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Tuesday, March 15, 2011


by Catherine McGuire

Behind, the closed door of yesterday; another world, that once felt solid.
Before you, unrecognizable, your life.

Like the tangled debris, your memories swept into fractured heaps,
show no coherent shapes; refuse to know what happened.

A neighbor stumbles by, sleepwalking; you can’t recall her name.
Someone’s shoe mud-stuck to the curb. A Suburu, vertical against a pole.

Reek of gasoline, strong enough to bring tears, suggests the danger still lurking.
So much is brined in toxins. All boundaries failed.

Last night, a cold waking nightmare; wrapped in blankets on the 2nd floor
the only nitelights were burning pyres: homes, factories, one inferno of refinery.

Spring had been pushing up in the lanes – bulbs and buds – the trill of birds had returned.
The morning silence is punctuated by groaning timbers, keen of failing metal, the wind’s rales.

There is no news; there are small meals rescued and eaten cold.
There is a search for unscathed bottled water, warm clothes.

You find an intact shovel sticking from a pile by the garage.
You start clearing mud from the first floor, out to the yard where it also doesn’t belong.

What to do is all around: mud, splintered table, fragments of porcelain bowls.
There is no water to wash, so it’s all push and shove.

A stranger walks by holding a small limp figure. You put the shovel down, follow,
walk towards downtown, needing to speak to someone. Anyone.

Passing the library, you find yourself
bursting into tears in front of one blush-pink camellia bloom.

Catherine McGuire is an Oregon poet struggling to comprehend the disaster on the other side of the Pacific. Words, her primary gift, almost fail in the face of such loss.