Words about the Disasters and words from Houston’s Poet Laureate
Posted by Rev Roger
Posted on September 10, 2017
My Introduction to the Reading
The news has been full of disasters and impending disasters. Many of us are worried about our loved ones or beloved places in the storm zones of Texas, Florida, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Caribbean island nations. Many are worried about people whose lives were already precarious before disasters hit. Less prominent in the news media but also horrifying, there have been a recent earthquake and tsunami in Mexico, and mudslides in Sierra Leone, and other devasatations in cities and villages in India, Nepal, Niger, and so on.
All of this can seem overwhelming. We can feel helpless when we take in the stories and images of places familiar or distant ravaged by winds and floods. Yet we can overcome a sense of weakness by choosing to bear witness to the hard times, to respond with care, to send money or love. In Texas and Florida, local first-responders and state and federal governments are devoting resources to the relief efforts. This public support is a reflection of the inter-dependence that exists among all people residing in all states of this country. Many relief agencies and local not-for-profit organizations also rise to the occasion, including Unitarian Universalist congregations and our national denomination, in partnership with the UU Service Committee.
On the ground in Houston, the First Unitarian Church is repairing damage to its own buildings while it is also giving money and volunteer support to Houston’s Emergency Aid Coalition, a close community partner of the congregation. The Coalition is giving food, water, clothing and shelter to the newly homeless in Houston, as well as those neighbors who were already homeless long before the storm known as Hurricane Harvey. If you wish to help out, you can find out how on our own website www.uuss.org/Updates or you can leave a check with our office and we will forward it to the UUA.
Helping others is one way to find our out of a sense of being overwhelmed and to grow into a sense of inter-dependence, hope, and human possibility. Another source of hope is to build connections through creativity. This is why we come together in this community, week after week, month after month, coming together as a shared spiritual practice.
This is why artists create and write and speak and sing. The human family has endured so much, yet the human spirit has always found ways to respond with creativity, generosity, courage, hope and love.
Text of the Poem
The following poem was written by the poet laureate of Houston, Deborah DEEP Mouton, and she read it on BBC Radio, saying, “This is for those that Harvey left.” You can see and listen to her online at this link.
We are not the first to feel the tyranny of tide,
From India to Nepal, Niger to Mumbai.
We have watched the waters’ chest swell with power,
Its fist raised against innocent coastlines like a biblical flood.
We have held our children close when it whispered a wave into the gulf,
Hoping it would never fully command the sea.
When the water rushed in it did not ask our political agenda, it did not care about our sexual orientation, did not force us to say what we did and did not worship.
It built itself into an altar and leveled us to our knees just the same.
The stream knows how to equalize;
The current knows how to wash out an entire culture.
We held on; through three nights of wrath,
Our trees catapulted against our roofs
The ground fading farther away
Our fences gnarled in fury
Our cars subjugated to the water.
When Neptune raised his trident in our direction
We held our breath like a sinking ship.
In Houston where the grief of loss and the weight of surviving bear the same burden,
We have decided we will not be a lost city.
Over 3,000 of us like bleeding lone star branded ourselves at
George R. Brown Convention Center with hands outstretched to help
Thousands more tethering themselves to provide local aid.
Today Houston is not destitute.
It is a hope-brimming pan, it is a rodeo and rip tide waiting to re-emerge.
If we have learned anything, it is how the current can bend us back to human.
How a miracle can manifest as canned goods and a smile.
We can water the graves of those lost without drowning in the sorrow and it is a heavy thing but not unbearable.
The rivers can take our streets but never wash off this Texan pride.
The Rivers can take our roads but never have the bigger-than-normal hope.
The waters can flatten us down into a puddle of tears, but even that means we can still feel.
So we haven’t lost everything, we just have it all to gain, again.