Search View Archive

Waiting with the Dead

Ten thousand people died last night in a Nicaraguan earthquake.
That’s more than on the Titanic,
but less than in the Civil War.

If you lined up 10,000 dead people from head to toe,
would the bodies stretch from Maine to Florida,
or only from Maine to New Hampshire?

Which one would you rather hear on the news:
The dead stretched from North Dakota to Nebraska.
or The dead stretched from Disneyland to Disneyworld?

One out of every 300 people has murdered someone,
so if you were at a baseball game
and the stadium held 18,000 people,
there would be 60 murderers in the crowd.

If every one of those 60 murderers
murdered 299 people apiece,
there would be 17,940 dead people in the stadium.

With the help of both teams and the 60 murderers,
you could arrange the dead, head to toe,
to spell out words
so big they could only be read from the air.

Words like HELP
Or there’s always Gene Hackman’s final words in The Poseidon Adventure:

After that, you could all relax—
maybe grab a bite from the snack bar.
Make sure to keep a few players standing up,
waving their bright-colored caps back and forth,
just in case a rescue plane flies by.


Jennifer L. Knox

Jennifer L. Knox was born in Lancaster, California's crystal meth capital of the nation, and home to Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and the Space Shuttle. Her first book A Gringo Like Me is forthcoming from Soft Skull Press in 2005. Her work has appeared in the anthologies Best American Poetry (2003 and 1997), Great American Prose Poems: from Poe to Present. She is the co-curator of the Pete's Big Salmon poetry reading series in Brooklyn, NY.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2004

All Issues