The Things She Carried

I've followed the fires in Austin and Bastrop closely on Twitter watching the emergencies as they unfolded. Trying to help, I retweeted every plea and watched miraculously as almost all pleas were answered.  Offers of trailers, pastures and vet help rolled in. People offered feed and bandages. The government focused on getting the people out, while the people focused on saving animals. The first two days of the fire, there was almost zero coverage of any of this. I presume because it happened over a holiday and local news stations were understaffed.  Twitter was the only source of information.

We are in Day 6 of the Bastrop fire.  Now, there are offers from the Texas State Bar for legal help, photographers to help with lost treasured photos, free clean up supplies by Home Depot, low cost or free housing by the Realtor organization in Austin. Offers of still more pastures for horses or cattle and fund raisers by musicians continue to come in.  Church groups went house to house in the Stiener Ranch fire after the people were let back in with offers to take out the rotten food and give them bags of groceries.  (Even those homes not destroyed were without power for a couple of days and in the Texas heat most had rotten food when they returned.)

All of this human trauma had me thinking about one of my favorite books, "The Things They Carried." This thought led me to write the following poem.  I dedicate this to all of the fire victims in Texas.  Life dealt you a rough hand. 

The Things She Carried

The picture of your mother who died years ago
not yet scanned into your computer,
of course, your kitty, Lulu
and your puppy, Maxine.
That drawing by your now grown kid
as a 3rd grader framed in the hall,
the necklace your great grandmother left you,
the love letters from your husband during the war
who died last year.

You probably want some of your makeup and toiletries,
it could be a long night and a fortnight of days.
No time to grab clothes with the fire breathing on you now.
Got to go!
Got to run, run now!
It’s moving so fast.

You tell everyone it was only stuff,
you got your precious pets
no loved ones left at home anymore.
Stuff can be replaced, you say,
as the pictures from your life flash before your mind
and flare up in the house you left behind.
You know you will be okay, at least everyone tells you that you will.
But all you can see are the flames and the smoke billowing into your mind.
You can’t even remember all that you’ve lost.
Oh, you just remembered your teacup collection you’ve saved since you were 17.          

You have your mind
you still have that sense of humor, tinged with tears now
you have your hope, your dreams, your future.
Where do you start to put your life back together at 79?
It occurs to you that you should have grabbed
that pack of playing cards
so you could deal yourself a new hand.

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Janice said...

This poem is beautiful and sad. It made me all teary. That picture of the old lady totally adds to the drama too! *sniff*

Poet on Poetry said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment. You made my day!
I am glad to hear that this poem moved you. There is no greater compliment to me than that.