David Wagoner

5 June 1926 / Massillon, Ohio

In Rubble

Right after the bomb, even before the ceiling
And walls and floor are rearranging
You and themselves into a different world,
You must hold still, must wait for them
To settle down in unpredictable ways,
To bring their wars, shuddering,
To an end, and only then should you begin
Numbly to feel what freedom may be left
To your feet or knees, to your elbows
Or clenched fingers. Where you used to walk
Or lean or lie down or fix your attention
At a whim or stomp your foot
Or slump in a chair, you'll find a new
Architecturally unsound floor-plan
To contend with, if you can move
At all. Now you may remember others
Who were somewhere near you before
This breakdown of circumstances. Caught by surprise
Like you, they may be waiting separately
At their own levels, inside their own portions
Of your incoherent flat. They may be thinking
Of you, as you are of them, and wondering
Whether some common passageway, no matter
How crooked or narrow, might still exist
Between you, through which you might share the absence
Of food and water and the cold comfort
Of daylight. They may be expecting you
To arrive at any moment, to crawl through dust
And fire to their rescue as they find their bodies
Growing more stiff, assuming even more
Unusual attitudes at every turn
Of a second hand, at every sound
Of a bell or an alarm, at every pounding
Of a door or a heart, so if you can't reach them
Now and they can't reach you, remember, please
Remember, whatever you say,
Whatever you hear or keep to yourself, whatever
You scream or whisper, will need to make
Some kind of sense, perhaps for days and days.
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