Mudslide and a brief reflection


It rained hard all night.
I was at my aunt’s.
I was getting some rice.
It was for the children.
The hill came down during the night.
There was a big bang.
It sounded like a million sticks of dynamite.
I tried to get out but the door wouldn’t open.
It was blocked by mud and rushing water.
There was a hole in the roof.
I made it bigger.
I climbed out.
Everything was crooked, buried, gone.
It was like the end of the world.
I prayed right then.
I don’t know what I said.
I was crazy-scared.
My house was moving.
It was like it was alive.
I just sat tight.
I called out in fear.
My voice sounded like a bird.
I was an eagle.
I swooped over what was left of the hill.
I saw some people looking up.
They saw me.
They waved.
It was very sad.
I watched them waving.
I think it was my uncle.
What could I do for him?
I flew away.

Reflection: This is a new poetic form I am experimenting with. Each line is a sentence. It seems to trigger a simpler, more naive and open voice. The mudslide in Sierra Leone was much more than that. For the people who lost loved ones, friends and neighbors, it was an indescribable catastrophe. I read a first-person account by a survivor who was care-taking a house at the base of the hill. Like other survivors, his story resembled a nightmarish dream of chaos, upheaval, collapse and numbing disbelief. His account inspired this poem which I see as a metaphor of world collapse, which many of us might be able to identify with as we experience the structures of our own world shifting, collapsing and dissolving around us. The bird is a symbol of the human spirit that is neither victim nor perpetrator in this chapter of American dysfunction. Perhaps things have to fail before they can get better.


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