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.


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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