The Omar D. Conger was docked in Port Huron, Michigan when a boiler exploded. The ship was blown to pieces. A 200-lb radiator plummeted into the Falk Undertaking Parlors during a funeral service.
Some said the radiator was a message from God,
which caused more than a few arguments.
Even among those who believed
in a radiant God
capable of flinging a heater
through a funeral parlor,
there were some who said the coming
of the radiator was an expression
of God’s solidarity with those who grieved,
and some who said the coming
was the beginning
of an eleventh plague.
Whether it was wrath or sympathy—
darkness or radiance—
hardly made sense to others,
who claimed it was only
But even some who favored coincidence
came to feel differently
about the word.
They heard, only, coincide,
which they mouthed silently to themselves,
slipping in occasional variations:
homicide, suicide, genocide,
so many cides.
For them, the lexicon had changed.
A word was redefined by tragedy,
and in certain families in Port Huron,
some smoldering remnant of that day
lives in the language
of those who survived
the survivors. For them,
is a kind of death.