11/04/2012 08:52 pm ET Updated Jan 04, 2013

Poems in the Wake of the Storm

I don't know that one can sum up the dumb fury of a hurricane better than American poet William Carlos Williams once did. His short poem "The Hurricane" gleaned a simple message from a massive storm.

have your heaven,
it said, go to it.

There is much more to say, of course. Sasha Weiss wrote a great post for The New Yorker on how Sandy left her thinking of the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska. Weiss notes that all of Szymborska's poems "seem to have been written after some giant, destructive storm." She ends her post with what may be the perfect poem to read in Sandy's wake: Szymborska's "Into the Ark," wherein a great flood's fury subsides into normalcy. Of clouds, Szymborska writes,

...they'll be once more
what clouds ought to be:
lofty and rather lighthearted
in their likeness to things
drying in the sun --

I thought, too, of James Wright's "Northern Pike," a poem about resilience and the self-healing power of prayer in the face of loss. It includes the lines,

...We had
To go on living. We
Untangled the net,

We paused among the dark cattails and prayed
For the muskrats,
For the ripples below their tails,
For the little movements that we knew the crawdads were making
under water,
For the right-hand wrist of my cousin who is a policeman.
We prayed for the game warden's blindness.
We prayed for the road home.

Finally, I thought of Lucille Clifton's brief, beautiful "blessing the boats," a play on the ceremonial blessing given to ships before they depart. Clifton's poem speaks to anyone realizing a new understanding of the world, or facing a challenging transition. She reminds us that water and wind, the sources of so much destruction these past few days, can also be vessels for hope, trust and wisdom. It seems to me a poignant prayer for those affected by Sandy. Here are some excerpts (but you should read the poem in full):

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear

and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Best wishes this weekend. And feel free to add your own poems in the comments section below.