Nicole Cooley, a native of New Orleans, is most recently the author of Breech, a book of poems about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and Milk Dress, co-winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James Books. Both appeared in 2010. Cooley has published two other books of poems and a novel. She has been awarded the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, a "Discovery"/Nation Award, and the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America. She directs the new MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College-City University of New York where she is a professor of English.
Marshy spillover is first to flood: where water
first met sand and pilings lost all anchor.
Where nothing rose above the surge, that wall
of black, black water. Where houses buckled, crumbled.
Where the storm's uneven scrawl erased.
While miles away I watched a map of TV weather,
the eyewall spinning closer. A coil of white, an X-ray.
I imagined my parents' house swept to its stone slab.
While I remembered sixth grade science, how we traced the city
like a body, arterials draining in the wrong direction.
We shaded blue the channel called MR GO that pours
from the River to the Gulf, trench the storm water swallowed.
The levees overfilled, broke open. And I came home to see
the city grieving. The city drained then hacked apart.
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