Tell Me Where To Go From Here

I have had a poem brewing in me for a while now about the March 11 disaster, the aftermath, and how I feel about all of it. I have been up to the tsunami-affected area four times now, and every time it is a hard trip, mentally as well as physically. We are mainly digging up and throwing away the debris from the tsunami and it is really hard when you come across something like a locket or a toy that clearly belonged to someone and was treasured by that person. I think about, if I had been in the affected area, how would I feel about all of this. How would I feel about strangers finding my CD collection strewn across a field, or my necklace embedded in a ditch? It’s a very complicated feeling and I find I don’t have the words to explain it clearly. One part of me wants to find people and reunite them with their things. Another part of me wants to hurry up and get everything thrown away so people can start their lives up again. Another part of me wants to tell people not to treasure their “stuff” in the first place because it can all be swept away in a moment. Another part of me just doesn’t know what to think.

I started to compose this poem as I was volunteering up in Ishinomaki. The phrase “all the pretty things” kept floating through my mind every time I saw something that was clearly meant to make life more beautiful and enjoyable lying in the mud. It gave me a very confused feeling about whether I should be more upset about the pretty things that are now so symbolic of an ugly time, or the useful things that no longer serve a purpose, or the lives that have been broken, or lost. It’s so confusing to try to work out what to think and how to best help the people who are suffering. It’s also hard to find meaning in all of this. The amount of destruction is unfathomable. It makes watching movies about destruction less enjoyable. It doesn’t make any sense to try to figure out why it happened, but I think it’s a human habit to try to make sense of it all.

This poem still doesn’t say exactly what I am trying to express, but it’s a start. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to process all of it, let alone find a way to explain it all even to myself. I thought I would share it, though, in case it makes sense to anyone else.

Tell Me

Should I be upset
At all the pretty things
All the pretty things
Lying broken in the mud
Tell me what should I feel now

Should I be annoyed
At all the useful things
All the useful things
Stilled forever by the sand
Tell me how can I protest

Should I be afraid
Of all the toxic things
All the toxic things
Hiding layered in the soil
Tell me when will it be safe

Should I become unwound
By all the things I see
All the things I see
Nothing like it was before
Tell me why it must be so

Should I bow my head
Should I give up and run
Should I give in to fear
Or should I turn and face the sun
Tell me where to go from here