Texas City Disaster

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Texas City Disaster

Post by BolusOfDoom »

An industrial accident involving ammonium nitrate fertilizer is kind of a strange topic for a poem, but my mother and grandparents lived a few miles away from this explosion that took place in 1947.

Texas City Disaster

A stocky ship lies moored in port while crews
pile up a restless fuel for growing grain.
Air shimmers just above the close-packed freight;
its warmth begins to forge a fatal chain.

First signs of trouble down below emerge-
a glowing abscess weeping smoke, and steam
erupting from a broiling hull. Men bathe
the orange embers with a meager stream,

but their neglect has spawned a horrid loop-
a high school chemistry mistake writ large,
as heat begetting heat begetting heat
makes sparkling fuses shrink towards their charge.

The crewmen seal the hold to choke the blaze,
but pressure forces decks to bulge and rip.
At last, when metal bulkheads start to split
the captain screams, “All hands abandon--

Then null. Inside the crushing, tearing core,
the blast is noiseless, lightless, sterile, numb;
for all on board that mark the piercing burst
are shattered; rendered earless, eyeless, dumb.

Above, two circling aircraft’s wings are shorn.
Below, a wall of brine floods church and store.
The anchor, plunging miles away, impales
itself in prairie grass, not ocean floor.

Close by, longshoremen dazzled by the flash
and sudden thunder leap behind their freight
to flee the fiery cloud and clanging hail
of twisted chunks of hull and iron plate.

A schoolgirl peering out her house to watch
the smoke is shotgunned by her window panes.
She cringes, shaded by her hands, both cheeks
made bloody brooklets over jagged grains.

In time, they douse the flames, and corpses clothed
in oil and silt are piled and tagged. Around
the wreck they gather orphaned, nameless limbs
to number, bless, and hide beneath the ground.

The house my mother and grandparents lived in had its windows blown out, and a palm-sized inch-thick steel shard from the ship's hull landed in their yard. It was horribly twisted by the blast, and they used it as a doorstop for many years afterward. My mother still has it.

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Re: Texas City Disaster

Post by Bmat »

Thank you for the touching poem and the comments. You have a skill with expressing yourself and with creating a vivid descriptive picture.

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