Wednesday, February 17, 2010


In Haiti, they used to say, ghosts, spirits
passed through doorways at the beginning
of each new hour...
Phebus Etienne

Always a hill
becomes the Savior
of the defenseless, the half- lit
ruins and trees.

On its seaside shoulder,
The Villa Creole survives.
Terrace walls surround the pool
and catch shadows of women
praying, moringa leaves ---perhaps
waving in memories
of those who have vanished.

A long hallway leads
into the lobby dividing its chaos.
Debris and dazed people
fill each side. The owner, himself,
surveys the decimated splendor:
marble ash, shutters broken
like ribs where a breath
of color rises above the dark
slats of plantation wood.

A mural
shows a blue river heading
toward the hillside pines
while an egret lifts his wings
before the sun; but the second bird
in this scene has fallen off,
turned to dust or.....

the proprietor hesitates
and looks across the floor.
He sees a Haitian girl
unfurled almost floating
in this white assemblage of scarf
camisole and underskirts.--

her spirit already flown
or about to rise
in the humid dusk,

the wind cooler
shaking light flecks of rain
in its palm.

note -- The painting is called "Nigel's Gate" by American artist, George K. Gifford.

The poem is not based , at all on the painting, but on an article I read some time back on CNN's news page. It talked abou the "Villa Creole" which was still standing after the earthquake. High on a hill, it served as lodging, news station,
triage unit and information center for those entering its doors. This was in the first week of the disaster. Much of itsbeautiful art and some decor was lost or damaged in the quake. For the most part, the structure was viable and offered shelter to many.

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