Hurricain Katrina devestated a city I was immensely fond of in 2005- this was the poem that I wrote afterwards.


Long She lay upon the Delta, warm and lazy in the sun

Long before the busy White Ones came with whisky, beads, and guns

She was home to fox and ‘gator, secret mole and cunning snake

And the Tchoupitoulas Indians built their wickiaps by the lake

Life was good there for the Indian, close to nature, wild and free

Then the White Ones came to settle from their lands across the sea

Built they houses, did the White Ones, built of stone and plastered brick

And there upon the high ground came the rest and clustered thick

Came the trader, came the trapper, one to sell and one to buy

Came the thieves and whores and gamblers quick to steal it. Then the sky

Growled over them with thunder, wind and lightning followed fast,

And the waters rose upon them till Her mood was safely past


Then the Whites called in their wise men, called in workers by the score

Built the levees and the barricades along the water’s shore

Tamed the river (as they boasted) made the lakeshore safe (they thought)

And they built and built more houses on the new dry land they’d bought

Then She yawned and gently mocked them, with a mother’s tender smile,

When her children build sandcastles where the tide has gone awhile.

They were clever, were the White Ones, smart as foxes, then and now

Brought the Black Men there for servants when the Indian would not bow

Chained and beaten were the Black Men, sold like cattle, sold for gain

Yet within their hearts was music born of loneliness and pain

Oh yes at first was hatred, and the races kept apart,

Till one by one She touched them, made Her magic in each heart

Made the Whites a little browner, made the Blacks bit more white,

As they found each others’ beauty in the warm and secret night.


Then faraway in Washington, a government awoke

To the bit of Southern Territory owned by foreign folk

They were dry men, dry and hollow, counted acres, counted beans

And they bought Louisiana and the city New Orleans

Did She care who owned Her? Who was faithless? Who had sinned?

It was all just so much chatter, bits of paper in the wind

What were governments and treaties? What were wars and rude alarums?

She knew well who were Her people, kept them safely in Her arms

She awoke each heart to music, if the soul was there to sing,

Gave them art and love and laughter, and old gods for honouring

Turned the cold and fogs of winter to the blaze of Carnival

And death’s grief became rejoicing if the grief was there at all


But like a woman She had sisters, though They walked in different form,

And the greatest One was mistress all of tempest rain and storm

With a sibling’s bitter envy, this One said, ‘O sister fair,’

‘I gone brew a little breeze up, blow the nits from out you hair’

The air was churned, the clouds grew black, the waves to rags were torn

And out upon the great Gulf Sea, an awful wind was born

Then word was passed from the hollow men, from those who counted beans

That the mother of all storms was headed straight for New Orleans

Oh, some packed up and tried to leave, and some fell on their knees

And prayed both high and lowly. But what prayers could appease

A Power like the Hurricane or swerve it from its path?

Yet still, She heard, and tried Her best, to calm her sister’s wrath


Who knows what sort of deal was struck between those awful kin?

For the storm’s worst fury passed Her by, then let the waters in.

And some were drowned and buried and their houses washed away

But those within Her heart were saved to face the bitter day

Leaderless and scared they clung to shelter if they could

And lost among the wreckage searched for water and for food

The strong preyed on the weak ones, fearful deeds were daily done

And the dead piled up unburied in the equatorial sun


In Washington the hollow men sent troops from near and far

While the Chief of them played Country tunes upon his gilt guitar

They brought guns instead of water, body bags in place of bread

And told them all they had to leave, the living and the dead

For those who loved New Orleans there was pain and bitter tears

For it seemed that the rebuilding, if at all, might last for years

But gradually the levees rose, the filth was pumped away,

As helicopters dipped and rose like dragonflies at play

The State Police in boredom ceased to knock on shattered doors

The troops yawned in their tanks and jeeps and dreamed of other wars

The lights came on by ones and twos, and sparkled in the night

While News Crews packed their bags and left like vultures taking flight

And those who fled to exile or survived the Super Dome

Await the day She calls at last Her chastened children home.