When the Earth Trembles

On days like today, I remember you.
Tragedy does not remain localized.
It manifests outward, from the epicenter, heart and guts exposed;
Exploding out of chests, like limbs decapitated by land mines,
Earthquakes ravage, hurricanes savage and if you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time
Fall victim to anger that shoots first and asks questions last.

Pressurized water bursts through rotten aluminum pipes
You drown in the tsunami and beside the dead, are the wounded.
Beside the dead and the wounded, are the traumatized.
And then there are the friends and relatives of the dead, of the wounded, of the traumatized.
Each asking the same question: God why??
Spirits search for answers and
The combination of burning flesh, metal, and optimism pierce lungs.
The smell of death, Christopher Reeve paralyzing,
There is no superman left to save you.
The weight of bodies hangs on,
like hope at the sight of rescue crews that never seem to come.

I hear the cries today as I heard them 365 days ago.
The moans of death like an incision to the core,
Each one cuts deeper, each one stings more.
Nothing left but barbed notes in a soprano’s throat.
Aid can’t reach your shores, not even on boats.
Bodies hauled away to mass graves
Proper burials will never take place.
Piled up like trash, without a name or a face.

And so I say on days like today:
Haiti you are not forgotten.
9-11 you are not forgotten.
Innocent men sentenced to death simply because of the color
of your skin you are not forgotten.
Sean Bell, Amadou Diaollo, Patrick Dorismond
you are not forgotten.
Hurricane Katrina you are not forgotten.
You made Kanye say “George Bush doesn’t give a fuck about black people”.
And many felt the same
Now only hope and God remains

While the frail hands of sorrow struggle to pick up the pieces,
Trying to bandage wounds that require CPR
because we don’t know how to act we only know how to react.
Substituting a ton of cure for an ounce of prevention.

So I ask you:

What if more money had been invested in Haiti BEFORE the ‘quake?
What if we gave more than we take?
What if their infrastructure had been in tact?
What if the U.S. could have prevented the world trade center attacks?
What if the police actually listened when we spoke?
What if they’d improved the levies before they broke?
What if we had a government that actually cared?
Could all of the lost lives have been spared?

And today, today there is Egypt,
cursed by 30 years of tyrannical leadership.
Mubarak does not want to concede
so young people are dying for a small taste of democracy.

The pharaohs and gods have seemed to abandon its plight.
Protests take place from the dawn of day to the dusk of night.
Tahrir Square has now become the symbol for liberation
and when the earth trembles we must all stand up and pay attention. 

Photo Credit: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

2 thoughts on “When the Earth Trembles

  1. Hello Ms. Arroyo-Ruffin,
    I like the daily quote on your webpage…”We are each born into this life with a particular purpose…”
    I would like to know the author of this quote, and to share it with my students.
    – Carol Pook, Guidance Counselor
    Tenor High School


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