From The New Yorker, December 21, 1957:
Quite rightly, we remained among the living;
Managed to hoard our strength; kept our five wits;
So far as possible, withheld our eyes
From sights that loosen keystones in the brain.
We suffered, where we had to, thriftily,
And wasted nothing on the hopeless causes,
Foredoomed escapes, symbolic insurrections.
So it is we, not you, who walk today
Under the rebuilt city’s raw façades,
Who sit upon committees of selection
For the commemorative plaque. Your throats
Are dumb beneath the plow that must drive on
To turn the fields of wire to fields of wheat.
Our speeches turn your names like precious stone,
Yet we can pay our tax and see the sun.
What else could we, what else could you, have done?
How do I answer the question of the last line?
At least in my personal view, it is both unanswerable and a black hole of what-ifs. xoxo