i am nothing
congealed fire
flickering darkness
bounded Infinite
i am a voiceless voice
crying into soundless 
i am and i am not
sacre-bleu the sky
we cannot see
the sea we cannot
my soul i cannot
lying there with you
under the rubble
the ash the water

I found this story in my email inbox, and I felt an unquantifiable mix of feelings. The grief, the anguish, the loss in that image of a woman seemingly crying out in desperation, or sighing in resignation, with her hand to her heart as the forest a few hundred feet from her and her home blazes in an apocalyptic ochre cloud — is so personal, and yet universally human. I think it is in reflecting on this photograph that we realize what it means to be human in the modern world that we have created.

A world in which fires in Greece, Algeria, Siberia, Canada, and California burn the earth and its peoples; a world in which heat waves and droughts blister the air and soil; a world in which flood waters innudate city streets and subway tunnels; a world in which Haiti reels from another earthquake and a presidential assassination and faces a tropical storm; a world in which the Taliban sweep Afghanistan and Afghanis, abandoned by their political leaders, cling to evacuating US military planes only to fall to their deaths.

A world in which, if left to its present course, there will only be, as was frantically shouted in Creole as Haitians ran into the streets to escape the collapsing buildings, anpil anpil viktim — many, many victims. 

N.B.: the main image ran on the linked Washington Post article with the following caption: “An elderly resident reacts as a wildfire rages behind her in the village of Gouves, on the island of Evia, Greece’s second-biggest island, on Aug. 8. (Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg News)”