Friday, January 20, 2017

Poetry Friday: How Long Does it Take?

Almost a year ago, I read this post where Margaret linked us to "How Long Peace Takes," by Naomi Shihab Nye.  Margaret and her students had written poems inspired by Nye's idea.  Margaret's was called "How Long Healing Takes."  The day I read the post, I decided to write a poem on the same idea, and this past week, I finally did.  I started out thinking about healing in general, but given the time of year and the place my mind had been, I ended up writing about the Haiti earthquake.  I feel as though I should apologize for writing about it so much, but since not everyone is in my head all the time the way I am, maybe it doesn't seem as frequent a topic to you as it does to me.

There are two of us in my writing group who were here in Haiti when the earthquake happened in 2010.  This week we talked about it.  She reported having a difficult, painful anniversary.  This year it all seemed a little more distant to me, as though healing might finally be coming to my heart.

How Long Healing Takes in Port-au-Prince

As long as fault lines.

As long as a crack stretches on a concrete wall.

As long as the date January 12th
And the time 4:53
Make your stomach hurt,
And then a little more.

As long as rain falls on unmarked graves.

As long as a row of tents fades in the sun.

As long as the flamboyant tree is bare of red blossoms,
And then until it blooms again,
But maybe not this year or next or the next.

As long as someone remembers before and during and after.

As long as the earth moves every day somewhere,
Even if it isn’t here.

And longer
If it’s here again.


Healing takes as long as it takes, and I hope that whatever wounds you're experiencing now or healing from, you'll have hope today.  A good place to start is Violet's roundup today, where she has some very hopeful words, plus links to everybody else's Poetry Friday offerings.   


Jane @ said...

Healing takes as long as it takes. Such truth in your words.

Margaret Simon said...

Oh my, Ruth. I love this poem so much. It reminds me of the healing from Hurricane Katrina. It takes so long. You've captured a tone of longing and hope.

Mitchell Linda said...

such a gorgeous poem.....pure and final. Never apologise for creating poems about the earthquake. They are necessary! Maybe you have the material for a chap book?

Kay said...

Such powerful images for how long healing takes. It does take as long as it takes. I am thankful you write about the earthquake in Haiti to help me remember. The news cycle passes quickly for those of us who weren't there, but the people who lived it still live with it.

Brenda Harsham said...

You are writing for all of us who've lived through dark times, with too much bad in too short a time to even process it. Especially moving to me is "As long as rain falls on unmarked graves."

Violet Nesdoly said...

I feel very soft and pampered when I read a post like yours, or see photos of children in refugee camps trying to get to sleep after experiencing war and bombing (a heart-rending article I found via Facebook). I just know how long it takes me to get over my tiny (by comparison) traumas of, say, being involved in a fender-bender. So I have a lot of empathy even though I can't say I know how getting over a big life-changing event feels. You are courageous and patient and I love reading about your process.

Linda B said...

I don't think you write too often, Ruth. When you wrote that, I was reminded of my own thoughts that sometimes I write too much about my husband's illness and death. Each of us has those particular moments that touch so deeply I think we have to share them. This is lovely and sad, but it commemorates tthat horrific time, not soon, if ever, forgotten. Somehow this line touched me, I guess because it's sad to think that some still don't have permanent housing after all this time: "As long as a row of tents fades in the sun."

Tabatha said...

I think you talk about it exactly the right number of times, Ruth. xo

Mary Lee said...


Keep writing about the earthquake. Every time you write, you are in a different place and your view has shifted and you show us outsiders something new and important.