Thursday, January 14, 2010

...if we just let it be

So much going on in the world...we lost another powerhouse voice. Teddy Pendergrass, of his own and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes fame, passed away. Radio has been playing old interviews and I think clips (like the one above) that feature his voice in its purest form are the best testament to his gift.

Listening to "Wake Up Everybody" this morning, I couldn't help thinking about those in Haiti. It's always difficult to tell who can help and how we can do something but there are are few links swirling around the web, so I'll post them here:

American Red Cross

Doctors Without Borders

Save the Children - Donate to help the children of Haiti.

Partners in Health - One of the largest nongovernmental health care providers in Haiti.

Yele - Grammy-Award winning musician, humanitarian and Goodwill Ambassador to Haiti Wyclef Jean founded Yéle Haiti in 2005.

Lambi Fund of Haiti - The fund channels financial and other resources to community-based organizations that promote the social and economic empowerment of the Haitian people.

Event: Bowery Poetry Club's Haiti Earthquake Relief Fundraiser
Start Time: Saturday, January 16 at 10:00pm
End Time: Sunday, January 17 at 4:00am
Where: The Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery (Between Houston and Bleecker) F train to 2nd Ave, 6 to Bleecker 212-614-0505

I've recently begun teaching another poetry workshop and part of my task this term will be to try to convince my students that poetry is a necessary entity in all our lives. In times of love, in times of distress, in times of fear, in times of elation, everyone turns to poetry. This morning, I've begun re-reading the poems of my friend Phebus Etienne who passed away a few years ago. She was born in Port-au-Prince and wrote often about heritage, family, home. Her attention to detail is what always strikes me the most. I think--in the wake of the uncontrollable and in these last days--more often than not we are forced to piece together what minuscule details we have of those we've loved and lost:

Preparations for the Afterlife

In the doorway of an attic, a daughter stood between guilt and uncertainty. How could she exit, eliminate rent income to an uncle, multiply distance from few living blood relations?Her mother had not been prone to doubt. She had packed for diaspora in one suitcase and left Port-au-Prince with warning to none.

Sirens drowned creaking eaves, but she heard her mother’s voice giving precise direction. Cotton on Main Street should handle the arrangements. Red petals are for the joyful, unprepared to leave. No reception after the funeral. The bedroom set should go to someone in need. Keep the white sheets I bought for last days in Haiti.

Mandates were delivered with panorama of slights and rivalries. Her mother tallied debts owed, resolving, For any good I did, for being caretaker, no regrets. Her exhausted eyes mirrored the future like a sage reading bones. Mwen pa vlé kité ou pou kont ou. Yo pap aidé ou. The daughter did not accept this prediction of aloneness until divisions solidified, until some became angry when nothing was left in their names, until she embraced legal threats for unpaid medicals, until she listed what was worth selling, until visitor passes to her sick room idled at a front desk while staples burned a horizontal scar on her uterus. You have been present and useful, so love for you will be measured by conditions. Viv tankou moun ki pa gen fenmi.

She played her mother’s last instruction like a favorite ballad. She parceled clothing, unworn shoes to a Miami ministry and hauled mattress and box spring to a friend in Brooklyn. The daughter sealed embroidered linen in plastic as if afraid they would dissipate like clouds. Movers loaded belongings unto a truck and as the October wind rattled oak leaves to the path at her heel, she began saving her own life.

Mwen pa vlé kité ou pou kont ou. Yo pap aidé ou. - I don’t want to leave you alone. They will not help you.

Viv tankou moun ki pa gen fenmi. – Live like someone without a family.

--Phebus Etienne