Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard."
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is Tuesday, not a bad day, not a good day, but it is almost over. You are looking forward to settling down for the night, the cares of the day behind you. You are bathing the baby. You are cooking dinner. You are gathered with friends. You are leaving work, just one more thing, and you will be gone for the day. You are looking for a place to sleep for the night. You are on the cellular, talking to your friends, "Where are we going tonight?" You are laughing, crying, happy, sad. You are living and breathing and then, oh then, the world has flown away, you are in the air, on the ground, the heavens fall, there is crushing pain, then blackness.

You are trying to breathe, the weight of concrete pressed into your chest. You pick yourself up from the ground, dazed. The earth groans and shifts again. Sirens howl around you, the sun has fled, the cold night air whistles through the gaping wounds of broken bodies. You look and see blood silently pumping from your arm, the glint of bone grinning at you. The screams of survivors, the screams of the trapped, the darkness, so dark, where are the streetlights? You try to call for help on your cellular; all lines are busy. Trying again, it is simply there in your hand, no dialtone. You feel something wet under your shoe; a hand, and you see the dark liquid in the gutters. Pipes burst, probably. You shuffle on, where are the houses? Shoved and jostled by the pressing crowd, you are calm, so calm, but the night is full of those crushed, those whose life is leaving them. The bodies, in the streets, on cars, hands and feet and legs twisted and still, so still. You see a small body, wrapped in a blanket. It makes no sound and never will again.

You wake. The pain from your wounds, the smell from baking corpses, no food, no water again. A man stumbles by, undead, unliving, eyes of glass. Women keen for their lost ones. You keep looking for the addresses of people you know. Even the skyline is different; something is wrong. You cannot process it. Someone has a radio; all who can, gravitate towards it. The voice on the radio talks fantastic nonsense: earthquakes, the unimaginable human suffering, people trapped under buildings, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, aid, help, aid, help...one man says "It cannot be long now. They now know about us, and we are not so far away. It cannot be long now." He is older, smiling though he leaned on a stick heavily, his arm bandaged in an old shirt decorated with blood stains, another shirt wrapped around his leg which was bent into a pretzel. The rest of the news was full of more: one airport, no way in, all roads destroyed, the Palais National in ruins, as well as the Cathedral. In shock, you swing your eyes towards the skyline and your jaw opens as you realize what you could not grasp before. When you come to your senses, and sit up, you see the old man sitting on the wall, propped up by his stick. Hobbling over, you start to ask him the latest news, but he is dead. Someone has taken his transistor, and blood from his mouth stains his beard.

Another day, what day is this? Still no lights. Still no food. The lying voice, the well-fed, well-watered voice on the radio, brightly talking about the dire situation, how aid, help, ships, medicine, water, food, money was coming to Haiti. Planes were circling in the sky, fighting over the tiny airstrip, fighting to come save Haiti. Troubling talk of troops, Marines, armed forces...people scrambling over dead bodies, bodies that were so far gone as to become liquid..a mother cradling a baby...no one is a thief, but all are hungry and thirsty..some people found bread, food, water, rice, and shared, but it is not enough. People sleep in the streets at night, the screams go on, but no one sings now. The air is full of desperation and death.

Can it be another day? The lying voice says that it has been a week since the catastrophe. Can it be true? There are reports of aid, but who is getting it? Not you. Not your neighbours. Not your family, whoever is left. Not anyone that you see with your two eyes. More and more people do not wake after sleeping. The screaming buildings are falling silent. No one is a thief, but who has money for the shopkeeper? Where is the shopkeeper? Your hand goes through a window and you stuff flour into your mouth. The rush of others pushing to grab at candy does not deter you. You open your mouth and put food into it.

Some people now are talking about leaving Port-au-Prince, going to Cap Haitien, to the countryside. Others are leaving for Jaromi, in the Dominican Republic. The lying voice said that there was some medical help there. Others, the lucky ones, are going to try to beg for asylum in the United States. They are going to go to the US embassy in Port-au-Prince, where they will push against the gates and scream and cry and moan until they are heard. Others don't care: they have lost everything. "It is time to speak with fire" they say. "No one is listening, no one cares. Where is the help?" The lying voices say that pretty soon the rescuers will leave. People who can, text frantically. "Help us, save us, we are alive and soon to be dead". The messages go to Miami, where grief and shrieks fill the air, and impotent rage abounds.

"We are doing all we can to help" says the president of the country next door.Some laugh at his words; everyone knows that they discriminate against Haitians and are afraid of a wave of locust-like dark people into their land. People are beginning to leave, they cannot take the darkness, the shadows, the people that are alive and then dead with the taking of a breath, the trucks full of bodies rumbling by, the graves dug and filled with those that could be saved, but weren't. They cannot take the rumbling stomachs, watching the living turn to ghosts, old ones and children passing from the world at the blink of an eye. They cannot take the smells, the fact that there are trucks for the troops, and trucks for the dead and no trucks of water. They cannot bear to listen when one man stands atop a destroyed building and says "I was in the Army of the United States; I know that they can drop water and food to us. Why don't they do it? They are going to send in the Marines like they did before. They are going to take our country again and give it to the dictators!"

You sit, dizzy from the blood that continues to pump from your body. You don't remember when you ate last, you lean against the door to rest. The murmur of voices, snatches of song, pass you by. Those who can are leaving, migrating, moving away from the trash, the stench, the death, the lack of hope, the lying voices.A voice in Kreyol, educated, calm saying "Do not leave. If you come to the United States by the water, they will send you back from whence you came." "Come, get up" urges a voice, but you cannot, cannot. You must rest. Eyes closed, you hear your countrymen's feet moving, the surge of humanity flowing out of the body of the country like blood from wound.

For more information on the topic of Haitian relations with the Dominican Republic, please visit http://www.dominicantoday.com/ as well as http://www.haitiantimes.com/ for stories directly from Hispaniola.

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