What do I do with the daily news of disasters? Do I mumble a quick prayer for the victims, then turn to my day’s to-do list? Do I ever pause and ponder: this disaster might have struck those I love, or even me? These are the questions that Shara McCallum turns over in “The News.” Her imagination doesn’t flinch from detailing the horrors. Yet she is also self-protective, and she knows this. I admire how she keeps her eyes both shut and open to the dreadful events that life can deal us. And I admire especially the painful closing two stanzas: the piercing image of that mother somewhere whose “hem of life” will be “snagged, /from here forward”: from the instant she learns of her child forever lost.
Nothing falls from the sky to claim me.
These days, I am a bird with stones
in its beak, warbling an awful tune.
The news from beyond reaches me
always too late. What girl has fallen now,
off what coast, into what ocean or sea?
Wasn’t the water already filling with blood?
Hasn’t it always been so?
These days, I exchange the world
outside my window for one within. I close
my ears to that girl’s final cries, listening
instead to my own child, singing at play.
Somewhere a mother is facing a truth
she will have to rehearse daily to believe.
While the news clatters on,
the hem of her life will be snagged,
from here forward, in the moment a child
can’t find her way back home.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Written by: Shara McCallum
Shara McCallum is the author of two books of poems from the University of Pittsburgh Press, Song of Thieves and The Water Between Us, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. Originally from Jamaica, McCallum directs the Stadler Center for Poetry and teaches at Bucknell University. She is also on the faculty of the Stonecoast low-residency MFA program. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.
Image above by Donald Logan, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.