Poems of Place

First Day of School

(Beslan, Russia, September 2004)

She grabbed a corner of heaven
to spread over the man
with the smile on his face
and the detonator in his hand.
Explosives strung like Christmas tree lights
over the children’s heads.

Under the bomb in the basketball hoop,
children drank their urine.
‘Don’t you have children?’ she asked.
‘Five, all dead,’ he said.
‘You look like my wife.’
He wept.

But the winds of casuality,
already Force Eight,
did not cower at her heels
and the whirlpool of fate
did not stay its course.

“As long as the heaven of Thou is spread out over me, the winds of causality cower at my heels and the whirlpool of fate stays its course.”

Martin Buber, I and Thou, 1937