This week is the 5 years anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricane's in our country's histoy. Over 1,800 people lost their lives, and tens of thousands more lost their homes and livelihoods. While the hurricane itself was a natural disaster, the devastation was a manmade disaster. If we insist on placing people in a hurricane-prone place below sea level and yet refuse to build up the levees to the safety standards required--especially as global warming threatens to make these storms stronger--we have no right rebuilding.
I was living in the Washington D.C. area when the events of Hurricane Katrina unfolded. Our workplace watched the coverage on the television. Only a few months later, Congress passed a budget bill that deeply cut into services offered to our impoverished citizens--including the victims of Hurricane Katrina. This occurred off the radar. I wrote about it on my blogspace on Etalkinghead, and it was subsequently picked up for publication by Z Magazine...
Anyway, this past June, I wrote a poem about Katrina, and I thought it would be appropriate to post it here, as a more powerful way to honor those who suffered through (and/or succumbed to) the storm, rather than summon up an op-ed style soapbox. So, here it is:
Katrina, my mind still stops at the sight of your dilapidated doorways, the mold you have enmeshed between scores of floor boards & wall boards, speckled onto ceilings
And encrusted between the bone and marrow of America...
Mementos left in the wake of your wrath.
For what caused you to rain down such rage during the dog-eared days of August's end, there are many theories that range
From Climate change,
To conflicted ocean currents,
To God's reckoning against a town too much taken with
Beads, bare breasts and bourbon.
But I offer it was an invitation misinterpreted as irony:
Lean levees stacked together like playing cards, no stronger than starched sheets, beyond which lay poor black folk you could pummel,
while budget-cutting politicians strummed air-guitar elsewhere, and fat-cat casino owners flew to higher ground.
Or was it the wasted wetlands that caught your eye,
that you knew would fail to suck up the vast volume of your venom,
so dessicated were they from our willing degradation?
And I remeber the pictures, pictures of people:
sun-baked, sweat-streaked people...
parched children clinging to the the tendrils of their mothers' tattered tank tops--no food or formula to calm their collective colic...
near-catatonic elderly to week to speak or blink...
sharing the street corners with dead bodies draped in makeshift sheets, while on another road dead bloated bodies floated facedown in rising waters.
A few weeks later I learned that most of the animal shelters in the area planned ahead and transported their non-human charges safely out of state before the storm set down...while we stuffed our own citizens into a stadium like sardines into a can, or cattled being penned for slaughter...
The buses came only after the casualties, as did our own regret.
But still, we call them refugees, as though this country never knew them.
And five years later, I still can't make sense of you,
and wonder what sadistic, cosmic kin you must keep
that would now allow oil to seep up on the same shores,
swallowing up life like some horror movie blob,
ravaging resurrecting towns till
they're deemed nothing more than living rot.