Mexico City, seven stories up, an earthquake.
The hotel room moved back and forth like water in an ocean
When I touched the walls, they felt like cardboard.
Then down the flights and flights of stairs, to the lobby where we hovered
Over and around each other, waiting for the aftershock.
At morning, Mexican women, in high heels, walked to work like it was any other day.
It could have been any other day
When the Peruvian town of Pisco got hit with an earthquake.
Everything was leveled, the church destroyed and what was left was the aftershock.
Out, just beyond the town, the ocean
continued to roll its steady roll and the seagulls hovered
In the sky above this strange new town of cardboard.
When things go wrong, everything seems to be made of cardboard.
And all-of-time has cast out any-other-day
and left only this one day, where menace hovers
and the tremors underfoot warn us of an earthquake.
Our thoughts are scattered, cast into a huge ocean
Of uncertainty and we wait for the aftershock.
There is an “after”, after the aftershock
And when things somehow start again, let us begin with cardboard.
Let the ragged wind blow against the high cliffs of the ocean
And let us strive toward the precious normalness of any other day.
Inside our bones, inside our memory is the earthquake
But all around us, the unbearable beauty of humanity hovers.
Once long ago and far away, lightening monsters hovered
Over mountains that surrounded a valley, letting the aftershock
Of their lightning rods burn forests and homes. And with their great feet, earthquakes
Ripped the land apart. But one day, a little boy took a piece of cardboard
And, on it, wrote, “We love this day as we love any other day.”
And the lightening monsters tramped away until they disappeared into the ocean.
I have sat at night on a deserted beach and gazed out and out across the ocean.
I have stood, in autumn, and watched an angle of sandhill cranes hover
Between me and the orange sky. Today, like any other day.
There is tragedy and the aftershock
Of tragedy. And there is possibility, as ubiquitous as cardboard
Thrown into the air, riding through an earthquake
Let the earth quake, let the water rise to form oceans.
Let cardboard be caught by the wind, lofted high into the air, weightless, where it hovers
While, far below, the shock and aftershock of humanity calms, eventually, back down to the steady beat of any other day.
Death is the comadre who
Sits with you at the kitchen table
Sorting the beans and cutting up
The chili and the onions
She’s the one who has lived near you
On the next hill over. You can hear her
Singing at night, sitting out
On her back porch with a beer
She was present when your father grew ill
Stayed close by his bed as others
Came to and fro with their business and concerns
She sat there, humming softly, waiting.
But once you saw Death in a beautiful dress
At Victor’s Bar, dancing with Diego Torres
And you hated her because she held his gaze,
Matched his step, and, that night, took him.
And even though part of you despises her,
Part of you knows that, of all your friends,
She’s the one you need the most.
In the early morning, you both walk the hills
Each gathering separate herbs.
Then when the mine collapsed, taking Tony too,
You ran to her, wanting only to be enclosed
Within her arms, to be lost forever in her embrace
But she held you at arm’s length - no?
And when you awoke in that old, shabby easy chair
On Death’s back porch, with her shawl tucked around you
You stood, letting that shawl fall away, no?
And you walked back home, humming
Your comadre’s song.
Why I Don’t Get Up at 3:00 in the Morning to Do Zen Meditation
(to Gary Snyder)
Because the only way to get to
The very center of your being is to
Dance crazy on the Plaza
With the beat of the earth
Playing out of those cowboy’s guitars.
Because all lines in the universe
Travel in a circle. And part
Of that circle is a bus ride in Mexico
And part is a train ride in China and
Part is on a camel and part
Is riding a tro-tro in northern Ghana
Where the country you have come to see
Is riding in that tro-tro along with you.
Because all color and shape and sound
Sprang from the moment of the Big Bang
When energy became matter
And matter, slowly, through eons of time
Became polished hubs and a shiny diesel stack
That warmed and fluttered up Tyler Road
Because you have to watch how the
Earth and the sky fold into the far horizon
To really know that everything,
Somehow, fits together.
Because at 3:00 in the morning
I am a blind person in my own house
And the only map I have
Is my memory
And the touch of my finger.
But my memory
And the touch of my fingers