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The wren in the hedge pipes alarm. It’s only me.
But the fly by the window-catch is in agony
At the spider’s touch, trussed up, buzzing its last.
The wren and the fly must know fear, the spider be hungry
In the order of things. The universe keeps watch.
We have made sense of this, and so has poetry.

Go bigger, and no-one makes sense, and nor does poetry.
We hardly explain to ourselves our own sorrow,
Let alone others’ suffering, silenced by distance.
How can a watchful universe allow
Twenty thousand human deaths in Turkey
In an earthquake? It is beyond me, and so

I felt more for the toad I trod upon last night.
It made no movement at the light I shone.
It brought the blood of kindness pursing from my heart
As I stooped to see the damage I had done.
What could I do? Nothing, and walk away.
Be glad that in the morning it had gone.

Twenty thousand Turkish bodies crushed. What can I do?
I can telephone some money, I can trust
That some practitioner in the world’s prose,
Unphilosophical, with no time to waste,
Will help the innocent to bear the unbearable.
But the order of things? More the nature of the beast.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by the author