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Laurence Overmire

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Portland, OR, US

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Northridge: January 17, 1994

by

Laurence Overmire

I couldn't get to sleep that night
Neither one of us
Dogs and cats were restless they say
There is in-tuning in the earth
We knew somehow
We know and do not know
Paradox
Hit the pillow, hard pillow, strange anxiety
Got out of bed, stomach growl
We fixed some eggs, you and I
Late late night breakfast
Exhausted, sleepless
Sitting on the sofa
Through the sliding glass doors, we gazed down from the hills
Hollywood Hills
The ones with the famous sign
Down through the darkness
Twinkling lights on quiet streets
Towering scrapers like Christmas trees
Candlelit night
So beautiful and serene, sweet peaceful darkness
Relax. Back to bed. 3 a.m.
Sleep at last_

Dreaming. Am I? Huh?
Low rumble
Do you hear it?
Like a giant snoring, beneath the earth
Louder and louder
Coming nearer
Louder and louder and
Louder and louder and
Louder and louder
Horrible, deafening noise
Crashing through the walls
E A R T H
Q U A K E!!!
AHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHH
Our bodies tossed, pick-up stix
Up and down, the bed bouncing off the floor
Up and down
Flailing limbs
Bones knocking in the black
Pure black, utter darkness
Hang on! Survive!
My God let us survive.
AHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHH
Gulliver shakes us
In our little box
Paper dolls, fragile glass figurines
We are such
Inconsequential
Stuff
The walls won't hold
Shaking Shaking Shaking Shaking
Shaking Shaking Shaking Shaking
AHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHH
Will it. Can it. Ever. Stop?!
Wait! Wait_
Slower. Slow.
That's it
It's over. It's o-
No, the noise, the rumbling
It's coming back
AHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHH
Shaking Shaking Shaking Shaking
Shaking Shaking Shaking Shaking
Hang on! Hang on!
Hang On!

Stop.
Silence.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
"Are you ok?"
"Huh? What? Is it over?"
"The radio. Where's the radio?"
"Wait here. I'll.."
Stumbling out of bed
"I can't see. I can't see."
Where is it?
I trip
Something on the floor
Hands grope
The dresser-here
The clock. Where is it?
No light, no nothing
Here it is. Won't work. Dead.
The floor, it's covered with-stuff
Stumble into the kitchen
Can't see, but
We're alive. We made it. We're okay.
There's glass on the floor, broken glass
The refrigerator door flung open
Food, glass, wine spilled orange juice jam
"It's like we've been_bombed."
"Put your shoes on!"
Didn't even think, how stupid of me, walking around barefoot
All this debris
Grope to the door, the glass doors
Intact
Living room disaster, but the TV's okay
Hah! That figures. In Hollywood.
"What time is it anyway?"
4:45 a.m.
"The neighbors upstairs, don't hear anything, think they're okay?"
"I'm going outside, see what's going on."
"Take the flashlight."
Rubble
Garden wall collapsed, broken bricks everywhere, climb over and around
Stairs are okay, knock on the door, "Hey are you all right?"
"Yeah, you?"
Survived. We survived.

We walk together, you and I, over the fallen wall, toward the front yard
Stop dead.
"Oh my God"
"Oh my God"
The houses across the street_
Gone.
Rush to the edge, peer down at
Rubble
A car covered in dust in what used to be a garage
Neighbors in pajamas, gather round
We stare zombie-like, shell-shocked
"The lady in the house, we don't know where she is."
"Let's go down, see if we can find her."
Trapped beneath the wooden beams and broken glass
She cries out, "Help!"
She lived. She survived.

Better call my parents, tell them not to worry
Dial tone
Phone works, thank God
Three hours earlier here this West Coast time
Still in bed in Ohio-safe, Midwestern, bland Ohio--they haven't seen the news
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. No electricity, no water."
What else to say?
Nothing
Not from Mom and Dad
Nothing
We survived and they have nothing to say.
The phones weren't working for the next couple days.

The dawn comes slowly
Eerie light
Down the hill the Christmas trees are black
No twinkling lights
A smoky haze_
Fire!
"Anyone have a radio?"
Neighbors come together, radio works, listen to the news
Fires everywhere
No phone, no gas, no water, no electricity
Fires burning, death hanging in the ash
We survived.

Minute upon minute, hour upon hour
Together we
Begin to live
Again
Fight the fires, rebuild the buildings
Make sense of it all, what sense there is
Those who have died
There is no explanation
Waste, all is waste
Or is it?

To escape from death
You see
Certain things
Things have no meaning, things are just junk
Destroy the things that clutter a life
They are useless
Life is a breath, clean breath
Shared
All of us together connected by breath
That is all that matters
Connect with the breath
Breathe deep
Life, precious life
We survive.