Desolation by Elaine Nadal


Letters are written on tossed paper towels.
The trees hunch their shoulders.
Their trunks have too many carvings.
They have been stripped bare.
The fruit is gone.
There isn’t enough light for planting.
Darkness offers companionship,
an invitation to fly.
Feet hang at the edge of balconies
for even a messiah gets hungry
after forty days and forty nights.
How long must one beg for bread?
Who will build houses for birds with broken wings?
And if one must not live on bread alone,
from where does one draw water?
Proclaiming progress is hard with dry lips.
Dawn has become pale.
It wears yesterday’s clothes,
and the trees can’t bear to watch
spirits, once filled with music and dance,
become silent, returning to the ground they love,
but can no longer recognize.

by Elaine Nadal

Poet’s Note: I wrote this poem after watching a video posted by The New York Times on Saturday, January 6, concerning the mental health crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. It was devastating for me to learn that many Puerto Ricans are considering suicide. They need help, and I feel helpless.

Editor’s Note: The unanswered questions and stark imagery in this poem heighten the narrator’s lack of agency.


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