly the profit machines don't have to pause for human suffering and death. Agonizing.

  3. Heavens bursting, waters rising, millions on the move: A 21st century trope repeating more often than turns of the moon. Will there ever be enough sandbags? What is ending? What begins? All of this you register in your deluge of a grief. Wet footing for the challenge and perfectly apt. Well done.

  4. Your poem describes so well the devastating situation in Pakistan. So heart wrenching. Lives lost. Homes destroyed. Tragic.

  5. 'They kept driving,
    in denial that they were now on a river,
    no longer a road.'
    - this could be a metaphor for the whole human race at this time, I fear, Sherry.

  6. We both had visions of that unbuilt ark. We can't say we didn't have plenty of warning...

  7. "when the heavens burst" it can be tragic as there is too much rain and no where for all the water to be absorbed.

    I have to wonder how many more of these events we will witness.

  8. Hell hath no fury like heaven. Man, made in his God's image is doing sterling work. My anger runneth over...

  9. Oh my! OMG! And this, too: ". . . looking like the
    wisdom teeth of the planet
    had been pulled, without novocaine,
    no mercy for those who don't hear . . ."

  10. Tree roots "like the wisdom teeth of the planet had been pulled"--tooth roots don't look much like tree roots, but this brought up vivid images/memories anyway. OUCH!


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