Certainly there are many
examples of the awful consequences
of man's ego, but my favorite
is the 1900 Galveston hurricane,
the horrifying self-assuredness of Victorians
and the unflappable certainty
in an invented forecast. Imagine watching
the great bathhouses fall into the ocean
the way you, tired, fall into bed
at the end of a long day, socks
still clinging to your ankles.
Or the sisters in St. Mary's, tying
the orphans in long strands
with clotheslines around their waists;
when the water came up, the sea
merely slurped the noodle-chains
and pulled everyone into the water.
Later, men stood on the destroyed beach
and knew they could have listened
to the reports from Havana,
warned the town, dashed off a telegraph.
You can always do something.
But to have such great unflappability,
such supreme self-confidence—
once I knew someone who was always
right. I envied how easily
the world cleaved to him, or how
he thought it did. While I worried,
he moved with the grace
of animals who know why
the sun, water, fish
are all placed in easy reach.
Then, that animal is eaten
by a larger animal. But its last
thought is I'm going to beat this!
and even though you've seen
this episode before, you root
for the zebra, the baby
warthog, the gazelle bending
for a sip of cool water. The ego
of the middle food chain. The easy
stupidity of man. And the howling
storm—here it comes, listen,
you might even hear the Cuban friars
crying at you, please, get off the beach,
my god, you can save yourself.
Christina Olson is the author of a book of poems, Before I Came Home Naked. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Southern Review, River Styx, Hobart, Gastronomica, and RHINO. She is the poetry editor of Midwestern Gothic, and lives both in Georgia and online at www.thedrevlow-olsonshow.com.