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.
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:
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.
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,
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:
and hearts burst.
(The heads of state remain aloof:
Crisis equals opportunity, after all
give the world a roof.
And there’s plenty of sweat to catch, as they fall.)
Outside Port au Prince:
tents made from tarps
Flap on and on,
But only the bugs can fly.
Eyes peer out through the fraying holes;
At jet-liners tearing the sky.
travelling onto milder climes:
if they look down
between shared clouds,
dirty laundry lines.
-J. Gallant Ramsey
July 12, 2010
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