by Alfred D. Byrd

Copyright © 2005 Alfred D. Byrd


The earth, awakened
Like a man who slept in fear,
Tosses and trembles.
Frightened, we scurry outdoors,
Or stand in doorways,
Where we watch the land become
A sea of motion.
In places, the land subsides;
Elsewhere, it opens
And takes the surface below.
All things that are weak,
Breaking, are cast to the ground,
Where they lie in heaps.
At last, the earth stops shaking,
And mourning begins.
Many among us are gone;
Tbe ones who are left must weep.

We clear the rubble,
Bury the dead, and begin
To build foundations.
The earth will see the people
Rebuild the town in safety.


The wind is rising.
The trees, by touching their crowns
To earth, have honored
The air that rules them with fear.
We huddle indoors.
A darkness has come at noon,
And lightning shatters
The gloom with shapes in the clouds
That speak of our death.
Swiftly, whirlwinds approach us,
They strike our dwellings,
And what has stood forever
Is torn from the land.
Who hears the cries of dying
Above the wailing
That comes from heavens in rage?
Humans are helpless today.

The sky is clearing,
And we remove the rubble
For space for new homes.
The air will see the people
Rebuild its town in safety.


Atop the mountains
The snow has fallen for months;
The winter was fierce.
The sun of springtime has come
With heat of summer
To melt the snowdrifts at once.
Our stream is rising
Higher than ever before.
We run to the hills,
Where we watch our homes break up
Within a torrent.
Many have stayed behind
To save possessions
And lost their lives in the flood.
We mourn, and wonder
What use is working so hard
To lose our years in moments.

We defy the stream
With dams, canals, and floodwalls
And stay where we are.
Water will see the people
Rebuild its town in safety.


The mountain trembles.
It crowns its summit with smoke
That drifts on the wind
And buries our town in ash.
We sweep it away,
And more keeps falling, followed
By rivers of fire.
The streambed funnels lava
Downslope to the town,
And we can do just nothing
To preserve our homes.
We leave the lava and ash
To finish their work,
And come back to find our town
Buried in wasteland.
Destruction can come at will;
Can we hope to live in peace?

The fire, however,
Has made the earth more fertile
Than it was at first.
The fire will see the people
Rebuild its town in safety.

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