Saturday, September 13, 2008


The Orphans and Nuns of St Mary's Orphan's Asylum, Galveston, Texas; photo from Rosenberg Library, Galveston (The Orphans and Nuns of St Mary's Orphan's Asylum, Galveston, Texas; all but three boys in this photo perished in The 1900 Storm; photo from Rosenberg Library, Galveston)


I walk out to the jetty's end
that morning after the blow. Town
is behind me, little more than rubble
A sunny yellow rope is threaded between rocks
I tug it in. Bobbing up from green deep
are ninety orphans lashed together
Some wear nightshirts with names
embroidered on the collars, but many
are missing clothing altogether. We will
bury them under a single stone, mourn
as best we can, in moments over the
coming years. Leave the rest to god
We are years behind in the work of love
Will never catch up

© Maggie Jochild, 27 May 2004, 6:25 p.m.; published in Di-Verse-City, 2005 Anthology of the Austin International Poetry Festival

Note: The worst natural disaster in U.S. recorded history is the hurricane that struck Galveston without warning on September 8, 1900. More than 6000 people died overnight in this storm, including 90 children from the St. Mary's Orphans Asylum who were tied together in a line by the Sisters of Charity in the tragic hope that they could hold onto them as the building fell down. Galveston Island, at near sea level, was virtually scrubbed bare by winds that reached 150-200 mph and a tidal surge of 15-20 feet. A seawall now protects Galveston.

(St. Mary's Orphan's Asylum after the Hurricane of 8 September 2008, Galveston, Texas)

1 comment:

Liza Cowan said...

Interesting and tragic history. Thanks. And I'm glad you still have electricity.