Member Rara Avis
Durban, South Africa
IS THIS OUR HERITAGE?
21 September 1999
What do I know of your plight?
Seven point something on the Richter scale;
your breath is suctioned instantaneously;
your innards, your family and the floor beneath your feet
wrenched from you without warning
and thrown around you
in explosive blasts of rupturing torture;
then hours trapped and pinned in pain and burning anguish;
horror, screams, falling rubble;
“Come Death come!” you cry. “I can’t, just can’t take any more!”
or “Life don’t leave me! Please, please, please help me!”
And joy came for an instant -
a rescue worker -
but he caused you even more pain extricating you;
and as if you hadn’t endured enough,
because your limbs could move,
he merely guided you to a high, unstable, open ladder
and left you to confront descent
- the only route to comparable safety,
while he forgot about you in his desire to help the next victim
and the next,
and the next;
then the waiting,
the not knowing,
the not knowing what to know,
with your mind blown away
and worst of all
later, when you need the most help
anonymity will swallow you and what might have been
into a swirling vortex with thousands of compatriots
and lacerated bits of minds and body parts
who are living the death of all the others
and I don’t even know your name.
That is all I understand,
how can I know beyond that, what really happened to you.
in a warm comfortable home - mine, no less,
when I said during the TV news,
“Twelve thousand people destroyed in one earthquake!”
- for we hadn’t heard the full toll then,
in yet another sweeping, arrogant, dim-witted proclamation,
“It’s no big deal. They would all have died at some stage anyway!”
Is this what civilisation and warmth and prosperity have brought us?
But there is more.
That is not the worst of our heritage.
The worst is my controlled reaction -
instead of throwing you out immediately
or at least expressing my contempt of you -
to your sick, asinine remark, all I said,
in an apologetic tone, was,
“Well, it’s still a horrible way to die!”