The Earthquake

This wasn’t earthquake country.
The world was sound and still,
a great turtle sleeping for peaceful
decades on the sunny sea
of everything else.  Here marriages
endured; children were safe
from their parents; long
labor was enough.  Here things
seemed what they were.  

Nor was it like the books, like places
where the earth rippled and bucked, stood up
and shook off its chains.  This was the dark
of the morning, five o’clock, an awakening
to vibration:  steady, soft, a buzz
or a hum, a tremor like the first faint
signatures of nerve disease.  

But I knew, though it took
sleepy moments to recall.  I knew
that under these hard mountains ran a fault. 
I knew that though no one could see
the break, the alteration, everything
for years ahead would change.  I sat up
and reached out my hand to feel
that deep soft shaking of the walls.
I said earthquake, and I named that fault,
I took it for my own.    

Catherine Carter’s first book, The Memory of Gills, came out in August 2006 with LSU, and won the 2007 NC Roanoke-Chowan award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.  Her work has previously appeared in Poetry, Tar River Poetry, Cider Press Review, and North Carolina Literary Review, among others, is due to appear in Best American Poetry 2008, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart; this year it has won the North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Randall Jarrell award. She directs the English education program at Western Carolina University.  On the statistically unlikely chance that you may choose to hear more biography than this, her website has more than anyone generally wants, at 

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