Today, Jasper's been thinking about the Charleston Earthquake of 1886. As the Holy City braces for a possible visit from Irene later this week, let's send some positive energy down I-26, and spend a few moments considering the images of rebirth and renewal SC Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth evokes in this poem... Charleston Rooftops
Everything that lifts into the air has purpose: even the granite tipped war monument rising above palmetto trees points like an arrow toward the sun; chimneys, stove pipes, weather vanes and steeples— the flag at half mast, flapping in the wind. Streets clog with memories of smoke tinged wind— of a dark sky on fire fueling the air, flames swirling around steeples, and a harbor blocked by ships of war. Cannons fired toward the ever present sun until the avenues lined with oak trees were abandoned, and the trees thrust transcendent into the wind reached like prayers toward the sun. Odors of ruin and rot lingered in the air above the streets emptied by war; the bells silent in the steeples.
Beyond scaffold enshrouded steeples, sunlight weaves through leaf-thick oak trees now filled with blossom and song, though war saturates the brick and memory of wind spinning with salt through summer air that simmers beneath the blood streaked sun. Red runs through ribbons of sun across the skyline and steeples lifting off tin sloped roofs into air filled with flowering trees. Always the tireless ocean wind ripples the worn-out flags of war. The names of the enemy change, but war is the inscrutable language spoken beneath this sun. The flag at half-mast, stiffens in the wind. Funeral bells sound from the steeples. In the cemetery, beneath the oak trees, taps linger on the broken air. The sounds of war will rumble in the wind. As steeple bells call through the sun filled air, birds nest in trees twisting toward heaven.
Originally published by the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, April 2009 (www.deadmule.com)