When the Earthquake Struck

When the earthquake struck
I was washing my hair, wearing
only cut-off jeans, bent over
the sink began to shimmy; everything
began to rock and sway and fall about.

I clung to the basin’s slippery rim,
shampoo stinging my eyes,
soapy tresses draped over my face
—would they protect me
if the window shattered?—
then dropped to the heaving floor,
crawled under the dining table,
and crouched there, cursing,
more angry than afraid.

Books tumbled from their shelves,
spewing loose pages whirling about
in a black and white blizzard; cupboards
vomited china and glass and cans and cutlery
cascaded over the floor, their clatter
swallowed in the shuddering roar
which seemed to go on forever—then
it stopped; all
was quiet
except for—
—something dripping,
—somewhere—

—sirens—fire, police, ambulance—
all going off all at once, altogether
almost more frightening than the quake itself,
now receding into the past so fast as to seem
(almost) as improbable as before
—but for
the splayed books and broken dishes
littering the floor, and my wet, tangled hair
dripping cold down my back.

I began to shiver, my teeth clattered together,
a spasm of relief and pent-up terror shaking me
so fiercely I could scarcely stand, I crept
from under the table, staggered to the sink,
and turned on the tap—nothing
but air—
but I was prepared for this,
and opening the plastic jug of water
saved for just such an emergency,
rinsed my hair, and wrung it dry,
while hot tears dripped from my eyes.

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