From the archives – Crouching Female Figure: Pompeii — Gail White

Crouching Female Figure: Pompeii

At first they were not much afraid,
but hour by hour the ashes fell,
layer on layer overlaid—
the soft gray snow that falls in hell.

When panic came, her mistress said,
Lucilla, take the child and run.
But when she stumbled, both were dead.
Ashes had eaten up the sun.

Now, in an iron carapace
of ashes, here she crouches still,
shielding in vain her charge’s face
while tourists photograph their fill.

Could God explain in layman’s terms
what vices necrotized Pompeii,
when urban gods and rustic herms
were ashes in a single day?

No law, no logic eases pain
or stops the tidal wave of death.
Sinai and Etna both can rain
ashes that suffocate our breath.

by Gail White

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 13, April 2009

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim