Earthquake, Haiti

This will play right into Obama’s hands. Humanitarian, compassionate. They’ll use this
to, to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community, the both
light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in, in this country. It’s made-to-order
for him. That’s why he couldn’t wait to get out there, could not wait to get out there.

                                                                                     –Rush Limbaugh

A man carries on in the ruins, carries an old woman
Clear of the broken stone, everything broken,
The world indescribable simply because it’s smashed
Beyond recognition. We talk
Of magnitude–well, on the scale of misery this weighs
More than everyone’s imagination. The world comes
Down to this, comes down like building blocks,
The camera closing in
Until you only see his face.

We keep expecting that other aftershock
We hope will cause the right stone to break
And with a softer resonance as from a body
Trembling joyfully, all by itself,
Because a black president
Is more an event than a man, belongs
To the simple facts we gather together
And call a world.
                                        We stand poised, greased and waiting
To leap headfirst into the waters
Of change, which are warm like the Caribbean
Though we know the help will be tepid,
Less than close to enough because of pictures
Like this, the people in them who didn’t choose to be,
Who lack the luxury to decide whether they care
For the color scheme.
                                                 But still they visit
The television that is our president,
Always alone or in groups still small enough
To distinguish those in them
Which is how survival happens, even triumph.

So he appears wretched and still humbly, oddly proud
Carrying his wounded neighbor
Like something essential, bond receipts, a television,
A pail of food, or water
As in that painting by Lois Mailou Jones
She called The Water Carriers,
Too few pipes after all, too little cultivation
On the little voodoo island
That bears the brunt of our curses
Because it freed itself. Jones carried herself
Like water, entered contests anonymous
As water so they wouldn’t know
She was black.
                                   Her painting doesn’t show you
The river, not even the little bit by her side,
Just a bright hat and a face that resembles hers
And ours. Some day there will be people like that
On Haiti, people whose misfortune will move
All of us like the earth. Everyone will act
Indifferent as a river, which can’t tell its own
Smooth stones from a hand or a mouth.

                                                          —David Moolten

  1. Powerful, meaningful words. It’s a great tragedy develooping.

  2. Therese said:

    A fierce poem which cracks open all the groundbed issues: racism, poverty, cultural prejudices, partisan politics, historical crossroads, the way Art reveals the true color of things. The earthquakes of American divisiveness. Katrina had her poets; today, here on RWP, Haiti has this poet.

    • Thank you Therese, for your generous praise. This is a terrible, terrible tragedy, and a poem is hardly going to change that. But some human outrages have to be addressed. Rush Limbaugh and people like him may never listen. But challenging their lies may keep others from falling victim, and help in some meager way to support the efforts to help Haiti.

  3. I agree with Therese, fierce and powerful, crackingopen now only these issues but our hearts.

  4. Dick said:

    Little to add to Therese’s clear identification of the poem’s fierce focus. Immediate on-the-spot aid is the urgent priority in Haiti now. But sometimes in crisis the primacy of the poetic voice is needed too and David’s speaks out loud and clear.

    • Hi Dick,

      Thank you for your kind support. I agree with you, people, equipment and supplies on the ground are what is desperately needed, and money, if nothing else. Still, I couldn’t let lies like Limbaugh’s (and Robertson’s) just sit there. There is so much dangerous nonsense on the internet, so much denial and distortion, and so many who don’t know better than to listen…

  5. wayne said:

    once again niicely done David…Horrible..horrible …how much more can the wonderful people take???..I have been to Haiti just once…after discovering Cuba I just keeep going backj there….anyways your words are well taken….I hope you sent a copy to dear Mr Rusherrrrrrrrrrr…actually better not…dont think he would get it. For all the criticism US gets for mingling and dropping bombs etc….MUCH CREDIT for how they respond to thes kinds of crisis….very impressive…and Mr O…is certainly acting qujickly….and David…I must thank you soooo much for reading what I write…your comments are not only very positive….but so well said…THANKS…take care

    • Hi Wayne,

      Thanks for your all the points you touch on in responding, and your generous praise. I hope Limbaugh’s visibility fades quickly with respect to Haiti. He’s such a publicity hound. It seems as if most people are behind our efforts of support.

  6. joannejohns said:

    Awesome job as always… can’t say it any better than Therese 🙂

  7. pamela said:

    Bravo! This is a wonderful piece of poetry, such wonderful imagery. It takes
    you on a journey through a life which we can’t even understand. Great work!


    • Hi Pamela,

      It’s nice to hear from you. Thank you.

  8. Living at the bottom of the world I’m not familiar with American politics
    (not that this is an excuse) but who is Rush Limbaugh?Sounds like a shithead that needs a good kicking up the khyber (rhyming slang)
    I have the ability to couch these sentiments in eloquent syntax but these words express best what I am feeling!

    • Hi Rall,

      You don’t want really want to know who Rush Limbaugh is. But your impression is pretty close. He’s sadly a fringe dweller with a rather large right wing audience.

  9. Bravo to you for bringing a poem to this. I could no more write about something such an emotionally raw event than I could heal broken bodies there. It makes me wonder if being a doctor allows you a unique perspective, both objective and compassionate. Whatever it is, it’s a moving poem that cuts through all that’s swirling around this disaster.

    • Liz,

      Thank you for your kind remarks. It was more outrage (at Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh) than anything else that got me over my qualms about writing about this. There’s so much dishonesty about so much that needs integrity. No one’s perfect, but I think the current president is acting squarely and honorably. And this is a tragedy of incomprehensible dimensions. I felt I had to respond, and I do better with that in poetry than in any other form of expression.

  10. derrick2 said:

    Hi David,

    Putting words to an event of this nature without resorting to cliche, histrionics or banalities is skillful indeed. Another friend of mine was moved to poetry by Haiti today, which you may like to read:

    • Thank you Derrick, and thanks for the link. I did read Lyn’s poem, which is strongly felt and moving.

  11. Beth said:

    Wonderful poem, David. I think you said bravely and most eloquently what many of us hold in our hearts. I like that this isn’t a typical “rage against the machine” poem – you don’t simply bemoan society’s ills. In fact, you adeptly capture a moment in time and present it for what it is.

    • Hi Beth,

      Thank you kindly for your generous take on my poem. I was trying as hard as I could to be truthful–especially given the distortions that were my unfortunate inspiration beyond the tragedy itself.

  12. karen said:

    Therese stated my own reaction to this. This is a powerful presentation of reality, and I applaud you for courage in stating its truth.

    • Karen,

      Thank you for reading my poem, and for your generous take on it.

  13. A powerful response to terrible reality.

    “On the little voodoo island
    That bears the brunt of our curses
    Because it freed itself.”


  14. angie said:

    thank you for putting that outrage I would hope we all share into words. he is just an … well. he’s not worth the letters.

    I heard today that the children have been eating mud. there is such a heavy weight on me, knowing that there is nothing I can do to really help. reading your poem, though, gives me hope like water.

    we will go someday, right where we’re needed.

    • Hi Angie,

      Thanks so much. I keep trying to tell myself even the small things help.

  15. I am so embarrassed by Limbaugh/Robertson and their ilk/followers. Frightened by the uninformed loud-shouters. And still wildly in love with those who, when faced with poverty and disaster, can smile and hope. A beautifully stirring piece. Thank you.

    • It is amazing that we have people like them so visible, and with any following at all. Thank you.

  16. I love this, how this piece speaks to our assumptions, our prejudices, and how the rest of the world watches what is happening from television sets. My favourite lines would have to be:

    “On the little voodoo island
    That bears the brunt of our curses
    Because it freed itself.”

    And that is true. Somehow, like the Romans of old, we have a tendency of those attempting to break free of their chains as insolent and foolish.

    Excellent write.


    • Thanks Nicole. Sadly even after all the terrible mistakes we’ve made before in this hemisphere, we continue to see our neighbors as fodder for our will.

  17. As a people perhaps we are both generous of heart, yet self-centered and blind of good faith by some. And some few who close their eyes, pretend words of truth, maybe even some many few. A neighbor you will invite for a meal, you will not allow to go homeless, hungry, injured. A poem is but a drop, but like rain we might pray. Better said than not, no drought of care. And better said David, you have done.

    Someone said, we are but a whisper on the lips of God, but the miracle of that whisper is that it is passed on.

    • Thanks so much Neil. This tragedy has brought out so much of what’s good in people, though sadly not in every case.

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