“And They Do” by Helena Goos
November 9, 2020
The silence stretches,
yawning across the land.
Quiet, so quiet.
A strange reverie, unbroken by sound.
The bombs have stopped.
The children, born in a world where
the thunder is a part of life,
raise their heads in disbelief.
For they remember,
a time when bombs did not fall,
when the earth did not shake,
when birds sang and life went on,
undisturbed by the screams of fighter jets and families.
The silence is deafening.
The silence swallows.
Deep in the earth,
in the cold metal shells,
The silence is infinite.
The silence is total.
The elders turn to each other,
reaching for hands,
finding each other,
wrinkled leather skin, that tells a thousand different stories.
They rise unsteadily, they rise slowly.
They carry the human memory on their backs.
They walk to the doors.
They walk many flights of stairs,
climbing towards the light,
towards the silence.
Their footsteps echo through the metal shell,
Reverberating their history,
their lives, through the hollow chamber.
Up, up, they climb,
Higher, higher, than anyone has been in generations.
The silence blankets them.
The silence devours them.
Frail and old and pale, they climb on,
Until at last they reach the doors.
They take their precautions. They dress themselves in armor,
to shield them from the outside.
They shut the bulkheads behind them, they strain to turn the wheel.
The doors inch, slowly, slowly.
A dragon’s breath releases, and the doors slide open.
The elders step out.
They teeter. The edge of the world.
The edge of everything they knew and know,
of everything that was and is,
of everything that could and could be.
They clench each other’s hands,
They step out of the bunker,
They meet the silence,
They face the light,
A grey, grey, world greets them.
The death of everything natural.
Silent tears run down their faces.
All around them, ash and dust, dust and ash.
All around them, silence.
A breeze startles them.
It scatters matter across their boots.
The breeze carries the scent of flowers.
Somewhere, across the world, a field of lilies blooms in the watery,
The elders turn to each other.
They squeeze each other’s hands.
They bathe in the silence.
They relish in it.
They stand there, taking it in
A pregnant silence, ready to burst.
Can you see it? One of them says.
We all can. Says another.
We will rebuild. Says a third.
We will live on. We will not just survive. We will live.
And they do.
And they do.
Helena Goos is the 2020/21 Youth Poet Cohort Leadership & Coordination Ambassador, a cohort member of the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate program. Performed on the digital stage for a Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Journalism Series event with Yamiche Alcindor on Tuesday, November 10, 2020.