The South Coast Tsunami

— Nancy Fowler

Burin Peninsula, Newfoundland 1929
They knew the sea, lived and died
embraced in its arms, but only once
saw its rocky floor laid bare
when the waters drew back
then slammed hard
against the sturdy stages and flakes,
where cod had dried for winter’s provision;
slammed hard against the squared off houses
of Port aux Bras, Taylor’s bay,
Lamaline and Allan’s Point,
Kelly’s Cove and Burin.

The wall of water hit again, and yet again.
Three times a mountain of gray sea
scoured the shore to claim its own oblations.
Selected one home, left another.
Chicken houses, dories, skiffs and fences
taken or broken. Some tossed back
to lie at rest in frost-crusted meadows.
Schooners overturned among the debris
washed back and forth within each bay,
or escaped to the open Atlantic.

He rode the broken storehouse along the wave crest,
on an even run with the family home,
the faces of his wife, his two young daughters
pressed against an unbroken glass pane.
He stretched his arm toward them,
shouting their names through the lingering roar.
Their mouths open in response,
as they passed him, racing into eternity.

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