Imagine: every person in every photograph ever taken.
Every person walking down every street you've ever walked.
Every person travelling on every bus you've ever missed.
Picture it: Every person standing in every queue
In which you have stood and waited.
There comes a time when there are too many stories
And you can't bear one more to intersect yours.
From the perspective of eternity every story is the same:
A never-ending round of birth, work, food,
Fucking, sickness and death.
The mediocre truth:
Everyone who has ever lived has died.
Everyone who will ever live will die.
And if you believe in life after life
Everyone who has ever lived is still alive.
A Malthusian nightmare: no contraception can prevent
The exponential population growth of the dead.
On bad days you long for stagnant eternity.
But not today. On this day, now
While we endure time's fondness
For beginnings and middles and ends
Let us gaze, mystified,
At photographs of strangers, and give thanks
For the marvellous mundane miracle of each one.
Crista Ermiya grew up in London, of Filipino-Turkish-Cypriot parentage, and now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. Her short stories and poems are widely published in anthologies and magazines, including most recently Red (Peepal Tree Press, 2010) and By Grand Central Station We Sat Down and Wept (Red Squirrel Press, 2010). Crista is a freelance writer and editor and works for the journal Landscape Research at Newcastle University.
Crista's poem The Lives of Strangers was written for a multimedia exhibition Collected Memories (2010) curated by Sheree Mack.
Her poem Maternal Instinct was a Diamond Twig Poem of the Month in 2007. More recent news from Crista, and another Poem of the Month.
Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.
The Lives of Strangers © 2011 Crista Ermiya: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.