We ask about our people and they tell us the plight of boats
yachts smashed in the marina, ferries crashed into harbors
masts snapped, propellers bent, vessels drowned in coves.
They broadcast reports of water rising in hotel rooms
sand slipping into sheets where our cousins could never sleep
salt stains as testimony, spit-prints of the hurricane’s wrath.
Bodies are piling up in the morgues and instead
an elegy of boats
an inventory of industry, countdown
to when paradise can begin again.
So it seems when we’re no longer property
we become less than property
a nail sick with rust, jangling in high winds.
This would be a different story were it not
for ex(ile), whose sting swells when banished
in one’s own yard, barred
from the fruits of your mother’s land.
Inside ex(ile): tempests and fault lines
are developers’ wet dreams.
A mainland will sink its territory in debt
starve its subjects in the wake of storms
clearing ground for palaces on the shore.
Inside ex(ile): the body is only
as good as its technology
how it buckles in a field.
Inside ex(ile) is the ile
pushed across the Atlantic through Oya’s lips.
Place or shelter, sacred home.
We ask about our people and fill the silence with prayer
utterances rerouting to our climate’s first spirits:
Guabancex blowing furious winds, Huraca’n spiraling at the center.
Guatauba drenched in thunder and lightning.
Coatrisque of the deadly floods.
Spare our kin, we plead. Save your wrath for the profiteers.
Cast them from our archipelago, our ile ife of the seas
until home is a place we never have to leave.
Copyright © 2021 by Desiree C. Bailey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.