Remembering Katrina

Poems in response to Hurricane Katrina.


When Katrina clobbered New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I was in New York City, left speechless and humbled, and never thought I'd write a word about my confused, angry feelings.

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Third Heaven

We stayed, living with no electricity or water and no food except what my wife and I found in the Episcopal Church parish hall or obtained from the Salvation Army. We relied on our few neighbors who stayed behind; we relied on ourselves. We relied on God.

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"Cannot Fish or Swim. How the hell are we supposed to feed our kids now?" As I drive through Grand Isle with my father, I write down the messages. The signs are hand-lettered on poster board, on plywood, spray-painted and stuck on electrical poles, nailed to fences. Expressing frustration and revealing loss, the signs all over Grand Isle show citizens' response to the oil spill firsthand.

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The Raft of Medusa

After Katrina, my partner, Tim, and I, along with my father and his girlfriend, ended up in Austin, where we stayed until early December. Tim and I were lucky—neither our apartment nor Tim's business flooded—but the school where I taught wasn't open and, aside from a few friends who went back early, there wasn't really a city to return to yet.

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The Poem

After Hurricane Georges I had promised by friend, the Colonel, that I would help her. Because of the sudden turn in Katrina, we waited until Sunday to evacuate. During stops on the three hours it took to exit New Orleans, I walked her dachshund. The sky, the lush green, was effervescent.

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Poem Found

As Hurricane Katrina approached Grand Isle, thirty miles from my hometown of Galliano, I was in New Haven, teaching at Yale Divinity School for a semester. I was staying in a student apartment alone with no television. I called my family in Thibodaux often to check on them. Eventually they evacuated to New Iberia, a few hours to the west.

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Ode to Contractors Possessing Various Levels of Expertise

I didn't write any poetry after Katrina, not for months. In fact, still with me, in a backpack stuffed with insurance receipts, is what I had been using as my before-the storm poetry notebook. It was about halfway filled with drafts and notes. These entries stop abruptly and are followed by a fan of blank pages.

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Litany of Our Lady

I was fortunate. I was able to go home to New Orleans after only a six-week exile—my house and possessions untouched by the storm. Most New Orleanians, however, weren't nearly so lucky. And all of us—returnees and emigrants alike—are living still in the aftermath of the floods of 2005. We bear all manner of physical, mental and soul-sickness, confronted at the same time with a medical community woefully ill-equipped to treat us and operating under its own heightened stresses.

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