XX (from “Odi”)
They heard a thud in a clump of bamboo,
then the tea-black water of the lake
they had drunk for a night and a day exploded.
They scattered with the muddy splash
deeper into the bush. Shell-shocked, babies
and children smothered the instinct to cry
and clammed to backs and shoulders and the held-
out hand, brave as their parents clinging
to the hope of return to their homes cross-
haired by the demolition man, as they sought
cover under leaves in a shuddering forest.
The air shrieked behind them and the walnut tree,
a moment ago their home, cleaved
into two by another bomb,
crashed, lashing a mother and child
at the backline of flight. And now
the children bawled, and their parents
finding words for the terror cried:
We’re dead! We’re dead!
Save us, O God!