Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Poet in the World - Thinking About Haiti Tonight

There is a simple phrase common in Palestine and echoed in one of my favorite films, Paradise Now when Said, the main character, asks "why us"? In the film's context, in the Middle East context, it is a philosophical question.

Tonight I think that question equally applies to the people of Haiti. In the 1990's I worked for Amnesty International and learned about the human rights nightmare of Baby Doc's regime. In Boston, where I lived at the time and where I'm from, there is a large Haitian population. One of the main issues at the time was the Haitian boat people - we worked to show that the people who risked their lives on rickety motor boats with homemade engines were refugees. I worked with a woman whose father had been killed by the government because he spoke out after his friend disappeared. The woman who I worked with had found her father's body left on the doorstep the morning of her 16th birthday. Within days, her mother had found a way to send all six children to the States because she feared for the family.

And today Haiti is in the news again. I am giving what I can (not much at this time of year) to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) because I still believe if everyone reached out, we could make a difference. MSF is an organization I believe in because I have seen their work in Africa and they have been in Haiti for a long time. Some of their staff are missing. Everyone has someone missing. It's times like this that being a poet just doesn't seem enough.

In my first book, The Cartographer's Tongue, I published a poem titled "Haiti" dedicated to my friend who lost her father. I will quote just a stanza of it here.

There are no words to remember
No beginning or end to this day.
Her mother puts them on the boat
nodding good-bye from the dock,
I will join you.
The girl wonders when they became flecks
of glass, bits of color thrown out to sea.


Think about giving a donation tonight - even if it's the equivalent of a latte or a lunch out. Not only is it the right thing to do, it feels good. Here's the link to the latest information from Doctors Without Borders.


  1. thanks, susan. it was a hard day. i can't imagine what it's like for all those affected first-hand. gerie

  2. So much hardship, so hard to fathom it all. Thank you for the grace of your words.

  3. Esther, Lana, Moxieg, Thank you!