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But it isn’t my home,
now slowly melting down
to sweeten the sea.”

~ Sara Cress: Poem for the Louisiana Flood

A family tries to recover belongings from their home in Central, La., a suburb of Baton Rouge. Photo: David Grunfeld, AP Photo

Unprecedented and unexpected, the storm came like a hurricane with neither wind nor a name, but a relentless, record-breaking rain that over the course of four days wreaked havoc in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  According to Scientific American, this is a “once-in-a-1,000-year event” that has killed 11 people and displaced tens of thousands. The Governor’s office reports that 40,000 homes are damaged and at least 10,000 people are living in shelters. Over 30,000 people have been rescued, but they cannot be certain how many people are still stranded, waiting to be rescued.

The summer of 2016 has been deadly for Baton Rouge. In July, two white police officers fatally shot at  a black man, Alton Sterling. Twelve days later, in the protests on the streets of Baton Rouge, a shooter killed three of the city’s police officers. In a city still reeling from loss, the rains came and ravaged it some more.

We watch from afar, horrified and hoping we can do something with our prayers and donations of blood and money. We stop to count our blessings that we are safe. We find our better selves as Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy explained in her response to the earthquake in Haiti, that poetry is as powerful as prayer, that its language is where we find our humanity:

Poetry is the music of being human. We turn to poetry at intense moments in our lives ~ when we lose people, or are bereaved, we look for a piece of music or a poem to read at the funeral, or when we fall in love we turn to poetry, or when children are  born. And I think that can happen at moments of public grief too, as well as personal. It is so close to prayer, it is the most intense use of language that there is. It is the perfect art form for public or private grief.

Far from Haiti, Sondra Honora lost her home in the Louisiana flood, the home of her dreams and for which she saved for years. She started out dependent on government subsidies and used Section 8 vouchers to live in apartments and rentals, until in 2012 she could finally afford her own garden home with three bedrooms and a fireplace – her American dream off Old Hammond Highway. Getting the keys to that house was the best day of her life, and now it is gone.

Honore and her daughter, Ciera, are bus drivers for East Baton Rouge Parish. They have no flood insurance, no home, and no livelihood now that the buses are flooded as well. A poem, a prayer for her – forever –  from poet Sara Cress



I saved.
Not a penny spent
on frivolous things,
I forgot the taste of candy.
And when I walked in that front door I said, “finally!”
That floor under my bare feet was sweeter
than ten years of spun sugar.
Funny how it dissolves
like that
like one second
atoms switch around
and you fall right through.
They’re so nice here,
we don’t hear the rain,
they’re bringing us fruit,
and I laugh with the baby so I don’t cry.
But it isn’t my home,
now slowly melting down
to sweeten the sea.

How to Help Louisiana Flooding Victims