For the Bahamas, the sea has afforded every beauty and bounty, to every life that has ever existed on its shores. The sea is the first and greatest love this land has ever known. From inhabitants of ancient Lucayos, to modern day Bahamians, the sea has provided food, economy and an incomparable loveliness.
Future generations, however, with the threat of climate change, may come to see this sea differently from past generations of Bahamians. As the seas so cherished, surge more upon this land, the challenge will be to find a new way forward, for man to coexist with the rising water.
What follows is an ode to the Bahamas in the afterward of Hurricane Dorian which struck the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama on September 1, 2019.
When the seas so cherished came upon this land
Imperilling the souls of our Bahamaland
Those in harm’s way fearing for heart and hearth
Awaited nature’s fiercest most unpredictable wrath.
Cutting winds raged, swollen seas leviathan tall
Lashing stone and steel and man and all
Time slowed to an infinitesimal pace
As Bahamaland prayed once more for God’s grace.
Thousands huddled wearily in cold waters rising higher
As a savage storm suddenly seized with fire
None of it, not one moment of it, seemed right or just
Brick and stone and strong life crumbling back to dust.
The flood climbed mixing with tears of despair
Families fled into a night made darkest by fear
No moon or stars to light their watery path
Countless fell as they fought, some fought to the very last.
Mothers held onto sons
Fathers clutched the fearful hands of daughters
Wives cleaved unto the strength of husbands
Swimming for life in pitch thick waters.
A blind father carried his disabled son on shivering shoulders
Another broken as his boy slipped from a roof into murky waters
Many ran for stronger shelter during the false calm of the eye
Many stayed where they were, ill-fated to die.
Fearful voices pleaded “Go to better shelter!”
But Dorian wasn’t our first hurricane remember?
So accustomed all were to this season’s ancient breeze
So accustomed we forgot storms will do as they please.
Dorian moved into Abaco visiting Marsh Harbour without invitation
Raged over “Mud and Peas” destroying meagre homes of the Haitians
And then as if the storm’s wreaking couldn’t get any harsher
Dorian emptied oil silos across green fields in Grand Bahama.
This Dorian paid no heed to skin or clan
This Dorian paid no heed to anyone’s forward plan
This storm pushed these Islands to existence’s brink
Rich and poor alike scavenged for clean water to drink.
Amidst the worst moments came some of our finest hours
As strangers became neighbours of our storm weary travellers
In searching vessels ordinary men answered desperate pleas
Rescuing souls lost on this land all but engulfed by the sea.
Ordinary people and stars gave to the melody of millions
Nations sent doctors and helicopters, peacekeepers and civilians
But in shelters as beleaguered survivors into video phones spoke
Our country long slumbering in a dream suddenly awoke.
A plethora of testimonies from traumatised survivors
Revealed the toll of our most critical climate change disaster
Ships thrown on land, life’s work crushed by wind and sea
Reduced to flotsam and jetsam adjuster’s dictum decreed.
Vitriol like barbed wire wound tight, asphyxiating the nation
Conspiracies bloomed in a air starved for believable information
Politicians and people’s eyes argued over numbers lost
Banks and international agencies extrapolated economic costs.
‘Historic and Catastrophic’ reporters globally chanted
Activists, talk show hosts, fingers on social media ranted
Families of the unaccounted could only weep
As bottom feeders and money lenders prepared for profits they will reap.
‘Bowed but unbroken’ came the cry
As days and weeks and months went by
‘For things lost’ the mantra heralded ‘eventually can be rebuilt’
Except for lives shattered to points eons beyond hilt.
What could have been done? What should have been done?
Are now questions for the ages
This story of the Dorian Tragedy soon consigned to history’s pages
To future Bahamians, watching our land evolving and changing,
From we who are soon to be your past, learn, so that this may somehow be, tragedy’s last.
WHEN THE SEAS SO CHERISHED CAME UPON THIS LAND