Poem – SMALL BEFORE THE SEA (By Ray Gallucci)




We have only pictures,

A journal and rubble

From what was a fixture

To keep ships from trouble.


A lighthouse, built sturdy,

On Unimak island

Around 1940,

With Coast Guard as client.


Five Guardsmen were manning

The station that morning,

Both horn and beam spanning

The sea with their warning.


At ninety past midnight,

They felt quite a tremor,

But lighthouse stayed upright,

Observers remember.


One half-hour later

Again all was quaking.

Intensity greater,

But no structure breaking.


Unknown at this moment,

Aleutian Trench fell,

Caused ocean to foment

Tsunami from hell!


To radio listener

One Guardsman asserted,

“Since damage resisted,

Post won’t be deserted.”


For next quarter hour,

The island stayed quiet.

None knew of the power

That landward was flying.

Now steel reinforcement

Was lighthouse construction,

Designed as resistant

To seismic destruction.


And base of the station

Rose thirty feet higher

Than waves’ oscillations

Were known to aspire.


The sentinel’s apex

Stood full thirty meters

Above line of breakers —

Impregnable keeper.


But none could imagine

The power released

At three-thousand fathoms

When sea bottom creased!


Once passed twenty minutes

Since Guardsman had spoken,

The radio listener

Heard “roaring from ocean.”


His building was smitten

By thunderous slapping.

Along floor of kitchen

Soon ocean was lapping.


Yet cliff that located

This radio building

Was more elevated

And much farther inland.


By time they recovered

To peer down escarpment,

In horror discovered

Tsunami’s bombardment.

No lighthouse left standing,

Erased to foundation,

And Guardsmen who manned it

Were lost to creation.


Tsunami had crested

At least hundred feet.

The sea had ingested

The station complete!


For month they kept searching

What sea was returning,

But found only portions

Of human internals.


They buried whatever

Near lighthouse’s remnant,

And sixteen years after

Came plaque in remembrance.


Can anyone conjure

The Guardsmen’s last sighting —

That hundred-foot horror

Their beacon was lighting?*


Like matchstick it crumbled

What stood like a fortress.

In seconds it humbled

Our human resources.


And yet to our planet,

No more than a hiccup.

When think we command it,

Earth sends us a wake-up.


The Coast Guard still cautions,

“Can’t vie equally

When Nature comes calling.

We’re small ‘fore the sea!”


(Published in ST. LINUS REVIEW, Vol. 1, No. 3, Autumn 2005)

(Based on an article with the same title by PAC Veronica Cady, editor, Coast Guard Magazine, May 2001, about the April 1, 1946, Tsunami at Scotch Cap, Alaska, available online at‑cp/cb/April2001/scotchcap.html

[*also see artist Danell Millsap’s conceptual painting at])


Author Bio:

I am a Professional Engineer who has been writing poetry since 1990. I am an incorrigible rhymer, tending toward the skeptical/cynical regarding daily life. I have been fortunate to have been published in poetry magazines and on-line journals such as NUTHOUSE, MOTHER EARTH INTERNATIONAL, FEELINGS/POETS’ PAPER, MÖBIUS (when Jean Hull Herman published), PABLO LENNIS, MUSE OF FIRE, SO YOUNG!, THE AARDVARK ADVENTURER, POETIC LICENSE, THUMBPRINTS, UNLIKELY STORIES, BIBLIOPHILOS, FULLOSIA PRESS, NOMAD’S CHOIR, HIDDEN OAK, PABLO LENNIS, POETSESPRESSO, SOUL FOUNTAIN, WRITER’S JOURNAL, ATLANTIC PACIFIC PRESS, DERONDA REVIEW, LYRIC, THE STORYTELLER, WRITE ON! and DANA LITERARY SOCIETY.