I'm writing this post on Thursday night, January 12th, the seventh anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. The poem I'm sharing today is one I wrote in the fall and read to my writing group. One of the other members said that although he wasn't in Haiti on that day, he has read so many earthquake accounts that he feels he was. Like me, he is a writing teacher. I, too, have read countless earthquake stories. I never assign them as a topic, but I do encourage kids to write about what happened to them if they feel ready to. Each time someone entrusts an earthquake story to me, I accept it as an honor, a holy moment.
Even though it has been seven years, some things haven't faded. (If you want to read what I wrote at the time, you can find many posts in my archives.) This poem is about those ordinary days, not anniversaries, when suddenly I am visited by vivid earthquake memories.
Sometimes when I sit in my living room
My mind superimposes an image on what my eyes see,
The giant bookcase on the ground,
Sent there by the shaking of the earth
The rocking chair where I nursed my son, crushed,
Books scattered all over the floor.
And sometimes when I worship in the chapel at school
I see us in there on the night of the earthquake
Trying to sing and pray, but frightened by aftershocks,
Bodies thrumming with adrenaline in the cold evening air.
And sometimes there are kids playing hard on the soccer field
And I suddenly see people huddled on the ground,
Spending the night under the sky instead of under a concrete roof
Since so many concrete roofs have crushed so many bodies
Only hours before.
In the middle of life we are in death,
And sometimes I know it with all my being,
Conscious of how fragile that chair, that chapel, that roof,
Aware of the skull beneath the skin,
From dust we came and to dust we shall return.
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