Tallies

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

all.

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.

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