1990

This entry is part 88 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

The Hubble telescope lifts into space to take luminous photos of the heavens.

And that summer, on the eve of the World Cup Finals, the three tenors sing under the stars in the ancient baths of Caracalla.

Less than ten days later, the earthquakes in our city, the number of dead exceeding the number of caskets and funeral parlors. Tent cities in the park surrounded by little moats of mud. The scramble for drinking water and blankets, powdered milk for children. Flies, not technology, lead rescuers to those trapped in rubble. Later they speak of drinking rain, dew, piss.

Fallen beams, cracked firewalls: the house we lose. And lose again, after the second loan and desperate sale. But the jasmine continues to bloom, the rampant bougainvilleas climb the walls.

The spotted owl is added to the threatened species list.

My father, fallen into a coma, is rushed to the hospital. I remember he was wearing his saffron yellow bathrobe threaded through with ochre. There would have been a novena to St. Pancratius in one of its pockets; and his rosary of cracked wooden beads.

Just the evening before, we’d dared to return to disheveled rooms to lie down on our beds. We did not take off our shoes because of the aftershocks. He’d stood in the doorway then, saying little, smiling in his solemn way. Which was almost not smiling at all unless you knew him.

The first contraceptive implant is approved by the FDA. Smoking on domestic airplane flights is banned. And Jack Kevorkian assists his first patient to die.

And then in August, Iraq invades Kuwait and war is on everyone’s lips, even there. My friend B. changes into camouflage-print dungarees and says over and over again, “This is it, Maria. This is it.” In the streets, the sound of blasting, drilling, jackhammers.

Grocery store shelves empty from spasms of panic buying. As if the fragile balance of the world rested on the number of tins of canned meat in the basement, the bottles of hoarded water, the sacks of rice. The neighbors are guarded; they take care not to mention how much they have.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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