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The Halifax Explosion

There is such beauty in ruin. The way the ship’s bridge burns
           as it lists in the harbor, the drunken steel colossus dizzying
to those gathered on shore to watch the spectacle and gab;
           and the sailors who emerged sogged from the water to warn
of some murderous cargo of buzzing fire and the wiping hand
           of God; and the schoolchildren happy to chuck away math
for half an hour as they speculate lazily at the windows;
           and the burst of white flame that kicks down buildings
like poor card houses and wicker tables for two miles,
           and the priest’s shadow burned into the floor of St. Anne’s
Church of the Immaculate, contorted and unsweepable;
           and the anchor thrown five miles inland to lodge heavily
in a small reflecting pool filled with ducks and algae;
           and the porch and nest shattered, the nest the angry wasps
always rebuild after it is knocked down with a broom;
           and sheared girders pressed against the sky at new angles,
a fresh field of hazard for a lost giant’s shoeless feet;
           and the windows brushed away like sugar glass as far
off as Truro, leaving shiny wakes on dining room floors;
           and the plume that pours over the harbor, furious and grey;
and the blind ward’s new patients with windows pushed
           deep into their skulls, their poor eyes pierced and shredded;
and the sooted rescue workers picking through Haligonian
           dust after weeks of silence because of hope’s cruel bug,
the whispered cries of wind rushing past their ear from just
           under this rubble, a girl and faithful dog, or litter of kittens,
or precious photograph, or lovers’ skulls, or vague dust, or chum–
           What burn we hold to begin again, and to begin from scratch.

Posted 02/01/10
Originally appeared in Subtropics 6.
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