Coconut Grove Nightclub
November 28, 1942
Panic among paper palms,
infamous blue flame claims 492.
Morning sun’s rays sifted through a shroud of smoke
magnifying the macabre diorama.
Grey-black snake wisps rose as though charmed,
to meld with twisted ceiling steel.
Wood smoldered over the stink of burnt flesh.
Overturned tables and chairs,
plates and food fused as one,
bottles, cloth, shattered glass.
Trampled victims as cord wood, stacked in a bizarre scrum,
at doors, barred and chained.
Boston’s finest, muffled and mittened,
traded tales of the pre-dawn horror.
Taxi cabs were but yellow flecks, backed up to Park Square.
Area access granted only to hearses
and hacks for body removal.
Barricades groaned under weight of the curious.
Emerging litters met contagious howls of grief
from loved ones and strangers alike.
A woman hooked my coat sleeve,
buried her face in my shoulder,
wept briefly and disappeared behind me.
Michael Achille retired from the academic world in 1988. He is a year-round resident of Oak Bluffs, and his poems have appeared in Vineyard Poets, South Road, Z’Arts Quarterly, Cape Cod Times, and the Wampanoag Cranberry Day Archives. His first book of poems, “It’s What I Do” was published in 1995. The second book, “Scraps and Rags” was published in 2005.