taxidermy fiesta of revolutionary aquatic holidays lost


I never thought about hurricanes very much until I moved to Alabama. Now I think about them a lot. Today's an important hurricane day: at 5:00 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time, Tropical Storm Bill became Hurricane Bill, the first hurricane of the 2009 season. And, notably, today is the 40th anniversary of Hurricane Camille's landfall near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Camille came ashore as a full-blown category five storm: 190 mph winds and a 24 foot storm surge. Much of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama gulf coast looked like Dresden the next day. I happened to be driving through Slidell, Louisiana this morning. On August 18, 1969, the road I was driving on was under ten feet of water.

This Bob Kaufman poem isn't about hurricanes, but going to New Orleans always makes me think of Kaufman, since I've always considered him a quintessential New Orleans poet: mad, beautiful, doomed.


singular prints filed along damp banks,
supposed evidence of fouled strings, all,

breached dikes of teeth hewn agate statues
scaly echoes in eroded huts of slate and gristle.

mildewed toes of pastoral escapes, mossy charades,
cane towered blind, smooth blister on watern neck

angry glowing fish in eniwetok garments and pig tusks
alarmed horror of black croakers, finned hawks sinking.

collectors of fish teeth and souls of night vision demons
taxidermy fiesta of revolutionary aquatic holidays lost

breeding hills of happy men, of no particular bent, or none,
condemned to undreamlike beauty of day to day to day to day,
deprived of night, ribbon bright streams die parched deaths
baked by fissioning waves of newly glowing fish.

Hey wait, that totally is about hurricanes . . .

Originally Published: August 17th, 2009

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, poet Joel Brouwer is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Syracuse University. Brouwer is the author of several collections of poetry, including And So (2009); Centuries (2003), a National Book Critics Circle Notable Book; and Exactly What Happened (1999), winner of the Larry Levis...

  1. August 18, 2009
     Don Share

    Wow, I remember Camille, having grown up down South. Here's a Hurricane C. poem:\r\r

    "I lost a lot in Hurricane Camille\r
    And even now can’t hear the end of it."

  2. August 18, 2009
     Barbara Jane Reyes

    HI Joel, thanks for including a Bob Kaufman poem here. Mad, beautiful, and doomed indeed. This poem is sharp.

  3. August 18, 2009
     Gary B. Fitzgerald

    Almost one year ago Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston, Texas. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, the Strand (the historical district…although that pretty much describes the entire island) was completely inundated, the only hospital closed and the famous Balinese Room was swept away.\r

    I had to have my roof replaced and went without power for days. Houston, the country’s fourth largest city, was out of commission for weeks.\r

    (Galveston, 2008)\r

    The ire of Huracan,\r
    god of the wind, screaming through the night,\r
    a Kamikaze tantrum of retribution, I,\r
    cowering in the dark, have heard.\r

    The devastation after,\r
    debris and loss in the flooded street,\r
    fractured trees and plans, splinters and slivers and shards,\r
    wandering with wide eyes I’ve seen.\r

    A destruction cruel,\r
    complete. More than rows of broken homes,\r
    but the shatter and scatter of weal and lives and dreams\r
    by inhuman rage incurred.\r

    Gentle breeze this morning, after.\r
    Soft light.\r
    I saw a hummingbird.\r

    Copyright 2009 – Ponds and Lawns, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  4. August 24, 2009
     Eileen Myles

    Hi Joel,\r

    great post. There should be an opera about Bob Kaufman.

  5. August 24, 2009
     John Oliver Simon

    Bob Kaufman, also the quintessential San Francisco poet. He took a vow of silence when JFK was killed and kept it for nearly twelve years, till the end of the Vietnam War. Something many of us here could learn from.\r

    By the way, I like this poem of Gary's quite a lot.\r