Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Painted Lady

(for the Haitian people)


The wind whispers no warning,

spirits within are unaware but still

they rouse in incomprehensible insomnia,

Ancestors have no sign to give.

The Painted Lady is coming

bringing the taste of dust to our lips.

The aftershocks of all our losses

reverberate, tremble us and

we are brought to our knees

with dust, earth, rubble.

Dust and ancestors and bones and dust and pain and desire

and dust and freedom and dust and slavery and dust.

Suffocating dust of dream-like ghosts

freed from earth when rumbling begins.

Tectonic shifts and plates grinding

like old bones of dead ancestors.

The Painted Lady has come,

walks among us – living and dead and dust.


Dust settles among us, in every crevice

snowing upon the city, quieting

blanketing muffled cries, sobs,

crash of walls, screams of injured,

lost darkness survivors,

boom of exploding electrical boxes,

chasms shifting below.

Silent dust permeating every space

talcum fine baby powder dust

coating the cilia of hairs in nose and lungs

rising in a cloud like the second coming.

See the woman in the distance,

painted like a tribal dancer?

Dust, blood thicken upon her.

The Painted Lady is here.


She stands and absorbs the dust, blood,

rubble, bodies.

Spirits of ancestors, of earth, rock, trees wander

confused by her presence.

Why has she called them forth with no warning

what does she want with her dust and destruction?

Dust thickens upon them in the wake of questions

but soon the tears will flow, leave tracks, bring the

living rain and thicken the dust to mud.


Dust and mud, not the mud of beauty, of spas.

This mud will not erase worry, age, illness.

Mud born of disaster, like their cousin Katrina,

born of poverty, mud under the nail of the oppressor’s thumb.

Mud of despair, of hopelessness

mud in your pores, in your blood.

Corpses piling in roadways, mud, dust,

families vanished, dust, mud, collapsed buildings,

dust, mud, infected drinking water, mud, dust,

hunger, dust, backalley amputations, mud, blood,

sleeping on streets, dust, mud, tears, anguish, mud, dust

muffled cries of despair mud, dust settle

before the last tremors take down the hopes of the living.


The Painted Lady vanishes into confusion,

her open lips blow dust one last time

leave us with the taste of her kiss,

and leave her words in our mouths

YĆ©le Haiti.


  1. wow. the two parts combined seemlessly. powerful stuff.

  2. Epic and I can see that woman's face you showed me from your inspiration when I read about her. I wasn't expecting such a big poem but I like the "sections" you used to make it like chapters in a disaster story. Moment to moment or day by day it unfolds.