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This week, in trying to grapple with the enormity of the recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria, I turned to writing poetry. The staggering numbers of the dead, wounded, and homeless (many of whom were already refugees) exceeded my ability to speak about in prose.

I offer this poem out of concern for everyone impacted by this tragedy, and in memory of those who didn’t survive. (If you’d like to help ease the suffering, the International Relief Committee is one reputable organization to which you might consider donating.)

I also offer this poem as encouragement to everyone who has experienced a life-changing “earthquake” of some other sort.


Phyllis Cole-Dai

In the wake of the 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake

They say what lies beneath the surface
contains points of weakness

They say movements in the crust
cause friction
intensify pressure
create deformity

They say when stress exceeds strength
what is solid
fractures along a fault line

It happens without warning
one night as we sleep
or in the morning as we rise

The ground we take for granted
rumbles and quakes

We’re not prepared
for the power of the tremor

Everything crumbles
collapses around us

What is not sturdy
what is not flexible
what is not resilient
what is not lucky
whatever is not
what it needed to be
to stand
comes down

Things rise for all sorts of reasons
For all sorts of reasons they fall

If we live through their falling
it isn’t enough

We must then live the aftershocks

We must learn what it means to survive

                       * * *

Light too comes without warning
as if from nowhere
though it is everywhere
even in our points of weakness
our deep deformities and fractures

Light is even here
where we dig with our bare hands
where we stop to listen for a cry or a whimper
a sigh
where we cling to hope
against every Too late

It’s never too late for light
There is no time or place where light is not

Even here in the darkest pit
where we feel alone and helpless
crushed beneath pancaked ruins

Yes even here

I say Light is here because I have seen it
shining through fault lines and cracks
shining where there’s no air to breathe
where there’s no room to be

Light needs no space to be with us

I say Light is here
because it has carried me
more than once
out of wreckage
so like a mountain it could not be moved

The light restored me

It sent me back
to say
I cannot die

If you can’t see the light
where you are in the rubble
that’s okay

Wherever you are
I will see the light for you
I will sing the light to you

Though I grow tired
I will keep seeing
and I will keep singing
what I see

until at last you see
the light’s coming
to carry you too

Photo by Karen Alsop on Unsplash
Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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