We gave our dogs a button to sniff, or a tissue, and they bounded off confident in their training, in the power of their senses to re-create the body, but after eighteen hours in rubble where even steel was pulverized they curled on themselves and stared up at us and in their soft huge eyes we saw mirrored the longing for death: then we had to beg a stranger to be a victim and crouch behind a girder, and let the dogs discover him and tug him proudly, with suppressed yaps, back to Command and the rows of empty triage tables. But who will hide from us? Who will keep digging for us here in the cloud of ashes?
The child tells me, put a brick in the tank,
don’t wear leather, don’t eat brisket,
snapper, or farmed salmon—not tells,
orders—doesn’t she know the sluice gates
are wide open and a trillion gallons
wasted just for the dare of it?
Until the staring eye shares that thrill,
witnessing: I am just iris and cornea,
blind spot where brain meets mind,
the place where the image forms itself
from a spark—image of the coming storm.
Still the child waits outside the bathroom
with the watch she got for Best Essay,
muttering, two minutes too long.
Half measures, I say. She says, action.
I: I’m one man. She: Seven billion.
If you choose, the sea goes back.