Thursday, 14 December 2017 13:43

December 2017 Poems

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Galveston — 1900

Galvestonians had no warning of

The hurricane howling and impending

And six thousand were lost on Sunday night

And debris covered the ground three miles long


And two stories high while the bodies of

The missing were swept out to sea but the

Survivors were left with the question of

Staying or abandoning the island


Fleeing the sticky sweltering summers

Saying good riddance to the mosquitoes

And mostly who would abide in a place

Where God had swept with a mighty hand and


Destroyed years of careful habitation

And they decided somehow to rebuild.



Starting over

someplace new

couldn’t be done

because their roots

had taken hold.



The Seawall

Logs of yellow pine from Beaumont Texas

Were driven through the sand forty feet down

Into the clay — and concrete composed of

Crushed granite was layered over as a


Foundation reinforced with steel rods — and

Before the seawall was built giant blocks

Of granite from central Texas were placed

On an apron as a buffer from the


Bay — and granite of diverse sizes made

A riprap breakwater extending out

Twenty-seven feet — and a concave wall

Was raised in sections with the curve facing


The water — and a tongue and groove system

Connected pieces allowing movement.



asserted a wall

seventeen feet tall

above a low tide

against coming storms.



The Galvestonians determined that

Five hundred square blocks of the city had

To be raised seventeen feet so they dug

A canal behind the seawall for the


Dredge boats from Germany and they lifted

Two thousand buildings onto stilts and the

Boats scooped the fill from the bay and by means

Of capacious pipes a mix of water


And sand was pumped into place while the pipes

Were continuously repositioned

And people moved about on hoisted

Boardwalks and by street cars running on rails


That were doggedly reconfigured and

Finally Galvestonians were done.


The engines of the

dredge boats pumped mostly water

but grain by grain of

sand settled in place until

the town was elevated.



St. Patrick’s Catholic Church had the panache

Of a European cathedral — a

Stone structure of monumental heft with

A tower and stained glass windows — that had


To be raised so the Galvestonians

Employed one hundred laborers who turned

Seven hundred jackscrews one half inch at

A time and over thirty-five days they


Raised the church five feet and poured a concrete

Foundation and the feat was accomplished

Without cracking the walls while services

Continued without an interruption


Showing that faith and ingenuity

Can in deed move a mountain of limestone.


Not everyone

Believed the deed

Could be done but

Some had to be




Electricity was coming and they

Used steam engines for dredging but they lacked

The accumulated industrial

Might that prepares people today to raise


Towers in the sky so they relied on

Ingenuity determination

And faith in rebuilding Galveston not

So differently from the Egyptians who


Generated the pyramids — and in

1915 a hurricane stronger

Than that of 1900 assaulted

The island and inflicted terrible


Damage but only six people were lost

And the Galvestonians persevered.


It’s peculiar

and quite human

to put down roots

on a sand island

exposed to hurricanes.

Read 4053 times Last modified on Friday, 22 June 2018 18:09
Barry MacDonald

Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.
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