The Undertow

Halfway up to Shreveport
driving to outrun the storm
I knew somehow there’d be no going back.
There was no sign yet of water
and the breeze was soft and warm
but the skyline in the rearview mirror was black.
We had a hunch that morning we should go;
thinking that we’d just be gone a day or so.

We spent all day Monday
with an eye on the TV,
watching as the worst seemed to go by.
Listening to the talking heads
outside on Bourbon Street
who kept the cameras pointed at the sky.
But when we heard the levees busted through
we didn’t need a photograph, we knew

All those years of living were a span of borrowed time,
and it really doesn’t matter which was yours and which was mine.
It don’t make no difference where you want to lay the blame
’cause the score ends up with both sides at zero
if you don’t watch the undertow.

We drove back to Natchitoches
to sleep at a hotel,
the lobby filled with countless refugees,
each one of us in limbo
under some strange kind of spell
thinking life should offer up some guarantee.
But it never really happens quite that way;
all you really ever have is just today.

And the headlines in the paper
went from bad to even worse:
seems the uglier, the more it lingered on.
With the worst part the denial
from those safe and dryly perched
that the place we thought was home was really gone.
It took a while before the truth sunk in:
that we had no choice but to begin again.

All your years of living are a span of borrowed time,
and it really doesn’t matter what is yours and which is mine.
It don’t make no difference where you want to lay the blame
’cause what’s up ends up in pieces down below
if you don’t watch the undertow.

28 APR 2006

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