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The Tidal Wave

Tidal waves are not the usual source of  poetic inspiration, for they are swift, and devastating.  But this free verse poem tells the tale of a tidal wave as it rips through a seaside village, and the destruction it leaves, especially to one man and his family.   And, for those who know anything about tidal waves — only disaster follows.
©2015 by Jon Gutmacher
Tidal wave
100 miles per hour
forcing the tide to surge
far beyond its limits
as it pushes all before it
in a torrent of disaster

Tidal wave
the warning comes by siren
the people stunned to silence
as each realizes that
the following minutes and seconds
are far more than precious
but are the difference between life and death

Tidal Wave
Sea rising
far in the distance
I can hear it’s growing roar
as I run panting
fast as my feet will carry
up to where the hill may protect me
hoping my family
heard the sirens as well
and will meet there
together in safety

Tidal wave
So many
so many running
dogs, cats, people, children
all filled with the panic and terror
of not knowing
if they will make it
or be swept away
into eternity

Tidal wave
Oh, yes, I hear the crashing roar pursue me
I know it is behind me
But I do not stop
I do not look back
I do not cease my running
although I think my heart will burst if I don’t stop
for it is almost upon me
I grab a child
fallen and crying
yanking her arm
and then cradling her like a football
as I run the final yards to salvation
while hearing the hopelessness of the screams behind

And then the water hits me
a crushing blow of tons of water
the child torn from my arms
so much like a screaming doll
thrown down into the current
the debris
the rushing torrent
that seems never ending
as I desperately try to raise my head
above the swirling, churning blackness
that tries to envelope me

Swept past the hill
a tree
one tree
one desperate lonely tree
somehow stands against it
and with all my strength I reach for it
feeling my bones smash
as the water pushes me in and under

I force myself against the torrent
Refusing my arms their screaming respite
otherwise just to be swept away
far into utter oblivion
but I will not let that be
I fight
I survive

And I come up
right leg broken
but still
I hold on
the water rushing past me
unseen things, legs, arms, bodies, branches,
crashing into me

And then the surge suddenly passes
the waters still surround me
the screams of those who’ve watched but survived
the passing of dead bodies
Oh, God
How can this be possible?
How can You allow it?

Then, as I cling to the tree
afraid to let go
fingers locked as if in a death grip
I see two brave men
hurry into the water
rushing towards me
and then dragging me high to safety

Placed on the hill
the water still rushing beneath us
I lay there . . .
lifeless in the dirt other than grateful breathing
then crying unbelieving
that somehow
I am still alive
and hoping that at least some of my family
have survived

But then I hear a familiar whimper
and the lick of a warm, soft tongue
against one bloodied ear
and recognize my little basset hound
somehow survived and unharmed

And then the sound that to this day
I will ever, ever remember
“Daddy!” “Daddy!”
And into my arms rushed my daughter
who hugged me so tight
I could not believe her strength
And I actually laughed holding her
even though I later found I had also broken
two ribs, besides my leg

And now
many years since
we’ve moved from that place and spot
far, far away
where tidal waves can no longer reach
and the sea breeze no longer blows

Not all of us made it
and my little dog has long since
passed away
but my daughter visits me often
and brings with her
her daughter
and remember when once
we were a whole family
before the Tidal Wave
took all away

The background image is from news coverage of the disaster.
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