Natural Disaster II.
When I was a boy the flood came early one morning and the town was gone.
We waited for the politicians to give us something to gnaw on.
Nurses and retirees unloaded big boxes.
They smiled passing sandwiches in cellophane.
We are still waiting for them to tell us why it happened here.
My father did not hold me as he stared at the far-off sky.
It is a season that returns, he said. Men wander beneath the sky,
And from heaven, no food, only spirit.
Vagabonds from his childhood memories,
Now he was one of them, a pile of work laid low.
All his show a family, hungry and helpless.
He thought these poverties were gone, but now they’re back,
Like in Egypt, I guess, when the Red Sea parted,
What was taken away was restituted whole.
Some stayed hoping for such a providence,
The Nile’s flood restored its farms.
They were coaxed by things another season told them.
But we heard nothing. There was nothing we could see of home there.
So we turned to the road.
We are anointed as pilgrims again, a holy calling.
They misunderstand this, who apologize
Too much for what is and what can’t be.
People, at least, are mobile.
It’s only that there is nowhere left to go towards.
In another country, now, and calloused,
Grown accustomed to the weather, the rough sleep,
Now the land’s dried up, and we’ve dried out too.
Sometimes we steal things: chickens, milk in bottles.
I know you are scared of me, but there’s nothing else for us here,
Just water now and then,
Which comes from heaven.
And men steal water sometimes too.
It isn’t the having of water that counts.
We aren’t fish.
But you know men die of thirst.
I am on the road now and I see others,
Fit men, lit up by the window, staring into the street-lights.
I know they are waiting too.
Some sickness like the first that knocked us out
Is blowing through them so cold
No clothes or house can keep them in.
Their paths are unclear. They wait
For signs they can’t see.
The city is their prison,
Its streets their endless labyrinth.
But what do I know? It might be safer
That way. They are happy sometimes,
And I am too. Unlike them I am
made of road and wind. I see things in the weather
They do not. The weather changes first at the horizon,
Where the road begins. I come in the night while they sleep,
and set off before they wake. There can be no slumber
for those who belong to the road.
When I see them cursing their wives
Or rising daily to the dismal monastic skyscrapers
I know they are unlike us altogether.
Love cast us out. Love woke me up and hurled me out of bed.
Fearing love, I still give thanks, each footstep,
For the road itself alone.
This is because it must be.
There is no coming in but the one,
And no way but by going the whole way round.
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