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Wednesday, April 20, 2011


by Emily Keller

It is the slow burn collapse we know so well,
the rise of shimmering oil wealth through the Gulf of Mexico,
the pile of burning steel and futures in lower Manhattan
that takes months to settle,

the mold and drowned treble clefs
scattered through the Big Easy,
washing up on shores like seaweed,

the broken homes in Thailand, snapped like bone and brick
by tidal wave drowning the only reality that was ever known,

a radioactive demise in Japan,
the slow pulse of monitor swaying from bad to worse,
panic to ignore, inhale to forget.

We have pulled destruction from beneath the earth’s crust
and toppled it from cloud cover.
We recognize the taste of tragedy that begins when a disaster ends,
that starts the first time we ignore imminent warning for luck,

the complicated quilt of human and nature caused,
the implosion of pride-filled towers and high technology from sky to ocean,
the rise of high winds over wood-framed steeples
shaking in the earth’s dust for decades.

There is a sound of a town sinking,
it is a silent siren of evacuation, more mud than gloss,
pushing coastlines inches lower, shortening the day by milliseconds,
a plume like weather cloud reminding us we are all connected,

that we flee in so many directions we eventually run into each other,
realize we are running not from city or ocean but intention and fate.

There is a cloud of radioactive regret hovering outside Tokyo,
where fifty martyred workers could not stem the tide of shame and fear
escaping through metal fuel rods.

We cannot fan the flames to any other direction but us,
to absorb what we found here,
to suffer what we have built on top of it,
to embrace what we have left.

Emily Keller is a poet, journalist and creative nonfiction writer whose work mixes personal stories with social commentary. She writes about relationships, New York City, social issues, news and skateboarding. She has been the featured poet at the Cornelia Street Café, the Jujomukti Tea Lounge, Sonic Verse and Poets on White. Her poem “Fly Before Breaking” was published in First Literary Review-East. She released her first chapbook, Shadow Puppets, in April 2011.