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Joe Ramsey is a talented young scholar of the radical writing that often characterized the American cultural landscape in the first half of the last century (and which the cultural criticism of the second half largely ignored). He writes politically-relevant poetry under the name J. Gallant Ramsey. This piece on Haiti is presented here with his permission. Over one and a half million Haitians are still homeless, many of them the children of the quarter-million dead.

Fault Lines–Six Months After, July 12 

The Earth has traveled half way round the Sun

Since the day it shook and sucked them down.

Down

Down and

down

everything fell:

Shacks and hovels smashed through sewers;

Palace collapsed like an empty egg shell.

Three hundred thousand, maybe fewer

Thousands buried, never found.

A nation of souls, searching, searing

Buried in a human hell.

La Terre Tremble.

Have we forgotten what that shaking ground

Revealed for all to see, who cared to look?:

The way the streets filled up with bloated bodies;

The way the troops drove on, and let them cook.

The ‘aid’ delayed,

as if for fear of zombies

Rising from their rubble graves to run–

White eyes blazing bloody memories

of how white masters came and took by gun.

But—as we know—poor Haitians did not riot;

worked to pull their brothers from the ruins.

Carried those who died, and those who wouldn’t

for a while,

And those who lived.

Gave until they had no more to give.

*

A hundred miles of broken blister

oozing, live on your TV,

draped in pathos and then charity:

Nightly News

For about a week.  But even then,

If I may ask:

Did they let the Haitians speak?

What did the people have to say?

When they look at us what do they see?   

Do you dare to take a peek with me today?

Caught in the sun, the pocked eye turns away.

How much can the blinded stand to see? :

Band-aids slap where barricades should be.

*

Worldwide

They say there are a dozen cities

With at least a million people each

Lying, waiting, sleeping on a fault line;

Slum-dweller flesh to feed the breach.

For every year the Earth, it shivers

In the endless cold of space;

Quakes and quivers, like a bull whose skin

must knock flies from its face.

The fault is not the moving earth’s

–We know that quakes will come, and even where–

The problem: a crooked scheming class

That crams the poor into the cracks

And stitches them into the seams

Breaking their backs

Letting them choke

Gasping for air–

Stripping them down to their dreams,

Then bare.

There is no plan

No care for the people

except for the juice

that can be squeezed

from their bones

to quench the schemers’ thirst:

Markets pressure

and hearts burst.

(The heads of state remain aloof:

Crisis equals opportunity, after all

Helicopter blades

give the world a roof.

And there’s plenty of sweat to catch, as they fall.)

*

Outside Port au Prince:

Refugee Cities–

tents made from tarps

Flap on and on,

But only the bugs can fly.

Eyes peer out through the fraying holes;

Fingers point

At jet-liners tearing the sky.

First-class passengers,

Glide overhead,

travelling onto milder climes:

if they look down

between shared clouds,

see nothing

but

dirty laundry lines.

-J. Gallant Ramsey

Somerville, Massachusetts

July 12, 2010



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