I’ve been struck the last couple days by the power of poetry to act as an antidote to so many of the things that seek to abstract me from myself, my family and friends, my world, and God. Today I read an ancient Greek epigramma called “Earthquake” and of course I thought of the catastrophe in Japan. It was a reminder too of the way a really good poem can bring the poet, reader, and subject into a powerful trialogue. “Earthquake” connects the anonymous poet, long dead, to the folks in Japan even now fighting to survive, burying loved ones, and beginning the long and difficult process of rebuilding their lives. And it connects me to all of them. Miraculous.
Here is the poem. It’s translated by Burton Raffel and included in his collection Pure Pagan: Seven Centuries of Greek Poems.
Once corpses left the city behind them, dead,
But now the living carry the city to her grave.