My grandfather slipped into silence
for several days at a time.
It was a family thing, you see,
my grandmother and her sons accepted
water from a stranger – he meant no harm.
Brother Harry from diphtheria went
to a grave in Wyandotte’s ground.
Willy he never knew nor do I know of
his death other than a headstone
covered in lichen -his name I found,
my search is done.
A twin called Eugene also slipped
these earthly bounds when cholera
reached the town of Allen in 1884.
His brother James survived him only to
be struck down by scarlet fever.
Water from the well was drawn –
Was it murky? Did it leak?
my mother’s uncles moved on
before her father was born.
Sweet Adaline and James called Mortimer,
Viola, Rosaltha. Amanda – these Tyler siblings
did pass away in the fall of 1841.
From Varick, New York the survivors of this fever
fled to southern Michigan.
Did water do it? No one knows
but guesses abound to what led
these children to early graves.
Sister Florence survived to give her granddaughter
Peter Donnelly and Florence Stitt married
in the rectory of St. Anthony’s Church.
In February of 1918 a quarantine
was declared in Hillsdale.
Scarlet fever or some such disease
roamed the land and
so the church was closed.
Does water come into this story?
Well not as a cause of death.
They had a child named Mary
And thus I came to live.
Lake Huron nearly claimed my mother –
a watery grave she avoided when
a boy of 14 held her to his boat.
He led her towards shore until she could stand –
unlike Patrick Cavan who slipped
into the Detroit River and drowned.
And I wash myself in daylight’s tears
questioning not the passing of stars.
Tears mean life and relief.
The floods of mid-Michigan once
again in my lifetime-
the edge of the Tittabawassee breaks into
the Wildlife Drive, the Tridge, the Farmer’s Market.
Everything closed except to kayaks
1986 recalled and statistically
impossible to happen again before 2086.
This water soaked land
damns our numbers –
the impossible becomes the norm.
And farmland in California
is parched as the drought reigns supreme.
Cucumbers, tomatoes, corn suck
the moisture through their roots,
stems are conduits drawing drops of moisture-
whatever fluid they can find.
Too much, too little, bacteria driven,
she heals she kills,
she heaves us into a quandary
as the glaciers melt and the oceans rise,
saltwater drenches shore after shore.
In my youth grandfather and I
stepped into Lake Huron – my inland sea.
The water that surrounded us
caressed and comforted.
I never questioned this water –
A blanket of quiet cool to the touch,
wide and calm.
This water was like my grandfather –
never silent with me.