We gas up the hearse before the hurricane
while other vehicles are turned away or stretch
in line for blocks, strange privilege of imminent
catastrophe, and when the day after darkens
with shadows, we slip quietly onto closed highway,
the state of emergency palpable in the silence,
empty road decoupaged with wet leaves, battered
branches strewn across blacktop. The rumbling
hum of the engine, the only sound as we crawl
up Route 17 like a tank crossing the wreckage
of a battlefield rife with buried land mines and
unsure dangers ahead. The hotel lies desolate
by cloverleaf. We bear right hard, then left
to cross lanes of highway, steer past orange
barricades, slow to a stop under the awning.
The manager, stranded with scant power
and scores of elderly patients turned refugees
as high winds knocked out electricity at nearby
group home, ushers us in. He offered beds, food,
small comforts as rain gusted at the deserted fortress
by barren road. The lobby dim from generators,
we push the stretcher to the lone working elevator
—passenger when we need freight—upend the padded
bed and squeeze in, rising to guest rooms. We exhale
as doors open, slide the stretcher onto four wheels,
and follow the manager down the hall to a closed door.
Inside lies a frail woman still by the window, shrouded
by plain white sheet, evacuated to pass quietly
in a strange bed, hours after the wind whirled
to a halt, churning out death and debris in its wake.
Ann E. Wallace writes of life with illness, motherhood, and other everyday realities. Her poetry collection Counting by Sevens is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing. Her work, recently published in journals such as Blood Sugar Poetry, Wordgathering, The Literary Nest, as well as Eunoia Review, can be found on her website. She lives in Jersey City, NJ, and is on Twitter @annwlace409.