Friday, January 09, 2015

Poetry Friday: Earthquake Vocabulary

Monday will mark five years since the day the earth shook in Haiti and everything changed in our lives.  On January 14th, the first day we got back online, I wrote a post entitled "We are alive."  (You can read it here.)  Over the next several months I told and retold the story on this blog.  (If you look in my archives beginning January 2010, you can read those posts.)  I will be telling and retelling it the rest of my life, in different ways, I am sure.

Everyone is putting out the anniversary articles right now.  I can't bring myself to read most of them.  One has a title like "Five Years After the Earthquake, Haiti is Still on Shaky Ground."  Really?  I can't appreciate clever turns of phrase when thinking about such a heavy, heavy event, and when remembering those who died in that moment.  Forty-seven thousand?  Eighty-five thousand?  Two hundred and thirty thousand?  Three hundred thousand?  All of those figures have been bandied about (see more on that here).  We'll never know how many. 

Here's a poem I wrote back then and posted for the first time in April 2010:

Earthquake Vocabulary

Here are some words I’d rather you not use metaphorically:
seismic,
Richter scale,
epicenter.

Here are some words I used before but shouldn’t have:
devastating,
catastrophe,
disaster.

Here are some words I used to know:
permanent,
stable,
solid.

Here’s a word I thought I knew but really didn’t:
earthquake.

by Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com


There are times to discuss and evaluate.  But right now it's a time to grieve.  A time to remember that day and the days afterward, when we lived on adrenaline and survivor's guilt and sheer giddy joy to be alive.  A time to mourn those we lost.  A time to marvel that life has gone on for five years, and at the very same moment, to feel that maybe it was yesterday, so fresh are the memories of 4:53 that afternoon.

Tabitha has today's roundup here.

7 comments:

jama said...

A powerful poem, Ruth. I can't believe it's been five years. I remember so clearly when you first talked about that life-changing day. Then, we heard about Haiti on the news all the time. Will keep you in my thoughts today. Sending hugs.

Steve Hersey said...

I love you so much, and I love your poetry, too.

Mary Lee said...

The magnitude of the devastation, both five years ago and that which remains in the landscape and in the hearts of the survivors, is hard to comprehend. Your poem helps me understand how fundamentally the earthquake changed lives.

Tabatha said...

Thank you, Ruth. I'm going to save this poem as a reminder about the unexpected (hidden in plain sight?) power of words.

Carol said...

Ruth-
Some posts leave me without words. This is one of them. When I read your posts, I often think of a Bible verse, I think it's in the book of James, about pure and undefiled religion. It seems like you live it every day
Carol

LInda Baie said...

These are heart-filled words, Ruth, and I admire you for continuing to share and share again, never forgetting what the meanings of those words in your poem really are. I'll share with students on Monday, wanted you to know that some young people here will acknowledge the anniversary and add to their self-knowledge (I hope) from your poem.

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

Hi there Ruth. Thank you for sharing the limits of metaphor - and reminding us of the power of loss - that at times words become superfluous. Thinking about you today.