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Partial List of the Saved

ISSUE:  Autumn 1995

Titanic Sinks Four Hours After Hitting Iceberg;
Rescued By Carpathia, Probably 1200 Perish;
Ismay Safe, Mrs. Astor Maybe, Noted Names Missing
        —N. Y. Times, April 16, 1912

He has been sending
messages of distress
for hours. His fist is clenched
on a key no one hears.
He’s tired. The boat is listing
badly, water taken in
has nowhere to go. It rises,
lifts its throat
toward his throat.
Will you hear him?

In this code,
will you hear me?
is defined by silence,
the space around small sounds. He wants to tell you
who to save, and why,
but the time for reasons
has vanished
like ice in fog.

Maybe you will pass
this message, now,
and not respond,
hearing nothing
but cold wind,
the crackle of lost
connections, your own
heart in your ears.

A partial list of the saved
will be established afterward.
The others are harder
to record, their watery voices,
the thousand-lipped call.

He has seen them swept
across barricades, arms
signalling through noise
until they become noise,
part of the vociferous ocean,

or become what memory is,
silence and darkness, a voice
caught inside bone,
a skeletal longing for sounds
that will never be heard.

A partial list of the saved
must include this: the voices
of those whom death has completed,
the longing for silence which inhabits
each of the saved like a sea.

A partial list of the dead
is a schedule of forgetting.

It is what memory is,
a map of absence.

Remember this:
It is what love always becomes.


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