The broad expanse of water sliding past
The levees sounds a meditative hissing.
So calm it mirrors clouds, the surface claims
No special notice from a passing tourist.
She rockets by, the Interstate her bridge
To soar above the glittering, swollen river
As rivulets begin to carve the slopes
Descending from a muddy promise left
By Army engineers — we’ve tamed her now,
An exercise in rhetoric. But pigs
And farmers know; they’ve seen the river run.
Despite the heap of sandbags farmers throw,
Despite the back hoes’ heavier lifting, nothing
Stops now. Those burbling rivulets will grow,
Wider, then wider still, becoming streams
And monumental fountains, pushing out
Until the hardiest, angriest men fall back
To watch the levee open with a roar,
And frothing, heaving, muddy water push
Their vehicles aside and smash the houses
They thought were under their protection — peace,
A watery illusion, turned to war.
And their defense? How fast they can retreat?
A few will not pull back in time, will drown,
Tossed with the planks and broken glass, the laundry,
The family photographs, the tapes and disks,
The wedding china, store-bought furniture,
Insurance policies they’d not renewed
To save a dollar as the banks grew fat,
The documents by tens of thousands, trash,
The rotting souvenirs of daring nature
To act as though a friendly god’s in charge.
These Fundamentalists perceive true love
As what their best will only find in heaven.

Arthur Mortensen of Brooklyn has appeared in many journals and has three collections: A Disciple After the Fact, a novel in verse (Kaba Press); Life in the Theater, sequel, and Why Hamlet Waited So Long (San Sebastian Press). Upcoming is After the Crash, currently in submission. He has been editor & publisher of Somers Rocks Press, Pivot Press, and is Webmaster of www.expansivepoetryonline.com.