After my Thursday night routine of a six-pack,
I’d steadied my nerves for a morning with pencil
pushers in my office, where the cleaning crew
had taken odds, as if they were betting on the next
hurricane, that I’d be fired. The signs, predictable
as the weather, were all there. I’d get a call
from HR to hand deliver a file; then pointed
toward a small room down a narrow hallway.

Inside, a friendly-looking director would ask
me to close the door. He’d offer me a chair, a cup
of water and a choice to either jump or he’d push
me out with a rehearsed excuse about profitability
and change in technology. But I shouldn’t worry,
he’d say, my personal belongings would be mailed,
free of cost, to anywhere I wanted after I’d surrendered
company property to security guards who would escort
me to the parking lot to stand under whitewashed
almond trees with pigeons and homeless men,
wondering where the next meal will come from.

But when the earthquake with its epicenter
sixty-four miles from the southwest of Kingston,
shook the walls and floor of my apartment,
a churning in the pit of my stomach—
like when our pastor called from the front
of the congregation to ask me if I was saved,
I shouted, “Yes,” lying to please my mother—
felt as if a space had opened under the Blue Mountains,
our last extinct volcano–unlikely, as the scientists
assure us, to erupt in the foreseeable future—
rocks that had cooled for millennia had shifted
and were ready to reappear, but this time with fire.

About the Poem

With so much uncertainty and environmental changes, the earthquake in Jamaica, while not as devasting as Libya’s, felt particularly ominous.

About the Author

Geoffrey Philp, a recipient of a Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica, is the author of “Archipelagos,” a book of poems about climate change, which has been longlisted for the Laurel Prize. One of Philp’s poems, “A Prayer for my Children,” is featured on The Poetry Rail at The Betsy Hotel–an homage to 12 writers who have shaped Miami culture. Philp’s graphic novel for children, “My Name is Marcus,” will be published later this year, and he is working on a children’s book about climate change, “Marsha, the Mangrove Guardian.” 

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