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Boston's Great Molasses Flood, 1919
Nancy Scott


On January 15th, it wasn’t snow that kept schools closed,
but rivets popping like machine-gun fire, a steel tank bursting,
two million gallons of molten molasses spurting into the air.

First a dark rumble, then a roar, as the North End
turned into a wet, brown hell. Autos and wagons mired,
freight cars crushed, entire buildings crumbled like pasteboard.

The Great War was done; no need to turn molasses
into alcohol for ammunition, but Purity Distilling
demanded one last batch before the end.

Twenty-two dead, horses drowned, hundreds injured.
Clean-up crews and rescuers, knee-deep in makings of rum,
listened as church bells pealed in Prohibition.

Throughout the city, for decades afterwards, they say
you could smell the sweet aroma, and on certain buildings,
if you looked closely, the high water mark left by molasses.


This poem first appeared in Flint Hills Review, 2005.
Used here with the author’s permission


Nancy Scott is the author of seven books of poetry and managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets' Cooperative in New Jersey. Her most recent book, Running Down Broken Cement (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2014), was inspired by her career as a caseworker for the State of New Jersey for several decades. The poems bear witness to the lives of those children and adults whose voices are seldom heard. Nancy is also an artist; she regularly exhibits her collages in juried shows and her work has appeared on various book covers and in literary journals. Learn more about her at  

Post New Comment:
A tragic and forgotten bit of history, now told in this wonderful poem!~~DORIS
Posted 01/19/2015 05:06 PM
I really liked the history in this poem and was unfamiliar with it. Thank you.
Posted 01/19/2015 12:54 PM
A lot of history here. I'm sending this poem to my daughter who lives in Boston.
Posted 01/19/2015 08:18 AM
A most delicate portrayal of an infinitely sticky subject.
Posted 01/18/2015 11:22 PM

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