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Storm - poem and video


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.

Kwame Dawes