We will know them, each member of the newly
dead in France. We will name them, list them.
Their loved ones we will draw into our global
embrace. Their faces, friendships we will recollect
to weigh against the images of white sheets
lying lightly on misshapen masses on the ground.
Bullets, bombs took their targets at random,
ignoring virtue and sin alike, assigning totality,
finality, amassing act by act their accounting.
But theirs will fail to be the final statement.
We will know these dead just as we hear the
names of 9/11 read and reread. Just at the New
York Times delivered its precis of each life lost
in flying furnaces and rubble. We will know them
And slightly farther south, along Europe’s belly,
we count up in a different way a different dead,
washing ashore or plucked a thickening harvest
from the waters. These too indifferently were
taken, generations erased. And here no names,
no flag colors draped around the globe, no lists
or accounting of habits or hobbies or dreams, of
lineage or age. Their links to the living severed
in the terror and turmoil of sudden splashing.
Their throats choked as they filled with unpaid
promises, eyes bulging as they gasped for the
oxygen of action, of compassion. Until, gaping
mouths wide, they slid into the deep unnamed,
scarcely numbered, unclaimed except by the sea.
Flagless. Faceless. Forgotten with the multitude.
(How must it feel, the desperate, failing tread of
legs against the sea, laboring to hold aloft the
weary head of loved ones, flailing last thoughts:
the knowledge of sinking, all sinking into breathless
green and blue.)
How different the tallies we take, and what they
tell of how we weigh the loss, measuring bloated
brown bodies by the ton, by the gross, against the
individual blanket draped over each crumpled
figure. And names, so many names, those floating
on our lips, and those that sink into the sea.