Friday, October 12, 2018

Poetry Friday: Personal

Since my last Poetry Friday post, we had an earthquake here in Haiti. It was a long way away from me, but yes, I felt it.

After that it was a pretty normal week, finishing up the first quarter of our school year, grading students' work, not writing anything much of my own because my head was so full. But I kept thinking back to that earthquake, those few moments of oh yeah, that's what it feels like.

Here's an article about Saturday's quake, which hit the northern part of the island. Seventeen people were killed, in the latest count, and nearly 350 injured. Reportedly, many of the injuries came when people, terrified by memories of the destruction in 2010, jumped out of windows when they felt the ground begin to shake. The experts tell you to get under something and stay put, but let me tell you: when you've been through a major earthquake, every single instinct you have is to get out.

 Poster in Kreyol from the Haitian Ministry of Communication

Goudougoudou, in the above poster, is a Kreyol word for earthquake. People started using it after 2010. It's onomatopoeia, based on the ominous rumbling noise when all that concrete shook with all that force.

On Thursday I spent some enjoyable time reading Tony Hoagland poems at the Poetry Foundation website, and I chose this one, "Personal," to share for Poetry Friday. My favorite lines are these:

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn't and I didn't and I don't
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I'm-Sorries

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

(Here's the whole thing.)

I wouldn't exactly say I don't believe in the clean break; some people seem perfectly able to achieve it. They get over things and move on, leaving behind situations, people, traumas. At least on the outside, they seem unaffected. I think the compound fracture is more common, though, based on my own experience, and conversations with others, including a couple I had this week about the disgruntled, angry, overwhelmed, scared mixture of emotion we were feeling after the earthquake, icky unwelcome Saturday night visitor. Get over it, some say, and I reply, Well, I don't want to make a scene, but I can't seem to help it, some days.

7 comments:

jama said...

I love Hoagland's work and agree with the poem's sentiment. I thought of you right away when I heard about the earthquake. Glad it wasn't near you, but I imagine since you felt it, it was still scary. Tragic about people jumping out of windows.

Mitchell Linda said...

Wow! Hoagland's words are quite validating for this "emotional" "dramatic" "sensitive" girl. I completely flummoxed my parents who were "clean break" people and would use exactly that phrase. I'm much more of a compound fracture person with all that Hoagland describes. Wonderful lines. Thank you for sharing.

Tabatha said...

Wonderful poem. What vivid, gripping imagery. Thanks, Ruth!

laurasalas said...

Oh, Ruth, I love this. Especially: I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I love the mixture of abstract and very specific in this poem. I really haven't read much Hoagland at all, and I can see I'll need to remedy this. Sending thoughts for peace and healing. Thank you for being in Haiti. For being a force for good, and for reminding me to be grateful and to be aware of our world and all the good and bad happening in it at any given moment.

Mary Lee said...

"Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?"

Nope, can't blame you at all. PTSD for sure. It's no wonder at all that you're terrified of earthquakes.

Molly Hogan said...

I thought of you when I heard about the earthquake and am relieved to know that you're ok. You surely picked the perfect poem to illustrate your feelings. I keep imagining those terrified people jumping from buildings. Clearly it's much easier to say "get over it" than to do so. Take care!

Michelle Kogan said...

Strong poem–coming from the heart, thanks for sharing it Ruth. So glad you are okay–everyone works on different internal clocks…