Harvey dredged up a hurricane poem from my late teens scribbling. Last night, watching video from Texas made me go ‘wait a minute, I did write a poem after Hurricane Allen’ — my first experience of the devastation of these storms. I am sharing a draft I marked as version 1 (ver 1 in image) – there is a version 2 but it shows no evolution; only the line breaks are different. I may have forgotten about the poem in the swirl of cleaning up, clearing fallen things, having a much longer commute time to and from school due to the condition of the roads, rebuilding and generally making do that took over our lives for some time after.
Harvey, in its early days, was headed straight for my homeland of Saint Lucia, but turned away at last minute. I am wondering if this poem is too old to try to rescue. And new sensitivity about what is looting following a disaster has me pondering the ending. Anyway, here it is.
Paradise Found (ver 1)
– Melania Daniel
That night, at nine o’clock
Our clattering roof sent us jolting out of sleep.
Up in time to witness an abduction, we heard
The scream of clouds being dragged out of the sky
Into the vortex of a cyclone; with every bang
Our eyes, hopeless nails, held down the roof.
But only for a while.
The wind, like a merciless tyrant
Showing contempt for our huddled forms
Soon yanked it off, the inquisitive sky
Blinded us with a spotlight of lightening.
When all thought it over the stars tried to peep out
To see what the commotion was about,
A sudden gust spat its rage in their eyes,
A blackness so sudden descended as if
The stars had shut their eyes fast like falling trapdoors.
We saw next day trees plucked from the back of earth
Like chicken feathers and everybody’s business
Drawn out of homes like entrails; headless palms
Stacked in rows like victims of a medieval inquisition,
Innocence sent to the guillotine for just being there.
Battered faces of villages, broken branches
Of family trees bent over, moaning lost ones.
Beheaded houses groaning, liberated rooftops
Menacing their former masters.
The day was smashed to seconds
From metropolis factories and friendly neighbours,
We could only live one at a time.
Paradise was lost in the gale
(Awe and ugly of a beached whale)
An instant garden of Eden blossomed
Carpeted with fallen fruit,
Cultured beauty destroyed
All walked at one with their nakedness.
Where all the men were of one calling,
Carpenters rebuilding the spirit of togetherness,*
And all the women gatherers
Rounding up possessions rejected by the storm,
Making head counts of the children.
Sifting through the workday
Ground to a halt
To find permanence,
I saw looters
Who had proclaimed the island
One vast self-service store.
Was paradise found?
(UPDATE: The line marked * is taken from version 2 and substituted for “Architects redesigning the spirit of togetherness” of version 1)