23 May 2015

The Get-a-Way Sack

What is essential to conserve and what
can be—what should be—left out?  Consider
this question while standing outside your door
in a hallway or front yard with a sack
open in your hands.  Imagine you have
just five seconds or three minutes before
the next bomb or aftershock hits you—and
that’s when you realize you might have nothing
but food in your sack, if you have food at
home, because your mind stops.  My mind can not
hold to the image of home crushed naked—
its timbers askew and its roof aground
maybe with a mark of red blood above
where the entrance used to be. 

I force myself to fill a get-away-
fast bag to leave under the porch or in
my trunk.  I remember reading some lists
in telephone books when I lived on fault
lines in California—but I cannot
remember now.  Clean water, I am sure,
maybe a change of underwear, a can
of tuna fish and bag of cat food.
Maybe a cat or child if I have one—
a framed picture if they have moved away,
gotten away before the tragedy.
More than likely I’ll be running in tears
naked along rumble pathways in hope
someone needs help so I will snap awake.

I remember how when babysitting
I had no fear because I was in charge
and thinking of others, not just myself.
That’s key, I think, as I hold open my
big sack and start filling it with water
and medical supplies, extra blankets
and jackets.  I amass more than will fit
in bags, car trunk and crawl spaces and go
to buy batteries, radios,  and bags—
plastic multi-use bags.  I call neighbors
to leave my phone number in case needed,
and tell them where I stashed supplies in case
and ask for their cell phone numbers as well.
They don't respond as if I’m too crazy.

Posted with Poets United

Poetry Pantry #253

 (Rough draft)

Copyright © 2015  S.L.Chast 


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Wow. Sobering thoughts. Well done, Susan. I like how you point out the mind tends to get overwhelmed till one begins to think of others - that usually galvanizes one to action. I love that.

Vandana Sharma said...

Life has many shades and we should never take it for granted.

Mary said...

Susan, I must admit I had never thought of packing up a get-away sack. But when we have tornado warnings I always make sure my computer and gadgets and dogs are with me. I did enjoy reading and reflecting on your list of things though. I will be pondering the idea of a get-away sack now all night...wondering what I SHOULD consider packing up just in case.

Sumana Roy said...

yes how much do we need?...not much for self but much for others...ennobling lines Susan...

Old Egg said...

We are very complacent. Other catastrophes should remind us to have an escape plan, a documents bag, and survival essentials just in case, but then again why bother it won't happen to us, will it?

Sanaa Rizvi said...

This poem is full of depth and wisdom..! Loved the idea of a get away sack.. one can never be too cautious!
Beautifully written Susan :D

Lots of love,

Jae Rose said...

Have you read 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy? I leapt to the image of the father and son...how they started with a shopping trolley with survival tools..and ended up with nothing...the boy survived because he had to leave behind his father - start making decisions..be in control..perhaps that's they key...not the bag..although as you say unimaginable as reality..

Thotpurge said...

Agree with Old Egg... there's a part of us that will always believe it's never going to happen to us. This is a smart way to approach possible catastrophe..though one can never be "prepared" for the level of disaster that shook Nepal.

Truedessa said...

Some scary thoughts and what would we put in our survival sacks? I think at times like this our basic instincts for survival will kick, but it might be wiseto have a backpack somewhere to grab for the road ahead.

Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

I have often thought what would I take in a crisis....at work, my purse, my keys, my coat....at home I think only of saving a life...if I had time, what would I take??? Growing up with tornadoes we had a well stocked crawl space....now we live with little else but blizzards here....We all think these tragedies won't happen to us....well done Susan! I better think again.

brudberg said...

I have never felt that need, I know what I would have (like tents and sleeping bags for sure).. I just hope I never have to do this.. But it gives perspective to disaster.

Gillena Cox said...

Once upon a time we live in place on planet earth. Not so now reality hits home we are planet earth - a global village. Profound write. Have a nice Sunday

Much love...

Eileen T O'Neill ..... said...


I used to consider what I would rescue from my Belfast home, if an attack befell our property; it was a very real prospect for thirty years, with personally targeted shootings and bombings. With my young children and my husband, I would probably have left everything, as long as our lives were safe and intact. Photographs would have been important, if possible..At a point like that, nothing seems to retain any value, except family and living..

James Toma said...

this reminds me of a Sunday here on my end when a tornado was in the works outside. all i packed into my backpack was my wallet, my keys, some extra clothing (mostly underwear, A-shirts, seasonal fashion), and my laptop in its case. i camped out in our basement hoping the trees outside would just fall on the second and first stories of my family's townhouse. glad that the tornado did not cause much damage but your poem brought all these memories back. thanks for the entertainment and the reminder that natural disasters could occur at any time, any day, any moment.

humbird said...

'thinking of others, not just myself.
That’s key,' ~ I love this thought, and, it's a common sense, we need also to have something like First aid Kit and documents+phones. ~ Also I think we need focus on what we want to happen, not the opposite. Hugs.

Gabriella said...

I have never had that kind of thoughts, unless a backpack when I fly counts. Once I flew to the US and my suitcase went a different route. It made me rethink of what to have at hand in that back and what can be put in the suitcase.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Once my second husband and I waited to be evacuated in bushfire danger. The fire was turned and we didn't need to leave home, but at the time I realised that, apart from the beloved cats and a few practical necessities, there was little I would need to take. Second Husband said, reproachfully, 'You don't want to rescue the photos of your children?" (They were his children too — well grown up by then and living elsewhere.) Apparently most people do want to rescue photos of their children, but I just thought, 'I have all the pictures in my head'. Nowadays I'd take the technological devices, but that was way before such things existed. You certainly raise interesting questions!

Myrna R. said...

Yes, it's amazing to consider what is essential. Your poem brings home the fact of tragedy, which so many are living now. I tell myself, I don't want to live in fear, but now I fear that's just denial of truth. Thanks for this Susan.

C.C. said...

What we think is of dire importance and what is actually of dire importance when we find ourselves in a life or death emergency are often completely different things and we are lucky if we never have an opportunity to discover the difference but it is still always best to prepare even if our neighbors think we're crazy ;-)

kaykuala said...

where I stashed supplies in case
and ask for their cell phone numbers as well.
They don't respond as if I’m too crazy.

One wants to be prepared but others might not. They may think it is remotely impossible to happen or they would not be affected at all. I suppose one gets prepared just for oneself at least! Poem that provokes thinking. Great lines Susan!


J Cosmo Newbery said...

We never really know what we need, do we?

G L Meisner said...

Being prepared is always a wise plan.