A Prayer Band

Suheir Hammad
Date Published: 
September 10, 2005

every thing

you ever paid for you ever
worked on you ever received

every thing

you ever gave away
you ever held on to
you ever forgot about

every single thing is one
of every single thing and all things are

every thing i can think to do to say i
is buoyant

every thing is below water every
thing is eroding every thing is hungry

there is no thing to eat there is water
every where
and there is no thing clean to drink

the children aren't talking

the nurses have stopped believing anyone
is coming for us

the parish fire chief will never again tell anyone that help is coming
i have known of women raped by strangers by
neighbors of a hunger in human

i have known of promises to
return to where you come
but first any bus going any where

tonight the tigris and the mississippi moan for each other as sisters full
of unnatural things flooded with predators and prayers

all language bankrupt

how long before hope begins to eat
itself? how many flags must be
when does a man let go of his wife's hand in order to hold his child?

who says this is not the america they know?

what america do they know?

were the poor people so poor they could not be

seen? were the black people so many they could

not be counted? this is not a charge
this is a conviction

if death levels us all
then life plays favorites

and life it seems is constructed
of budgets contracts deployments of
wards and automobiles of superstition
and tourism and gasoline but mostly

and insurance it seems is only bought
and only with what cannot be carried within and some of that too

a city of slave bricked streets
a city of chapel rooms
a city of haints

a crescent city

where will the jazz funeral be held?

now is the time of rags now is the indigo of loss now is the need for


     new orleans
i fell in love with your fine ass poor boys sweating frying
catfish blackened life thick women glossy seasoning bourbon indians
beads grit history of races
and losers who still won

     new orleans
     i dreamt of living lush within your shuttered eyes a closet
     of yellow dresses a breeze on my neck
     writing poems for do right men and a daughter of refugees

i have known of displacement
and the tides pulling every thing
that could not be carried within
and some of that too

a jamaican man sings
those who can afford to run will run what
about those who can't
they will have to stay

end of the month tropical depression turned storm

someone whose beloved has drowned
knows what water can do
what water will do to once animated things

a new orleans man pleads
we have to steal from each other to eat
another gun in hand says we will protect what we have what
belongs to us

i have known of fleeing desperate with
children on hips in arms on backs
of house keys strung on necks of
water weighed shoes disintegrated
official papers
leases certificates births deaths taxes

i have known of high ways which lead nowhere of
aches in teeth in heads in hands tied

when will the children

talk? tonight it is the

and dying who are left
and those who would rather
not promise themselves
they will return

they will be there
after everything is
gone and when the
saints come
marching like spring
to save us all

suheir hammad