Hurricane Pages

A Place for Expression, A Place for Healing

Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath of destruction and controversy has inflicted more than physical devastation on its victims of the United States Gulf Coast; it is a national trauma whose economic, social, and emotional repercussions will resound through our culture for many years to come. In collaboration with the Reverend Beverly Dale and the Christian Association of the University of Pennsylvania, we at the Kelly Writers House have set up these pages as a forum for creative, written responses to this catastrophic sequence of events. If you or a friend have a poem or piece of prose (fiction or a memoir) that you would like to see included on this page, please send it as an attachment or in the body of an email to

Left Behind

Superdome, New Orleans
August 2005

Nine and ten thousand frightened, anxious folk
And then there were 25,000.

Some tourists who didn't get out,
Some white folks who should have got out.

But mostly, they are black.
And mostly, they are poor.
Young single mothers with too many babies.
Each one loved.
Each one a burden.
Young unemployed black men
Too much time then. Too much time now.
Too many friends of the wrong kind.
Grandmas at 35 and grandmas at 82
Distressed and immobilized
Wheelchairs and canes.
Old men, too poor for nursing homes,
Barely managing at home
Cannot cope in a reeking, wrecked stadium.

Headlines finally show the world the view.
Hurricanes show what is not really new.
Some are simply left behind.

Copyright © 2005 Beverly Dale
Executive Director of the Christian Association
University of Pennsylvania

Shook Asunder.

I am shook asunder
Katrina is not close but
what a blunder
trite tight lines
strips on screens
forecasters banter
easy to ignore un
til it tips and while I
warm in arms of
well to tell the truth
I was warm and (!)
—and calm and un
til that tv talk den
ted my warm un
til I watched.
My warm un
informed me
shrank before
the talking
heads splintering
talking box
News! Now not
stuff to skip, castoff
distance, dive in
to frenzymedia,
rewrought head
lines leaping, two dead
to seventy-two dead
to oh why
didn't they
get out oh yeah why
didn't I get out
of my box
when I heard
too? Now I know
well, there was thunder
I was shook
and what we all
are now is
blunder, under lost
shaken. what
are we kidding I'm just

lost. un
found, redound
to rebound to re
sound. Storm strikes
rebelling terrible truth.

Copyright © 2005 Moira Moody


Cape Cod, Sept. '05

The beat of waves receding at low tide
carved a bas relief of hectic curves.
The day, now warm and windless, still preserves
these graphs of drying crystals undefiled.

The wild storms down South that smashed the land
two thousand miles along the coast, and left
whole towns destroyed, a million souls bereft,
up here just wrote some fragile lines in sand.

But who can read the signs, know what they say?
Parents have taken children back to school,
no dog walkers happily break the rules,
the summer people all have gone away.

In calm of gold and blue, I hear alone
the rapid pulse of the sea, "Atone, atone."

Copyright © 2005 Adele Bourne

Dancing with Katrina

For Kalamu ya Salaam

Paddling through New Orleans,
past a shotgun house up to its threshold
in brine, a dog, paws folded, waits
on the roof of his owner's drowned
home, and stares across the river
at splintered houses in the shade
of pines, swaying in the wind
that keeled those sailboats
in the bay, leaning on each other
like partygoers after Mardi Gras,
when music filled the streets
like the laughter of those Creole
ladies, bright as Louis Armstrong's horn
that gave birth to this city,
dredged in the blues,
that hour by hour, rises from her despair,
and puts on her favorite torn stockings,
so when the waters go, as they will,
she will be ready to work
as she has always worked
with style, she will be ready to live
as she has always lived
with love, so she'll be ready
to welcome all of God's wayward
children into her arms again,
and dance with her stilettos in the mud.

Copyright © 2005 Geoffrey Philp
Author of Twelve Poems and a Story for Christmas and the novel Benjamin, My Son. Mr. Philp lives in Miami, Florida.

Backwater Blues

When it rains five days and the sky turns black as night;
When it rains five days and the sky turns black as night
Then trouble's takin' place in the lowlands at night.

I woke up this mornin' can't even get outta my do'
I woke up this mornin' can't even get outta my do'
There's enough trouble to make a poor girl wonder where she wanna go.

Then they rowed a little boat about five miles across the pond
Then they rowed a little boat about five miles across the pond
I packed all my clothes throwed 'em in and they rowed me along.

When it thunders and lightnin' and the wind begins to blow
When it thunders and lightnin' and the wind begins to blow
There's thousands of people ain't got no place to go.

Then I went and stood upon some high ol' lonesome hill
Then I went and stoof upon some high ol' lonesome hill
Then looked down on the house where I used to live.

Backwater Blues done called me to pack my things and go
Backwater Blues done called me to pack my things and go
'Cause my house fell down and I can't live there no mo'.

Ummmm, I can't move no more
Ummmm, I can't move no more
There ain't no place for a poor old girl to go.

Copyright © 1927 Bessie Smith


Simple me, I asked why
When they sliced-up the Continental pie
We got crumbs or none?

European answered:
Indians are not human.

EuroMerican chimed in:
Africans ain't men.

Redneck responded:
Nigger, you Know!

Conservative said:
Poor Colored Boys...SO.

Liberal Bleated:
Give Negroes a place in line,
After mine.

Progressive Pontificated:
African Americans are SO unsophisticated.

Radical Ruminated:
Black Fodder.

Then Katrina washed-out,
My remaining doubt:
Players have new names,
Same roles, old games.

Copyright © 9/21/2005 Kinard Lang


November 2, 2005: The Cutting

Having spent a considerable portion of your life in dealing with disappointments, fears caused by events and circumstances you did not invent, and the statistics of bad luck, you are not surprised that Dillard University terminated about 59% of its faculty and staff as of November 1. The institution was more severely devastated by Hurricane Katrina that you had estimated. $400 million in devastation is not chump change. As life-threatening as would be the misfortune of having your jugular vein sliced by a razor, the damage alarms you. It does not surprise. It just alarms like an impolite clock.

The fact that you are a tenured faculty member at Dillard does not shield you from the foreclosure of a future, a future in which whale-sized uncertainties swim. The future contains a surplus of unknowns. Yes, you too can be terminated by the iron rule of financial exigency. You too can join the parade of jobless Americans. Your pale security can be erased.

In a split-second the ground can disappear, and you can find yourself swirling in the storm of Kunstwollen and gazing at self-portraiture by Kathe Kollwitz and Oskar Kokoschar. Cliometrics, climate control, climax and closure. The letter/sound "K" is the key.

You are done and undone. Welcome at last to the working class. The rains and winds of change have issued you into history, handed you the tribulations of your ancestors. What is this? A stick of dynamite? Will you dare to light the fuse? Potentials. You can design an exit from the turmoil and trust God to be your witness. In a split-second your life could imitate your art.

The little voice that squeaks in the outhouse of consciousness says, "No. No. No." Remembering the students you love, you cut these threads. You decide in a split-second to let your art imitate your life.

Copyright © 2005 Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
Professor of English
Dillard Pennsylvania

Worth More than Less

sweeps across the nation
though missing some
Humans being treated inhumane
as some thing less
than what they are
as though life has suddenly become
worth less
than precious

And all of this in
The great
Red, white and blue

Some say, it's their fault
they should have left
when they were warned
Some say, why should the
gov't have saved those who
should have saved themselves

I say
who are you to judge
to become that
and the jury
on something you have not
known or lived
If you have no means
to leave
how do you go
If you have little to no
Resources to survive
how do you

Katrina Victims
of a natural disaster
and then again
of this country

Don't let what someone else
Attempted to do
to you
Define you
or how high you elevate
after sinking

You have survived
No matter what the country
Did or did not do
for you
Know from the demonstration of
love pouring
from the hearts, the souls of those
who gave for
to you
That you are valued far
Above the worth
or lack thereof
Which this country attempted
To place on you.

Stay strong and beautiful

Copyright © 2005 Erika Morgan


As dolphins glide through downtown New Orleans
above paved streets, does some race memory
resurface in their minds of similar scenes
from crushing floods of myth and history?
We're told that Jove and Yahweh punished man
for cruelty and hubris gone too far;
once more these mammals rule Earth for a span,
bemused at their aquatic Mardi Gras.

We don't deal much with Gods in modern times,
having our Mayors and Presidents to blame,
who may admit mistakes but never crimes,
though thousands die. And yet the end's the same:
in floods you drown or starve, as Ovid said.
Man's folly or God's will, you're still as dead.

Copyright © 2006 Anna Evans