Katie Ford On “Tell Us” 

For what in life can we prepare, for what can we ready ourselves, and against what weathers—literal, metaphorical—does our fragility rise up as the clearest voice of all, speaking back to extremity, saying there is nothing that can ready me for this. This poem reaches back into the day I evacuated from New Orleans to get west of Hurricane Katrina’s path. Perhaps the radio figures so profoundly here and throughout Colosseum, this poem’s book, not just because I listened to it constantly during that 11-hour traffic horror and tumultuous drive—some lines in the poem are exactly what I heard on the radio, but most are the psyche’s imprint upon that day—but because I was alone. Alone is the condition in which the external world reverberates most in me, alone is the unsheltered bell from which many poems ring. Those places where the mind must live with paradox, with not-understanding, or with instructions that are both wise and impossible, are locations I often write into and out from, because I think, in the end, the poetic task is write toward the unsayable—which then ricochets us back toward the known world—which then shines brighter in all its rarity and beauty and fright. When the intellect and spirit can press no further into what’s possible to articulate, these sacred limits might radiate through a line or two, and if not soothe, at least be some portion of true. 

Katie Ford

Tell Us

the radio is coming in
all over us a caller asks what will

be done for the animals
of the zoo the oil rigs

at sea the stranded
of the dome

first the storm
will take all lanterns all flags

it will begin at 600 hours
end at 1300 at which time

your absolute nakedness
the barest accident of you

will stand before its organized eye
therefore ready yourself

but do not panic
you cannot be ready

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