Monday, April 18, 2005


What is a flood? It is mud and water and trees. It is one of man's worst enemies. What is a flood? It is the blood of water spilled down the throat of a lowland town. How starts a flood and where? Who is the stud? Who the mare?

I climbed to a mountain's high peak where the snow froze the face of the sky. I watched the sun play hide and seek and saw the rock solid heart cry. The tears grew to small limpid pools, the pools spilled together, then poured to a valley peopled by fools who slept in their beds and snored. While they slept, water crept stealthily like a rattlesnake stalks an enemy.

To the river trusted and true, the mountainous waste disemboweled. The river the fools thought they knew reared back on its haunches and growled. Then like lions who live in a cage and suddenly find themselves free the river went on a rampage and ate the town ravenously. And so I know, floods start in the high mountain snow.

I sat by a small running stream and looked to a cotton-white sky. As I gazed at Heaven's regime, an ominous cloud caught my eye. The cloud pushed its way past the sun and hovered like buzzards in flight. God shot a thunderous gun and hell ruled the heavens that night. A town slept, inept, unprepared and scared.

It rained and it rained and it rained. It poured and it poured and it poured. The bladder of Heaven was strained. It spilled like a matador gored. The rivers, the lakes and the streams claimed earth as their slave. A town split apart at the seams and sank to a watery grave. Now I know it is so. Floods are born when clouds overflow.

Flood's a comin' sure as hell! See the Goddamn river swell! Git the chickens and the goat and the children in the boat Ma, don't worry. Don't gitcherself in such a flurry. Git some food and bones for Frisky. Don't fergit to bring the whiskey!

River's got us by the britches. Damn you, river, sons' bitches. River, river, please don't seize us, Hail, hail Mary! Holy Jesus!

Chicken coop and barrel hoop. Grab that cabbage for our soup. Thar's a tire in the river, just the size for my old fliver. Yonder on that log's a clingin' Parson Jones, just hear him singin'. Hallelujah, brother preacher! Thar floats the school but whar's the teacher? Cats a drownin', dogs a swimin'. Save the children and the wimmen. Tables, chairs and beds a sailin'. Momma stop those kids a wailin'. Water's climbin' higher, higher. God damn you, God, you god damn liar.

Flotsam. Jetsam. River gets 'em.

* * * *

When the weight of a heartache is pressing and the future keeps everyone guessing man is liable to turn to the Bible and pray for the flood to go away. And if he prays hard enough and strong enough and loud enough and long enough he sure as hell might get an answer. He prayed and the Lord surveyed what He created. He waved His hand and the flood abated.

When the river's calm and the night is cool and the moon is big and bright and the corn is tall and the larder's full and the belly's stuffed real tight and the robins sing their song of love and the summer bursts with pride, is there man alive with a speck of brains who'd move from the river's side? When the water's calm and the dam's repaired and the reservoire is low and there's rain enough but not too much and the sun is all aglow, and the price is right and the price is tops and the land is three times blessed, who'd move his brood to the higher ground away from the river's breast?

So the fools returned and rebuilt their homes and they washed the mud away and they fixed the fence and the swinging gate and they dried the soggy hay and they shined the panes and they dressed the rooms in curtained care and love and the sun shone through the rotting roof from the heavens far above. They swelled with pride and they praised the stream smiling at their door and forgot the past and looked ahead to the better life in store. But high in the mountain's lofty peaks white crowned with jewels of snow the sun beamed bright and burned the ice and the pools began to grow and in the sky where clouds conceive their litter brood of rain, a pregnant mass of blackish white cried out in labor pain.