what’s left

There is an equation for this:
an imbalance of temperature
added to wind shear
equalling an F5 swath of correction
one mile wide.  For us,
it’s personal, raising brick
of what used to be a city
to find some(one) any(thing) living
underneath walls, below floors
that were ceilings; roofs
torn open like sardine tins, keyless.

We put up signs with street names
so we can learn where our houses were.

We learn the sky is sometimes hungry.
We hug our children.  If we can.

After we count the bones,
after we tell the ashes
we remember a random sparing
of an indifferent giant
which is less mercy
and more chance, impersonal scythe
to life with a face on it,
pick for logic in a rubble
of computer monitors and picture frames,
but that’s gone missing too.

Easier to tally what’s lost
than find meaning in what’s left.

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About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
This entry was posted in New Free Verse and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to what’s left

  1. Oloriel says:

    Very thought-provoking, asking me to reach withing and give something. Thank you for giving me a chance to read this!

  2. Alice Keys says:

    This is gut wrenching in a very fine way. You go girl!

  3. this is one of those ultrafine pieces I wish I had written – but know I couldn’t

  4. Thinking of you …

  5. jeglatter says:

    Yes, we go first to tally what is lost. So devastating. -Jennifer

  6. brian miller says:

    was wondering how many response to yesterday we would have…i have one for tomorrow…its brutal…we learn not to trust the sky and hug our children…ugh…yes, painful…really nicely rendered though susan….

  7. claudia says:

    i just heard about it in the news…it’s terrible and my heart goes out to all the people that are suffering and still don’t know if their kids are alive…glad you wrote about it susan

  8. Painful write—how does anyone come back from this–

    • Audrey–it was painful, but nothing compared to the pain felt in that city. I am not sure how one comes back from that, though they (and we) will.

  9. Devastating catastrophe.. but the one part of this excelent poetry I really really like its the end

    Easier to tally what’s lost
    than find meaning in what’s left.

    and it was in the news here as well

    • Bjorn, thank you for saying that. Yes, Oklahoma is in the news, and for nothing good. Well, I can’t say that. Coming out of this are stories of heroism and kindness, as well.

  10. Tony Maude says:

    Woke up to the news this morning, and you’ve said so much more about the reality of the situation in your poem than the endless outpourings of our news broadcasters ahve.

  11. Mary says:

    Susan, this is profound. We definitely need to, not only consider what was lost, but take stock of what is left. We cannot bring back the lost, but we can make the best of what will still have.

  12. I can’t imagine the horror and life afterwards ~ Nature is such a force to reckon with, and we are always reminded how temporary and frail we are, against such power ~ Terrific writing Susan ~

    • Grace, thank you so much for saying that. I often forget we exist here at the mercy of a planet that as something that cannot be personified can never know mercy. Hope that made sense.

  13. nico says:

    I don’t know how to comment, except to say I wish I had written this (but entirely satisfied that it belongs to your pen!). This is so powerful, so well done.

  14. myrthryn says:

    Negativity, or just the down side, is the much treaded path. What is spared may prove to be one who can more accurately predict and save others.

  15. Laurie Kolp says:

    Susan, you have touched upon a painful subject beautifully. I feel your emotions/pain throughout. We do look for logic in the rubble, don’t we?

  16. kelly says:

    It is so hard to wrap our heads, and our hearts, around this kind of devastation. It makes my heart ache. You did a great job of expressing what so many of us are feeling.

  17. Susan says:

    You speak my mind and heart here as every few hours I pull up the news to count the living against the dead. I make no meaning of it as indifferent nature rages–but see, that is personification–it didn’t rage, it volcano-ed and those in the path were not “at its mercy” but in the path. I love your poem, I couldn’t say it myself.

  18. Heartafire says:

    My heart goes out to the victims of this disaster. A fine read, sad …heartbreaking.

  19. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    I appreciate the way you concluded this piece. I think what stings about it is that what you are saying is so true.

    Right now in Ontario people are really upset because a 32 year old man attempted to sell his truck online and had two men come out to testdrive it. He went with them and never returned. His body was found and they have only caught one of the men. The victim has a 2 year old daughter.

    There are things which happen that are so embittering it is hard to know what we are supposed to “think” of them. I remember when I first learned about what the Jewish rituals surrounding mouring were about. They seemed so rigid and so force and as a young man I naturally felt an inchoate sense of rebellion against structure. But once I became an adult and shared grief and loss with others it started making more sense to me. Sometimes rituals are simply there to save us from being obliterated by grief and sorrow.

    • Oh, Jeremy—a while ago I was reading about the rituals of Jewish mourning. I found them beautiful and moving, and providing that structure for expression of grief is powerfully moving. That being said, I can understand why you might have found them rigid. In times of loss, we need that rigidity–something firm to support us.

      So sad about the murdered man. Senseless–over a bleeping truck. However, much of death (and life) is senseless, and there is no understanding either.

      • Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

        I think that I now can at least accept the notion that there is “no understanding” when it comes to tragedy. I can accept that no understanding exists but that doesn’t mean that I understand it.

        I have come around about rituals. When I was young they made me bristle -I rebelled against religion often when I was young (I still resist it). But I have begun to accept what ritual can do and can mean in the face of that “no understanding.”

        • Completely understand your perspective on ritual. They came in handy through funerals for my sister and mother, especially. I was thinking about writing something about that ritual tearing of the clothing–what is that called again?

          • Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

            It is called “Kriah.”

            Funny enough, our conversation has me working on something of this nature too.

            I have never had to mourn the loss of a sibling or a parent, so I have a certain awe -which naturally includes fear- of the experience. I can only imagine how these rituals can help. I know they did for both of my parents.

            I look forward to reading what you write, of course. 🙂

            • Oh, you most definitely should write something. I would be interested in reading it. Mine will be later tonight, after I finish working, unfortunately.

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