After the Earthquake
Sleepless in the forest,
the night after the earth trembled,
I stare up at the stars
and think, "How merciful their indifference,
now when all our little houses have collapsed."
All over my altar the smell of spilt wine,
the sacramental mead labelled with Chagall's blue beast,
benevolent and mad,
bearing flowers for the groom and bride.
After the earthquake
I give the last remaining cup
to our long embittered neighbors
in the ruins of their home.
While I sweep up a broken mirror,
stand in line at the Salvation Army,
pick a purple wildflower for my reconstructed altar,
this rough beast returns again and again insistent,
repulsive and unbearably kind.
Having passed from some dark place
through a slit in the earth may I make a home
for the one who has destroyed my home.
Michael Ortiz Hill
Santa Cruz, California
Michael and his daughter lost their home in Santa Cruz, California, in the October 1989 earthquake.