In Rubble

By David Wagoner b. 1926 David Wagoner
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.

Source: Poetry (September 2002).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2002 issue of Poetry magazine

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September 2002
 David  Wagoner


David Wagoner is recognized as the leading poet of the Pacific Northwest, often compared to his early mentor Theodore Roethke, and highly praised for his skillful, insightful and serious body of work. He has won numerous prestigious literary awards including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and has twice been nominated for the National Book Award. The author of ten . . .

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