IS SPRING OVER YET? PLEASE SAY YES!
October 23, 2014
As our years increase
Our days grow longer and our nights grow shorter
until we find ourselves
greeting the dawn accompanied by citybird song
in the veriest AM.
There is a sort of songbird here
that tunes his six-note fall
of none too melodic pipes at four AM
and continues to serenade the neighborhood
At least there is a certain melodic effect – he tries!
Indeed, he does.
For several months, anticipating Spring,
I awake remembering Kipling and “On the Road to Mandalay.”
You know, where “the dawn comes up like thunder” –
only it is not “outer China cross the bay,”
it is the echoing thunder of thousands and thousands
of fat city pigeons and little grey doves
shaking the city’s sprawl, rivaling the traffic sounds
with thundering coos.
In Buenos Aires, our dawn
also comes up like thunder, whether we like it...
is found in smoking a cheap pipe of paco.
the poor man’s drug in Buenos Aires.
In the photograph in this morning’s paper
one of the twins lies abandoned on the cobbles,
hands still curved to grasp the teat.
poetryrepairs #220 16.01:008
SUE LITTLETON, notices:
The Really Big One will hit the Pacific Northwest
From The New Yorker, Annals of Seismology (July 20, 2015 Issue).
The next full-margin rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone will spell the worst natural disaster
in the history of the continent. Professor Michio Kaku says it's not a question of if, but when.
"By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable.
Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA's Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho,
and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
Most people in the United States know just one fault line by name: the San Andreas, which runs nearly
the length of California and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of unleashing “the big one.”
That rumor is misleading, no matter what the San Andreas ever does. Every fault line has an upper limit
to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas,
one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is
roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent
as strong as the 2011 event in Japan.
Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone,
it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino,
California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada.
The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow
the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet
where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of
mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of
the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where
they meet, it is not.
Take your hands and hold them palms down, middle fingertips touching. Your right hand represents the
North American tectonic plate, which bears on its back, among other things, our entire continent, from
One World Trade Center to the Space Needle, in Seattle. Your left hand represents an oceanic plate called
Juan de Fuca, ninety thousand square miles in size. The place where they meet is the Cascadia subduction
zone. Now slide your left hand under your right one. That is what the Juan de Fuca plate is doing: slipping
steadily beneath North America. When you try it, your right hand will slide up your left arm, as if you
were pushing up your sleeve. That is what North America is not doing. It is stuck, wedged tight against
the surface of the other plate.
Without moving your hands, curl your right knuckles up, so that they point toward the ceiling. Under pressure
from Juan de Fuca, the stuck edge of North America is bulging upward and compressing eastward, at the rate of,
respectively, three to four millimetres and thirty to forty millimetres a year. It can do so for quite some
time, because, as continent stuff goes, it is young, made of rock that is still relatively elastic. (Rocks,
like us, get stiffer as they age.) But it cannot do so indefinitely. There is a backstop—the craton, that
ancient unbudgeable mass at the center of the continent—and, sooner or later, North America will rebound like
a spring. If, on that occasion, only the southern part of the Cascadia subduction zone gives way—your first
two fingers, say—the magnitude of the resulting quake will be somewhere between 8.0 and 8.6. That’s the big one.
If the entire zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude
will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2. That’s the very big one.
Flick your right fingers outward, forcefully, so that your hand flattens back down again. When the next very
big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf
to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing,
within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take
place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater. (Watch what your fingertips do when you
flatten your hand.) The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush
west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the
Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased
and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X,
the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that
everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
poetryrepairs #220 16.01:008
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SUE LITTLETON is a regular contributor to poetryrepairs. She writes from Buenos Aires, Argentina
NAUGHTY SIR REGGIE! and his marvelous organ...a Gay Nineties kind of song everyone will enjoy!