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The Reunification Center

From "Burnt Island" (Alfred A. Knopf: 116 pp., $24 )

October 02, 2005|D. Nurkse

We brought pictures of the missing,

held gingerly, by the cropped margins,

as if the eyes were scalding: or food:

steaming casseroles without ladles,

though the night was mild: Evian:

M&M's, which we tried to hand out

in that cordoned-off street

where an ambulance chugged empty:

and each stranger refused, a little pained,

no, no, I'm here to help: we offered aspirin,

stock certificates, a child's rocking horse,

a teddy bear with an empty eye socket,

but no one consented to receive that treasure:

a doctor ashen with fatigue shouted

into a cell phone, shaking it

when it didn't answer, a digger

dozed hugging his shovel,

a survivor, mesmerized by the portraits,

stunned at their beauty, compared them

scar by scar with the faces of the living.

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