In memory of all those who died in, and all those who lived through, the tsunami that struck the countries of the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004.
In the deepness, a heaving of the earth. I am tensing, straining, the pressure too great. I am tearing, ripping, fragmenting. The gash is 600 miles long. There is thunder under the ocean as I heave and split. Frightened fish flee, their communities scattered. The water rushes over my plunging wound.
I am thrown off kilter in my revolution about the stars, a momentary faltering...
A sudden precipitous displacement of the ocean floor and I am falling, swirling, a lethal underwater waterfall.
The earth gives up her energy to the gashing waves. I am swelling, overflowing; there is nowhere to go but outwards. I am a deadly wave fleeing the rupture, my speed and breadth terrifying. I am churning with the energy of the earth's cry.
I am the shoreline and the people lining the beaches, holidaying, working, living, sleeping. I am the lands that the gigantic wave races towards. I am the unsuspecting, the innocent, the unprepared, the unguarded. The tremors of the earth are felt, but only the animals heed it. The animals, the elephants and tigers, wild dogs and birds, are all moving inland quickly: the rumbling earth, the rush of seawater in the ear, fearsome. An animal's instinct for self-preservation intact in the way the people lining the beach to watch the sucking out of the water, its disappearance at the horizon, aren't.
I am the children playing on the emptied expanse of beach. I am laughing at the sudden low tide, running on wet sand.
I am the tide that is drawing back to lash the land impeding the flow. I am the striking wall of water. I cannot stop. I am rushing at 500 miles an hour. I am many tons of force. And I cannot stop. I cannot abate the fury unleashed by the underwater earthquake, the crack on the ocean floor.
You in the heavens, hear me! I did not mean this destruction...
I surge towards the beach where the people are talking and watching.
I surge with the full force of nature towards an unprepared land.
There is no early warning system to broadcast far and wide my deadly coming. No-one flees.
I flood onto the beach, a great wide water dragon roaring, the children, the sun bathers, wash into me. I keep surging, my water filling with mud, churning, rushing into villages, buildings, hotels, houses, huts, cars, pouring over the land in unrelenting fury, dragging boats, cars, trees, the detritus of broken homes, bashing, tearing apart the world in floodwaters.
I draw back, leaving bodies littered on the sand like beached fish.
Then I am flowing forward again, I cannot stop; I hammer the land with tons of force, my swirling waters, rushing far inland, devastating the landscape. The dead and the wounded float everywhere in me. I hear the underwater screams of terror of those who are drowning calling for their loved ones. My salt water fills their lungs, intruding, squeezing out the air. Their bodies are battered. Those lucky and strong enough to swim with my furious currents are wounded by sharp bits of broken things. More die than survive.
I lash and subside, lash and subside, gradually losing my momentum, sliding back out to sea where I glitter under the hot sun, gently lapping as if I had never risen like furious thunder and drowned the land.
I am the mother who sees the wall of sea falling on the beach and runs to catch her toddlers. I am the mother whose children slip out of her desperate grasp, who is holding her breath underwater, who is screaming her children’s names silently in the wave throwing her inland like broken driftwood. I am the children’s terror, the children who will die in less than a minute as they cry, “Mama…”
I am all the desolate and broken children who listlessly survey the torn landscape looking for their fathers and mothers, their brothers and sisters…
I am the grieving of the living: the surviving wounded, some of whom will die from preventable gangrene; the ones gone mad with grief screaming at the sea to give back their families. I am the dead whose souls float over the arc of land by the ocean mourning the loss of their lives. I fly with the angels who have gathered in throngs to comfort those who walk in shock and grief…
In the inlets, bays, bodies bob, like swollen, broken mannequins. The land is strewn with bodies; the death count rising ever higher. Where the tsunami hit: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia, Myanmar, Maldives, Malaysia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Kenya. Whole islands have disappeared. Entire villages wiped out. Every country in the world has lost citizens.
I am the stench of decay everywhere.
And I am the love of a shocked and stunned world pouring in.
I am the aid pouring in: the able-bodied helpers, finding the dead, burying, cremating, packing identified bodies, parts of bodies, into body-bags for airflights to foreign lands; the food and blankets being handed out, supplies air dropped in remote regions. I am the forensics teams taking DNA, teeth for dental records, anything to positively identify the dead. For the living need to bring closure, and burial rights, to their loved ones.
I am the shelters that house the grieving homeless masses while the governments decide what to do; how far back from the sea to rebuild. I am the early warning system being installed in byoys bobbing on the ocean and speed detectors under the waves.
I am the love of the world pouring in, the millions of dollars pledged and raised and offered for survival, for reconstruction.
How can we comfort you? How can we help you? How can we show you our caring, concern, support, allegiance?
How can we ensure you, who are among the poorest peoples in the world, are never caught unaware again?
And I am the slow rebuilding, plank by plank, nail by nail, mortar and thatch and brick and glass, creating our habitat despite the fear of the sea, the memories of the lush paradise that was, will be, and until the ocean rushes from the earth’s rupturing, as tectonic plates slide one beneath the other, once more…
©2005 by Brenda Clews
Dec. 26 2004
yo u r :: h e l p :: c o u n t s!
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