Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (The Art of Losing—Issue 58, October 2015)

Susan Paddon
The Flood, July 2007

The radio announcer confirms the flood

that has stopped us dead on the M5, where the Avon river

and the Severn converge. Tewkesbury Abbey out the Almera window

for almost ten hours now, and there is no sign of change.

Like a drowning circus train, this metal row of cages is stuck in the valley.

Only the broadcast to hush the drone of water against

the tires. You try to forget the approaching night, tapping against

the dashboard. “Baby needs milk,” “all slip roads closed,” the cries that flood

the airwaves. Somewhere upriver

a couple gets engaged. Children make faces from window

to window. We smoke our last cigarettes and promise to change

because it is beautiful this time of year in the valley.

Helicopters arrive to rescue nine seniors from the valley,

landing like fire flies where they can against

the nearing night. We are a long strung ribbon now of flood

lights from the sky, no longer are the rivers

decipherable, the Abbey. I roll down my window

to see if there is an end in sight, any chance of change.

We play games, betting the small change

forgotten in the glove box. We’ll move away when we get out of this valley,

off this motorway, forget the rain that drums against

the roof just as hard, encouraging the flood

to swell. You want to know if we can drink straight from the river

where we are going, and I laugh and catch a glimpse of an old self in the window.

We will settle on the Saint Lawrence, with a large window

facing the Molson factory lights, the landmarks that never change

and remember that night in the valley,

wonder if we knew then what we would be up against,

how we were only practising that time, near Tewkesbury, in the flood.

Tomorrow I will take you down to the river.

Every night the music on Saint Catherine, up from the karaoke bar, “River

Deep, Mountain High” finds us through our window

and you begin to notice the things we still cannot change.

All of the promises we made down in the valley

but nothing can protect against

time. When we visit we tell him about the flood

and the rivers, but my father only whispers, I walk in the valley.

He feels the change first in the chest, his breath marks the window,

hands against the arms of his chair. He is waiting for the flood.