Friday, February 6, 2009

Reading at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress website is updated, and there's my name. What a thrill! Go here to see it.

I've been sorting through poems and thinking about love. Here's one of the poems I'll be reading. The inspiration came in 2000, as I heard geologists on NPR talk about Mt. St. Helen's explosion twenty years earlier. It was published in A Summer's Reading.

Thirteen Miles

My declining health, your job loss—our comfortable
life explodes. That clean mountainside crumbles.
Stress builds, and the volcano explodes.
We can see the coming cataclysm,
the moment for which we have prepared,
the disaster we thought we could avoid.
We saved money and thought we were safe,
like those folks who lived thirteen
miles away from Mount Saint Helen’s
but the mountain swallowed them whole.

The day after the volcanic explosion,
we emerge into sunshine, amazed
that the sun rose as if it was any normal
morning. The world, covered in ash, loses
its color. Tragedy paints
our world black and white. We can’t imagine
how life can continue.

And yet, life struggles on, swims towards continuity.
We have ecosystems protected deep inside ourselves,
whole worlds that we didn’t even know existed. We discover
them now that our misfortunes have blasted
away the undergrowth that took eons to grow.
In twenty years, we won’t recognize
our various, volcanic landscapes.

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