Voices from Haiti: Storm by Kwame Dawes

November 8, 2011

Voices from Haiti: Storm (English Version) by Kwame Dawes

English version of the visual poem Storm with poetry by Kwame Dawes, images by Andre Lambertson.

For Malia Jean

From here the mountains around
Port-au-Prince are green; too
far to see the denuded hillside,
too far to see the brown wounds,
too far to see the layered
city of sand bags, wooden
reinforcements, heavy plastic
tents, the gravel, the dust,
the narrow lanes, the gutters,
the stolen power lines,
the makeshift clubs, the cinema,
the internet café, the phalanx
of shower booths, the admonitions
to keep the place clean, as if
someone hopes to restore
this stripped down hillside
to its glory as a golf course
for expatriates, the moneyed,
the diplomats, too far
to see the constant cloud
from wood fires and coal
factories tucked into
this city of improvisation; too far
though from here you can smell
the rain gathering at dusk.
Tonight the deluge will heal
all sores, clear the air of dust
from the crushed stones;
tonight the alabaster ruins
will gleam through the tender
mist of rain; and this body
that has grown weary with living,
will hope for a flame of prophesy;
for even the smallest ember
must keep the heat from slipping
away. This is my world,
these days; this and the ritual
of pills, the cycle of nausea,
the relief at three in the afternoon,
that hour when I feel as normal
as I was before all of this.
The blackness at the edge
of my eyes returns by five o’clock;
and here is where my prayers
are stripped of all ostentation,
here faith is tasteless
as unleavened bread; here
hope is a whisper from a dried
mouth, and I know what
the presence of God is. The cool
silence of a cemetery at twilight
is my comfort; the resignation,
the calm presence of mountains,
like these dumb tombstones.
I long to make deals with God.
The transaction the weary
and heavy laden make: Take
this body, it is used up now,
let it rest, dear God, let it
rest. Take this body, it is
yours now, let it rest, Lord,
let it rest. The storm covers
the earth. I stand in the rain.
It comes like the sound of grace,
soaking me to the bone—first
the taste of salt, then the clean
flow of healing slipping in my mouth.

Reading may differ slightly from text

This video is part of a multi-media series "Voices from Haiti" (http://bit.ly/rdk0fp) exploring life after the quake, focusing on the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS.

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