Devastating earthquake on Ecuador’s Coast, April 16, 2016.
Elegy for Ecuador
After the quaking and breaking—
and that eternal silence, begging for
sounds of life, everything continues to sway.
Everything still trembles: hills, trees, children, animals,
even the sky.
Life teeters perilously inside the invisible parts, where
the devastation is just getting started.
A skinny dog spreads her black body over the rubble
that was her home, clinging stubbornly
to the spot: a life raft on a treacherous sea.
She waits for humans who will never return.
A ceibo tree weeps in the distance.
The equatorial sun dips into the sea too soon,
abandoning the beleaguered mass of humanity,
while the swash
claims intimate pieces of
once well-ordered lives—
now flotsam and jetsam, swept away.
The tide groans on into the night.
At first light, snowy egrets spread their angelic white wings
over rivers of sorrow, like angels from some other world.
In the still-quivering shrimp ponds below the hills,
the cows catch a reflection of something large,
a heap of darkness, a sound, a whirl.
A helicopter flies overhead, and then another,
filled with hope.
And between the ruptured
blue hills veiled in grief,
caravans of healing and solidarity overcome buckled roads
and falling rocks,
pushing toward the coast and its sorrowful tale.
Ecuador’s collective pain rouses the old ways of indigenous
resilience, a tacit sense of connection in which all are
brothers, sisters, cousins: family.
Even the earth and the trees: family.
Family, faith, and that ancient embrace of sumak kawsay—
life at its fullest—
all rises to meet the devastation and death with
resilience and love.
This is Ecuador, the land of beauty and family
and irrepressible hope.
Ecuador lies in ruins, but
Ecuador can never, never be broken.
Patricia Adams Farmer lived on the coast of Ecuador (Bahia, El Matal-Jama, and Manta) from 2011-2015.
Thank you Patricia. Thank you for saying what I could not, for feeling deeply what I can only imagine, and for voicing my prayers.
Thank you, Robert! It means so much to hear your thoughtful response.
Patricia – my husband and I left Bahia, after 6 months in Ecuador – 2 days before the devastating earthquake. We have been home since feeling absolutely frustrated and helpless. Unable to clearly express our feelings and sad/guilty at not really able to help in a tangible, hands-on way. Your extraordinary words help us to share our gut felt sadness for our second home.
Thank you – Susan
Dear Susan, I thank you for this response. It helps us to know that others stateside also feel the same way. Just TWO DAYS before the quake! That is cutting it close. So thankful you are safe. I’m sure your families are relieved, too. I do know the feelings that collide at a time like this: incredible gratitude just to be alive and safe– and yet, as you say, helpless and frustrated and sad. Almost like survivor’s guilt. Thank you for sharing, Susan!