How many? They're all asking today, How many dead in the shadow of the World Trade Center, how many in Bhopal, how many in Iraq? And does it add up to a figure that makes sense? Does it let us point and say "that's why," and wipe our hands of dust, and go back to our homes and jobs and ideologies? Or does it overwhelm the scales, smash them, and stand before us refusing to be ignored, and pointing its bony digit back at us? Does it say Enough! and rend the tidy divisions of hatred, and force us to contend with ourselves, naked, raw, and hurting confused and loving and so very finite and alone? The door stands open, but our minds fill in what's on the other side, and we resist, in all the clever, desperate ways we know, learned in a millennium of strategies, the unknown thing outside: the death, the freedom, the sun Will we fling bodies at that door, and rubble and rhetoric and meaning, cover it with flags and tanks and bombs and holy books, until we no longer hear (in the whistling of the wind) the voices of those we've lost, beckoning us on? Will we bury ourselves in work and song and laughter -- the temporary joys of the survivors -- until we no longer touch the blade of grass in wonder that it's not crying too? How many? They never asked, How many lives hidden in their own rubble, carefully preserved, so as not to waste them? How many of these lives fade on exposure, crumble, blow like dust across the earth, when shown into the sun? How many are preserved, against a future not of their own making? Funny how they say the old ones are better attuned to death. I accepted it when young. But now I fear it: Not the ceasing of the body, But the accumulation of withdrawls.