Be the Cause


I cant put into utterance really

Scribblings, one-dimensional expressions

They often disappear into an abysmal place

Words aflame – giving witness to its cremation

Its carbon enters my nostrils – roving around in there

Like a narcotic in a strung out addict,

The ashes leave a powdery trace on my prints

The soot of toxic words, juice through my veins,

And yet dance against the smoke signals of my sadness

A basin undertakes all the blackened remnants that refuse to rise

And the charred paper sits quietly on the bottom

Some words don’t catch fire – they keep alive

As bittersweet reminders of my distress and ache

But I write still; a profusion of words

Spilling, betraying, divulging the recesses of the heart

And they glare back at me,

Like gaunt stick figures in a concentration camp

The burial ground of the scripted mind works quickly

Feverishly, hastily tap tapping words on the white

Like a lightening bolt surging through those over-used fingertips

Electrifying verbs and phrases sparring at each other

And the pen retreats itself from the ferocity of white

I lay it down and observe its handiwork

An unsightly sore, a painful contusion lies before me

Yet those are mine own words, my own affliction.


I smile knowingly at her & ask her how old she is – 20, she says. Her infant struggles in the crevasse of her arms. Eli & I, our eyes collectively survey her innocence, her willowy brown skin – there is nothing 20 about her. I gather her newborn into my arms, as she grasps on to the box of donations handed to her.

As boxes are removed from under the tarp & into the arms of these young & eager mothers, we’re careful to explain its contents – the Kotex & toothpaste is for their own use & not for the children; the Pedialite & soap is for their babies; the shampoo is to keep their hair clean, and so on. We exchange a few rushed words about cleanliness & personal hygiene – as much as we could amidst the chaos & disorder.

The number of pregnant women & young mothers was overwhelming – however, they were the lucky ones today. As they made their way to the head of an unruly line, we struggle to maintain the magnitude of it all. Of the hundreds of displaced people clustering about, only a handful would receive a box today, far more would be turned away.

This is Leogane – the epicenter of January’s hell gushing down from the skies.

Very little prepares you for the sheer desolation here. A camp leader, a middle-aged bearded man in khaki slacks and a thin white towel cooling his neck, leads us through the mud-soaked pathway. A few donated canvas tents are strewn about – the rest made unusable by the ever-present rain & subsequent flooding.

Most shelters are 8×8 handcrafted & sewn together using dried palm fronds. The floors are patchy dirt & remnants of last night’s rainfall. Through an opening slit in the cracked leaves, we witness a makeshift ‘bed’ – course 6-inch concrete blocks covered by insects & soiled patchwork cloth. Children sleep here; elderly women find their shade here.

In the distance, a wide-eyed 12-year old & her sibling kneel before a clearing. They hastily pull weeds & clear rubble using a miniature utility knife. They are quick to build their shelter as a rain cloud looms in the distance.

We make our way back to the empty truck.  How do I shoulder my backpack & climb in – with that longing to stay behind & yet the demand for onward movement?

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