Friday, September 2, 2016

Zen and the Slow Earthquake—Murfin Verse

The tsunami following the mega quake off the coast of Japan in 2011 crashes ashore.  Two huge but virtually undetected powerful silent quakes preceded the cataclysm. 

Yesterday a friend’s Facebook post linked to an article on about the so-called silent quakes or slip events that preceded the enormous .9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan five years ago.  Being a geek for such things, I read the whole article, which was pitched to the target audience of intelligent laymen.  I got about 80% of it and am prepared to act like I understand the whole shebang.  Almost as soon as I finished reading, a dim notion formed in my mind about the powerful but unnoticed phenomena.  Half an hour later out popped a poem, a minor side effect of the stealthy grinding of tectonic plates.
You can hear me read this piece for the first time as well as other recent verse tonight at Haystacks Coffee House Open Mic and Jam from 7 to 10 pm at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5603 Bull Valley Road in McHenry.
Under these calm waters something powerful was happening.
Zen and the Slow Earthquake

According to Smithsonian
and who am I argue
with such lofty glossiness—
before the Big One shook Japan
a few years ago—
you  know the one
that shook like nobody’s business
for six long minutes,
unleashed a tsunami
whose water wall
swept away damn near everything,
killed tens of thousands,
and uncorked nuclear Fukushima
spewing radioactive crap
and polluting the whole damn Pacific—
before that two long, slow quakes
            crept along the Japan Trench
            under the water for days each
            as two sides of the tectonic plates
            slipped by each other in slo-mo
            like a sports replay video
            each one releasing almost as much
            energy as the big trembler
            and moving even more earth.
Yet no one on dry land felt a damn thing,
            not a one going about his or her
            humdrum business was aware,
            big wig scientists could hardly measure it
            and figured out what had happened
            only after the fact
            by pouring over printouts of data
            that no one else would ever scan.
Slip events they called them
            and said they may—or may not—
have led to the big one that
suddenly snapped things
and got everyone’s attention
and that things like that happen
along other fault lines
all over the damn world
and no one notices.
            Quiet quakes of unimaginable power indeed—
it’s like the Earth
practiced Zen.

—Patrick Murfin


  1. Patrick, I needed to read that this morning. My AA sponsor passed away last Sunday night, and the memorial service was last night. He had been dealing with several progressive terminal illnesses, but what got him was Pulmonary Fibrosis. For some reason this resonated with me in connection with his passing. Thank you.

    1. Sorry for your loss, Rob. I am glad the poem brought you some comfort.