as we cannot comprehend. Those
children in Russia, Virginia,
Norway, Colorado. So many.
Nature, too, inflicts inertia.
Tsunamis, hurricanes, and fires
deconstruct the careful longing,
our sure pretense of relevance,
leaving inadequate options:
to take comfort in words in which
there can be no comfort, to paint
our religions, coax them to life.
Mapmakers today understand
the world is made entirely
of layers: air patterns, land and
watersheds, forest and roadways,
urban densities, also known
as towns and the people within.
Remove these layers and the earth
becomes almost invisible,
surely as it must have been when
God laid the framework for first sin.
Are we to take heart knowing that
even He started over once?
It is easy to view the stars
as souls, and if the stars then birds,
some rivers. And if rivers we
might be baptized in each other.
The coffee mugs are always clean.
The muddled bedroom is empty.
God, after this grief, every
I love you feels like goodbye.
(Revised July 2011, c. Martin A. Bartels. Prayers for Norway. This poem appeared in Poetry24 on July 26, 2011).