21.1.10

A Poem for Haiti


As I watch
Breaking news of the earthquake in Haiti
My bottom lip quivers
It’s not that I’m about to cry
Because I
Don’t have any real connection to Haiti
I know it is Haitian
And speaks French
And that Governor-General Michelle-Jean comes from there

But no, my bottom lip quivers
Because I realize in a flash
Just how jaded I really am
And it scares me

See, it wouldn’t hurt to hurt just a little
For the little girl hurting in the midst of the rubble
And it wouldn’t hurt to hurt just a little
For the man sitting blankly surveying the trouble
And it wouldn’t hurt to hurt just a little
For the dirty baby boy with dirt and waste
On his chest and face but no
I don’t want to hurt at all

See, it’s only a plane ride away
But to me, might as well be Jupiter
And as I watch
The look on my face just gets stupider
And more confused as to how and why I should care
About an island in what seems to me to be in the middle
Of nowhere.
They don’t even look like me.

And so I sleep. And forget.

But this morning I picked up the paper and a picture
Of a girl with braids and a pink dress and an eyepatch stare back at me
I read the headlines
Quake devastates island of Haiti
Ottawa pledges to match Canadian support
Security becoming increasing issue for UN
Estimated between 50,000 and 100,000 dead.

Between 50,000 and 100,000 dead.
Now see, that’s a figure that I can’t get through my head.
And because I don’t want to sit around figuring out how that figure fits
Instead
I get to work on some classwork shit and then
My friend sits down next to me
“What’s going on in the news today?” she asks
“Nothing big,” I reply. “Just an earthquake in Haiti.”

Do you want to hear the irony?
I’m in journalism class.
See, while babies lie screaming in the streets
For their mothers
Children lie bleeding in the streets
While their mothers
Pleading with aid workers who can’t do much to
Alleviate the dying.
Or the crying.

Meanwhile, 3000 kilometres away I’m learning how to tell these stories to you
Without adding feeling or emotion
Feeling motionless and emotionless
But with every passing class I feel less emotion
And with every passing day I feel less emotion
Until my emotions are less than simply feelings in passing

It haunts me.
Because with every lesson I learn, I feel like I am losing my humanity.
And with so many papers to write and so many chapters to read
And so many people to see and so many errands to run
I feel that it’s only right that I run, and blink before I can see
Cause see,
Lately, I’ve been too busy for tragedy.

But then I blink.
And I see China.
Sichuan province, May 12, 2008.
I remember reading the headlines
Western Chinese province rocked by massive quake
Massive relief efforts underway for China
Chinese government lifts one-child policy for quake victims
Estimated between 70,000 and 100,000 dead.

See, it’s half a world away
But to me, could have been home
They look just like me
Underneath all the dust from crumbled houses
And blood streaked faces
Are faces that look like mine
They are my sisters and brothers.
Brothers from different mothers.
That look like mine.

Then I blink back
And I see Haiti
Port-Au-Prince, January 12, 2010
And my thoughts sink
My eyes drop
My bottom lip quivers
As my heart bottoms out
Because it knows that this
This could’ve been home
And they
They could’ve been me
See, they look just like me
Underneath all the dust from crumbled houses
And blood streaked faces
Are faces that look like mine
They are my sisters and brothers.
Brothers from the same mother
Earth

I read a story about a mother
In Sichuan
Who, while the roof caved in on her
Shielded her baby with her body
Braving the bricks that bombarded downwards
And before she died,
She left a text message on her cell phone in her
Daughter’s pocket
It said, “Sweet child
Should you survive
You must remember that I love you.”
Days later, the soldiers found her body
Beneath which the baby slept
Safe
And sound.


See, we never know what furious challenge Mother Nature will throw our way
As if her divine life mission is to make us pay
For the terrible crimes of yesterday
And in times like this, the only thing we can do is pray
For Haiti
And China
And dusty, blood streaked faces that look just like mine
They are my sisters and brothers from one mother
Earth.

1 comment:

  1. don't remember reading this before
    thank you for it. oh haiti...

    ReplyDelete