In Nepal, five thousand are dead and the rest are afraid
to return to the house of the next tremor.
A continent away, Tom finds objects to hold
to quiet the tremors in his hands.
Men are pulled from buildings
five days underneath them, still breathing.
The easiest way to achieve rescue
is to cry out at the slightest sound.
Most often the rubble answers.
The rubble shifts and allows a trapped man
to feel saved by the dark that fills itself
with each person the buried man thinks
he hears as the dark glares back.
The dark glares back and it does not have hands
and a rescuer will need hands
to pull away this dark glare, to cover
the man’s eyes as they rediscover light.
There are sounds but none of them will save him
until one of them does. The buried
cannot hear the shovels above them.
Only language can rescue, only hands.
Tom rolled up documents to ease his private dying.
His hands still shook. Shovel striking rubble.
This is how to know someone is coming.
This is what it looks like when the stone rolls away,
the circles of impossibly bright light.
Focus on the way hands won’t still,
on the ground and the way it seems always
to be slouching as the rescued discover
light stares, too. Days unpunctuated by shifting.
The rescuers keep listening, locals
desperate to save themselves
from the wreckage in which they feel
they too should be lost.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.