April 25, 2014
Weight of Silence

White Jeep parting people

in Port-au-Prince streets

like the Red Sea

as we drive toward

the mountain,

toward air devoid of

exhaust fume velvet curtains.

At a stop sign I see her,

a plastic bag seemingly filled

with plastic bags

perched upon her

bandana crown

hand atop clamped down.


We leave the mountains

the next morning,

a small bird takes us

to Jeremie, rural west,

“City of Poets.”

We walk down hill

from the university

guest house

our light coloring

causing stares and photos.

Before us—an onyx goddess

all black sheen and defined muscle

in back-to-basics shorts and tank top

a large blue plastic cooler

resting effortlessly upon her head

in the vibrating heat.

“Ju!” she calls. Water.


Along dirt roads to the guest house,

to the university

we see a roughhewn wooden casket

carried to its resting ground,

a Caribbean Sea beach

garbage dump—

soaring Christmas tree compiled

of corroded metal chairs,

women washing laundry

in murky river water,

pack mules hauling

bundles of straw

that flank both sides.

Women hauling

enormous bundles of straw

wound with cloth

upon their heads—

women, eyes

the dryness of straw,

carrying, carrying.


After a week

of brushing teeth

with bottled water,

cold water showers,

Hurricane Sandy

and tadpole water

collected in buckets,

Hurricane dampness

turning our book pages

to damp paper towels,

Tempest taking away

our class time,

tucking away

students’ shacks

within its fury,

never to return them,

we ride to the airport.

An old woman walks

with a wooden table

complete with wares

upon her head,

from nowhere to little more,

smaller woman behind,

chair hoisted upon her own.


-Janine Harrison (Lake County)

Janine Harrison

Janine Harrison, who teaches at Purdue University Calumet and is president of the not-for-profit organization, Indiana Writers’ Consortium, lives in Highland.  She is anthologized in Veils, Halos and Shackles:  International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women; her work has also appeared in A&U, Blotterature, and other journals.  

Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!

Posted In: Poetry

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