Editor’s Note: Following is a poem written by Yale Divinity School student Kyle Brooks ’05 B.A., ’08 M.A., ’12 M.Div. that he read at Yale’s “Help Can’t Wait” benefit concert for victims of the Haiti earthquake, held Jan. 18 in Woolsey Hall.
“A Letter to Haiti”
I woke up this morning and realized I only seem to think of you
when something goes wrong.
So I apologize if this feels a little forced.
But it dawned on me that the only difference between you, me and the Dominican Republic is that our colonizers spoke different languages.
So I should act more like my brother’s keeper and not a distant cousin.
Before 7 points on richter’s scale became 7 stones about your neck, you were the unsinking ship whose bow stood on shaking waves,
whose refusal to die gave me courage to live.
You, back unbroken from Duvalier dictatorship,
found sweet justice distilled from fate’s bitter misery.
Yours is the cry of a mother grieved,
her children stillborn casualties returned to the womb of her soil.
Others, suspended beneath crumbled monuments of former lives.
I cry for unknown bodies with histories written on furrowed brows,
their poetry swallowed beneath mass graves and tire tracks.
I incline my ear to the Creoles spilling from your lips,
translating faint cries from silent screams.
Yours is a language born of struggle,
foreign tongues untied to free truth from timeworn shackles.
Break forth and reverberate like echoes in the endless chasm of the world’s mind.
Etch your story on the tables of my heart,
so that the beating of my breast makes visceral covenant with your soul.
Rouse me from the slumber of my comfort,
and awaken me to the rumble of your belly,
masked beneath earth’s quake.
Make manifest those needs most human,
lest I believe that lit candles and latent kumbayas become bread for hungry mouths
Beat your drums ‘til skins stretched taut on wooden shells rupture barriers of sound.
Cleave songs of yearning from soft palates and make melodic remembrance.
Dance your bodies into rapture transcendent.
Pluck heartstrings with knowing fingers ‘til resonance makes residence in all of creation,
‘til alarm is known in the cosmos.
Lift your eyes, dear Haiti.
Vous avez des yeux commes les etoile en la ciel
You have eyes like the stars in the sky.
In the darkness of your struggle, vision becomes your beauty,
your hope of safe shore across the sea of time.
Rise to your feet, arms extended,
And grasp the hand of God.
Be transformed and walk ‘til your footprints trace veins from Port au Prince to humanity’s heart.
We sing no funeral dirge,
no elegy for your demise,
for you must live on.
Rise, and we shall call you blessed.