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‘Grabbing Everything on the Land’ is a poem written by Lily Usher. It details on the widespread destruction caused in the wake of a tsunami, how people are to endure loss of life and property.
About the Poet:
Lily Usher (1907-1977) is a notable poet from New York. This poem of hers is a famous one that she is known for.
The theme of this poem is horrors of natural disaster. By detailing on the mass wreckage involved, the poem brings out the consequences of the fury of nature.
This short lyric poem is divided into five rhyming stanzas, the first three of them being quatrains with the last two consisting of six lines each. The rhyme scheme is a simple aabb for the quatrains and aabbcc for the remaining two stanzas.
There came a wave like a great hand, Grabbing everything on the land, Its fingers of foam, circling round, Uprooting trees, smashing homes to the ground.
The very first stanza begins with how the tsunami, a terrifyingly huge wave like a huge hand, swept everything off the land. The frothy wave caused mass destruction, uprooting trees and demolishing homes with ease. The term ‘homes’ has been used to emphasize that those were not just mere houses and how a sense of belonging is associated with it. The tsunami is merciless this way, not caring about what it destroys in its path.
It aimed its fist at everything in sight, Nothing could survive this dreadful might, People ran in and out in time with the tide, Nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.
In the second stanza, the imagery of tsunami being a hand continues. Its mighty fist seems to attack everything it touches, that night becoming an ordeal that never ends. People ran helter-skelter in hopes of finding shelter, only in vain.
The hand was born in the belly of the ocean, Fed by plates creating the potion, It grew in fury, it grew in power, The anger to be unleashed within the hour.
In this stanza, again, the ‘hand’ that is the tsunami is said to be born from the ocean, indicating on how a tsunami originates as an earthquake in the depths of a sea or ocean. The tsunami thus rages, its fury and might rising in its multitude, the people being the chosen victims to bear its brunt.
No one knew what was on the way, People were working, children at play, A shriek of surprise as somebody saw, A huge wall of white horses galloping ashore, The beasts dissolved under the heat, Sweeping hundreds of thousands off their feet.
Here, the unpredictable nature of a tsunami is highlighted. People are caught unaware by this form of nature’s wrath, helpless under its onslaught. Here, the image of a large number of white, galloping horses is evoked to compare it with a tsunami, how they dissolved under the heat of the sun and how they wiped masses of people off the face of Earth.
There was crashing and crunching and tearing apart, Seeping its way into everyone’s heart, Lives were lost, bodies found, Brutally killed by a hungry hound, When the punch came with the force of an army, The few that survived understood the meaning of ‘Tsunami’.
In this final stanza, the petrifying sounds emitted by the tsunami is described vividly, how it instils fear in the heart of people. A final image of a hound, a hungry hound at that, is brought in comparison with the tsunami, how it devoured people, leaving corpses in its wake. Those who survived this monstrosity are the ones who truly understood the meaning of what a tsunami is thus.
This is a poem that shows how humans are rendered helpless in the face of a natural calamity. Survival in itself becomes an insurmountable task in accountable of a natural disaster such as a tsunami.