Stop All the Clocks: The Catastrophic Earthquake in Haiti, too Devastating for Words…Hold Up a Candle, Say a Prayer, Will You?

Tell all my mourners
To mourn in red —
Cause there ain’t no sense
In my bein’ dead.

Langston Hughes,
(1902 – 1967)

Stop All the Clocks, Bring Out the Mourning Cloth.

Looking at the President of Haiti in an interview on CNN at this moment, one cannot help, but feel deep sorrow for this leader. He is so confused, he does not seem to know what to ask for when the question is posed. One of the first things he said when the press man asked him what can be done to help his devastated people, he says, “clean up the streets…” Of course, he does not mean that. Even as he smiles, he looks so helpless, but he is the lucky one without a mansion or workers or people to lead right now as the chaos of the earthquake’s aftermath is felt by survivors and the world at large. All around him is devastation and ruin, dead bodies and nothingness. He is the lucky one however as thousands, perhaps, tens of thousands are still caught under the rubble. Hold up a candle for them, will you, and please donate to the Red Cross and other Humanitarian organizations who are of course, legitimate.

Stop All the Clocks

——–  W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Presidential Mansion in Haiti

There are no words to describe the devastation of lives, infrastructure and the lives of millions of people in Haiti. There is only tears just looking at the horror of human beings trapped in between shattered concrete in Port au Prince. Where there are flowers, they are insufficient to lay out for the number of dead; if there are mourners, their voices cannot sing the dirges needed to send off the dead. This is the sort of tragedy that makes one wonder, “What have they done to nature that nature bestowed such a pain upon these people?” There will be aid and support, but there will be no words enough to comfort the grieved families and friends. Burn a candle for the dead, will you. Say a prayer, send flowers, send money in to support, hold a hand and give a hug. Today, the tragedy is in Haiti; tomorrow, who knows where it will be. John Donne wrote Meditation 17 so well when he said, “No man is an Island.”


When W. H. Auden wrote Stop all the clocks, he was writing a specific poem. But for many of us, this poem has meaning again today. Stop all the clocks, do not go to work, do not pick up the phone and laugh. Do not let the dead lie still without a word or thought for those dead in Haiti.

Asleep.

Emily Dickinson,
(1830 – 1886)

As far from pity as complaint,
As cool to speech as stone,
As numb to revelation
As if my trade were bone.

As far from time as history,
As near yourself to-day
As children to the rainbow’s scarf,
Or sunset’s yellow play

To eyelids in the sepulchre.
How still the dancer lies,
While color’s revelations break,
And blaze the butterflies!

I Measure Every Grief

Emily Dickinson

I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled–
Some thousands–on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,–
Death is but one and comes but once
And only nails the eyes.

There’s grief of want, and grief of cold,–
A sort they call ‘despair,’
There’s banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross
Of those that stand alone
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.

Second Day of Mourning
—-Gaston Ng

The second day of mourning is always grey,
When the grandeur of elaborate pain
Fades into a comprehensible dawn.
The asthmatic morning laboured to wheeze a few
Competent breaths to last from bus to school.
A grim visage canopies a lurching heart that still stumbles
In the quicksilver and endless corridors of remembering.
Mourning seems such a vain thing.
It crys aloud to be seen, solicits pity with
Conscious tears and wanton dysphoria,
Damns an implosion with a paradoxical front.
Trudging up the overhead bridge that prevent dented fenders
And stubborn bloodstains on the roads,
The sweaty morning clings onto my skin and sorrow
Weighing with the symbolism of exertion.


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Happy New Year’s Wishes to My Readers, Friends, and Supporters: May 2010 Bring You Lots of Prosperity and Happiness


The Blessing

____By: Patricia Jabbeh Wesley


Let your days ahead be sprinkled with laughter
and with laughter, peace.
May all you touch spring forth with freshness.
Find time to giggle and dance and jump,
and watch the setting of the sun.
When you wake up, wonder out loud
about the sun’s rays, about the darkening
of the morning, about the fog over the hills,
about your babies down the hall,
about the neighbor and her dog. Wonder
at the stars; wonder and wonder why
you are so blessed and why is it you are
among those of the earth who have
more than their allotted air for breathing.
Wonder why the cat meows and why
the dog wags its tail.
Wonder and wonder why dew falls
at night and about the squirrel’s fleeting stare.
Make laughter come alive in your home.
And when you touch someone, let that touch
be real, and I mean, real, my friend.
Walk gently on soft ground, and when
you walk on a bare rock, step hard, this
life is precious. May your year follow only
through a clear path, and please, when you walk,
let it be with God, my love, let it be with God.

— Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Copyright: from new manuscript of poetry)

New Year’s Day is celebrated all around the world with grandeur, pomp and pride. No matter where you are, New Year’s Day is recognized as a significant bridge between the old present and the future, between the past and the future, between the new and old generation. Today, 2010 is no different. This however, is the end of a decade, a major bridge into a new era. In Liberia, New Year’s Day is celebrated by huge cooking and neighborly well wishing, visitation of relatives and open doors for children to roam in their dressy outfits just as much as they did at Christmas. In fact, when I was a child, our parents bought us two holiday outfits, one for Christmas and one for New Year’s Day. Today, however, many of us now live abroad, in the US, in Europe and around the world where our children can be assured of lots of eating and watching of football at home after watching the ball drop at Times Square or for some, after partying all night.

But why is the New Year significant to us Africans? In many African traditions, the New Year is a time when there is much hope and expectation that the old year’s troubles will be past and the new year will bring better times, goodness and happiness, prosperity and greatness. In many traditions, our people sacrifice animals in order to assure a good future. Here, today, many of us who are immigrants pause for a better year, for prosperity just as much as our forefathers.
Last night, I called home at about 8:30 Eastern time here, 1 am, in Liberia, and wished my father a Happy New Year. He, at 83, was already in the new decade, already in the New Year, and I, living across the ocean was still in 2009.

This is the serious question however: what do you expect of this New Year? What was the last year like for you? Many will say that the last year was a difficult year for them. For many, there was the loss of good jobs, of relatives losing their jobs, and yet despite all, many of us for the first time saw the Presidency of the first black president in the United States. So, maybe, it was a mixed year for you. For some, their heartache was not just professional, but emotional, social, marital, etc. Whatever the year was for you, you are at this new beginning, hoping for a better year. I wish you the best. I wish you will receive all that is good and wonderful, that your home will be healed, and that you will draw closer to God. I am grateful for the thousands of hits this blog has got since its founding a less than three years ago. I am grateful for the hundreds of comments from my readers, and wish that we together can one day bring peace to refugees, immigrants, and all of the downtrodden of our world. May the sun go before you and the moon be upon your path in 2010.