Tell me the dead of Asia,
not the starved, not the shot,
not the sick, old, car-struck,
but those swept off suddenly by the sea.
Tell me the numbers, as they climb,
twenty, forty, seventy thousand,
statistics are distant and careful and cold,
these are just estimates.
Tell me the musical names of the islands
Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Nicobar, Andaman,
so far away and out of reach
De Mandeville said men had heads like dogs.
Too large, too vast, too far, too sweeping,
show me the Great Wave, Tsunami,
that fell on them like inexorable fate
the wall of water sent by the earthquake.
Let me see closer, show me one person,
huge-eyed, surviving, clutching an empty bag,
who went shopping to buy food for the family,
whose world ended between breakfast and lunch.
Show me the bodies, stopped and dead,
each one a human universe closed off,
in the middle of living their life,
none of them ready to die, not done yet.
Tell me, I am far away and safe,
I will give what tiny help I can,
what should I feel, how can I encompass
so many thousand strangers dead in Asia?
29th December 2004