Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Featured Poet: Greta Bolger

Greta Bolger's poem "The Vodou Afterlife" is published in No Fresh Cut Flowers, an Afterlife Anthology.  I asked her what inspired the poem and this is what she said:

"This poem came about at the intersection of my passions and obsessions: the often unbelievable cruelty of life, the total unknowability of death, and our fundamental need to believe that there is someone who cares about us out there somewhere. When, in early 2010, I heard the coverage of Haiti's earthquake on NPR (another passion), I was inspired to do further research into the beliefs of Vodouisants in Haiti and to imagine how desperately they must pray for relief from the calamities that continue to beset their country, how abandoned they must feel in this life, and how ready to welcome the next. Though most of us will never experience anything remotely as horrific as the people of Haiti have, I hope the poem conveys compassion for the inevitable physical and spiritual suffering of this life and hope for a better deal in the afterlife."

The Vodou Afterlife

If we believed, as NPR says the Haitians do,
in 16 reincarnations, half as men,
half as women, with a year and a day
in "the water" between each,
we could live for 800 years,

give or take, with a different body
each time, so that even when earthquakes
come, and hurricanes, and heart attacks,
even when help is hard to come by,
there is always next time, another chance

to hear what the rocks say, sense how the trees feel,
to learn again what the animals know.
Vodouisants are smart enough to know
that their big guy god, Bondye, is far distant
from creation, and cannot be held accountable,

so they send their prayers to the loa,
lesser spirits, like Papa Legba,
the guardian of the crossroads,
Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love, Simbi,
the spirit of rain and magicians,

Guede, the guardian of death.
They don't stick pins, not anymore, but
make fake people out of discarded shoes
and nail them on trees near the cemetery,
messengers to the otherworld, to say hello,

maybe, or help us out with these hurricanes,
or send us some rain in this unbreathable heat,
or give us strong magic, or to scream enough
with the crossroads already, we're already dead.
Send water, Erzulie Freda. Send shovels.

Greta's contributor's note for No Fresh Cut Flowers is located on the Poet's page of this blog.  To order a copy of the book, go here.

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