High Ground

My husband and I sit in cones of electric light,

reading in down-filled, chintz-covered armchairs

in our pretty little parlor in our pretty second home.

The tinnitus of crickets and the hiss of the sprinkler system

seep through screened doors and windows.

Thousands of miles away people are drowning.

In droves. For days. They stuff rags under their doors.

They perch on rooftops screaming, to us, to high heaven, to

anyone, for help. The water is rising. They dog-paddle

into our parlor exhausted. They are in despair. The wind

is roaring. They are the size of pixels. They can’t be heard.

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #6 fills the room.

Last night my husband dreamed we were standing in water.

The water was rising. It was clear. It was potable.

But it was rising. It was reaching our mouths.

We interpret his dream as empathy. But that’s just a dream.

We, of course, can swim. Join us. Two hundred feet away

the sea kisses and kisses our shore.

— Mary Stewart Hammond

Written by Mary Stewart Hammond while staying at her home on the Vineyard, the above poem is included in the spring 2008 issue of Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review. It is reprinted here with the permission of the editor. The Web site address is shenandoah.wlu.edu.