New Orleans, December, 2005
I can't see you there—though I look, every time—
in the cold deluge of TV newsbursts
that soaked me every hour those first days.
The scene repeats at eleven, the bus again sideways in a pool of debris
again my grief-soaked Sonia
pointing outside the camera's view, again
your red shoes neatly side by side
disaster netted by news casters, displayed in gruesome glory.
It's the weight I cannot hold, its sudden mass too heavy:
the immensity of our dreams speeding
through an eight-lane disaster-zone highway, the heaviness
of doubt that forces our final slide into the guardrails,
the burden of grief that grows in that place like mildew.
Parched in the shattered scene stirring sixteen hundred miles
away, my fingers touch the dry TV screen.
Half a country from that Louisiana tarmac, I am stranded here
in strange atmosphere, gasping and flopping in a world
tipped like reason undone. And you,
A single wave rising
cannot be understood
without the context of the ocean.
One loss cannot be sounded alone
against the great tumble of death
in that city of romance and ruin.
Here is my shout in chorus
with the great cry that rose with the flood waters,
my anger mingling with the rage
left behind like toxic mud.
Here are strong hands I love returning
to scrape and mend and tarp and plant
in a land of strangers knotted tight by grief.
Here is the lesson of tragedy:
we can live in the wet, if we grow gills