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Counting the after-math

People penned to die in our instant
concentration camps, just add water,
bodies pushed to the side.

Thirst hurts worse than hunger.
It swells your brain against your skull.
it sandpapers your gut from within.

But hunger too makes people mad.
Shoot the looters who are grabbing
from flooded stores survival for hours more.

Baby is crying
Grandma is dying
and that dirty water is getting higher

Talk to the camera about why didn’t these
crazy people evacuate?  Without cars,
without money, without cellphones —

Why didn’t they fly away like gulls?
Why didn’t they get on their yacht
and chug upstream?  But even at the Ritz

when they ran out of food and water
the manager told tourists to “find”
food in the deserted stores.

Baby is crying
Grandma is dying
and that dirty water is getting higher

All the cats climbing the rafters
their fur sodden with stinking refuse
laden water and drowning.  All

the dogs chained to porches
as the water rose, swimming in
narrowing circles. FEMA says

we didn’t know about the thousands
in the convention center, as millions
saw them on TV screaming for help.

Baby is crying softer now
Grandma is up to her chin
and that dirty water is still getting higher

Who will count the bloated bodies?
Who will weep for children silenced?
For mothers drifting like belly-up goldfish?

Only their families. If you’re not rich,
not white, not a good poster child
they don’t hurry to keep you alive.

Baby has stopped crying
Grandma has drowned
and that dirty water is still getting higher


© Marge Piercy, 2005

Marge Piercy‘s latest novel is The Third Child. Her sixteenth book of poetry, Colors Passing Through Us, was published by Knopf in the spring. Leapfrog Books has released a CD of her political poems, Louder, I Can’t Hear You Yet, available online at <www.leapfrogpress.com>.


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