LONG before signals, up and down
From Highland Light to Provincetown,
Whipped out storm warnings — long before
By radio, from door to door,
By teletype and telephone
The word was flashed, the news was known,
The path the hurricane would choose
Blazoned in the headline news,
Dark spare-limbed men with leather faces
Had sauntered out to likely places
And scanned with speculative eye
The too calm air, the breathless sky—
In one shrewd glance had skillfully
Taken the pulse of the sullen sea —
Observed the heavier note in each
Wave that pounded the shaken beach,
And noted how, in flocks that covered
The inland wharves, the sea gulls hovered.
Then you might see the port begin
Like rock-pool creature, to draw in
Its tentacles, on first alarm
Shutting its shell at threat of harm.
Along the narrow length of town
Storm doors went up and anchors down,
Dories were beached, two men together
Hauling, one eye on the weather.
There was a lull before the dark,
A waiting pause that seemed to mark
Something more ominous; and then
The sea sprang at the throats of men.
Over the flats, the turning tide
On screaming winds brought in the wide
Whitte combers, and there rose the sound
Of great seas breaking all around. . . .
Tense, to such struggle dedicated,
The sieged town braced itself and waited.
FRANCES MIXTURN HOWARD