In Haiti we have lots of problems; perhaps you've heard? That's what we're known for. On Wednesday I read an article in a local newspaper, Le Nouvelliste
, summarizing a report that came out a year ago (I'm not sure why they are just now writing about it) from the University of Boston about our local electrical company. (Here's the report
if you want to go read it.) That talked about problems, lots of them. An editorial
showed that the paper found all of it as depressing as I did; it refers to "the desire of all of us to go looking for light elsewhere" ("notre envie à tous d'aller chercher la lumière ailleurs
My first thought when I read that was: "Let's look for light here
!" but I know how privileged I am to have some backup electricity for those long nights with no city power. The report says that only between 20 and 40% of the households in this country have any electricity connection at all. (And please, what kind of range is "between 20 and 40%?")
I went looking for a Caribbean poet writing about the extraordinary light we have here, fading our clothes as they flap on the clotheslines. That's the kind of light we can count on, because nobody can corrupt it or steal it and keep it for themselves, and I can count on Derek Walcott to write about it:
by Derek Walcott
A grey dawn, dun. Rain-gauze shrouding the headlands.
A rainbow like a bruise through cottony cumuli.
Then, health! Salvation! Sails blaze in the sun.
A twin-sailed shallop rounding Pigeon Island.
This line is my horizon.
I cannot be happier than this.
Derek Walcott isn't writing of Haiti, but of his own beautiful island, Santa Lucia, but the quality of the light is much the same. I don't want to downplay Haiti's problems, because they are many and people's lives are terribly difficult. I don't want to pretend that the sunshine makes up for the rest. Of course it doesn't. But the sunshine is beautiful, just the same.
Here's another poem to underline some of the things the rest of the world could learn from the Caribbean, or specifically Barack Obama from Derek Walcott:
The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Was he looking for St. Lucia's light
to touch his face those first days
in the official November snow & sleet
falling on the granite pose of Lincoln?
If he were searching for property lines
drawn in the blood, or for a hint
of resolve crisscrossing a border,
maybe he'd find clues in the taste of breadfruit.
I could see him stopped there squinting
in crooked light, the haze of Wall Street
touching clouds of double consciousness,
an eye etched into a sign borrowed from Egypt.
If he's looking for tips on basketball,
how to rise up & guard the hoop,
he may glean a few theories about war
but they aren't in The Star-Apple Kingdom.
If he wants to finally master himself,
searching for clues to govern seagulls
in salty air, he'll find henchmen busy with locks
& chains in a ghost schooner's nocturnal calm.
He's reading someone who won't speak
of milk & honey, but of looking ahead
beyond pillars of salt raised in a dream
where fat bulbs split open the earth.
The spine of the manifest was broken,
leaking deeds, songs & testaments.
Justice stood in the shoes of mercy,
& doubt was bandaged up & put to bed.
Now, he looks as if he wants to eat words,
their sweet, intoxicating flavor. Banana leaf
& animal, being & nonbeing. In fact,
craving wisdom, he bites into memory.
The President of the United States of America
thumbs the pages slowly, moving from reverie
to reverie, learning why one envies the octopus
for its ink, how a man's skin becomes the final page.
I found that poem here
Heidi's roundup. She's taking on the destruction of the planet today, and who better to do it?