Friday, June 13, 2008

A Poetry Friday original: Little Sioux Scout Camp, June 2008

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is at A Wrung Sponge. I'm telling you this upfront because my Poetry Friday entry this week is a sad one. Feel free to head on over to the roundup and quit reading here.

This week has been a tough one in Iowa. All the major rivers are rising and Iowa's three biggest cities--Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City--are at risk. Even though I live in Smalltown (Grinnell), Iowa is a small state and I spend quite a bit of time in the "cities." Cedar Rapids is most badly off right now, with only one bridge over the Cedar River left and it too is in danger. The downtown is completely flooded. (You can see pictures of the flood here at Iowa Independent.) The river hasn't even crested yet.

Photo of downtown Cedar Rapids, taken by Lynda Waddington of Iowa Independent. Used with permission.

And, then, last night a tornado hit the Boy Scout camp in Little Sioux and four campers were killed. Here's a poem:

Little Sioux Scout Camp, June 2008

You send a child to camp and he doesn't come home.
Boys stand in twos--in windbreakers and shorts.
Some wear their hair long and shaggy,
Others look like scouts from 1962.
They stand, and talk to reporters:
-It was lucky the tornado hit here:
-We know how to make tourniquets.
-We know basic first aid.
-I saw--we saw--a boy with his head split open.
There was so much blood. He was screaming.

The Governor, almost a boy himself,
speaks to Ann Curry for Today.
(What is she doing in Iowa?
How did she get here so fast?)
Rivers wild, towns flooded, downtowns closed,
University surrounded, the football team
and citizen volunteers stack bag after bag.
Thunder tumbles and rolls, water rises.
And now the boys.
The boys.

"Iowans have faith.
Iowans are resilient,"
the Governor says.
I hope it's true.
This newer Iowan has no faith,
but for the faith in the painful
resilience and love of others.
Still. I offer a prayer for the boys,
living and gone, and for their families,
who'd just sent their sons off to camp.
At the time I started writing this poem, it hadn't been announced yet that three of the four boys who died were actually from the Omaha area. Little Sioux is on the Iowa-Nebraska border.
Even though I've lived in Iowa for nearly 10 years, I still consider myself a transplant, a newer Iowan, in many ways.
In the time this post has been sitting in the queue, the New York Times articles on Little Sioux and Cedar Rapids have been posted.