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Chris Whitney

ETHEL    Yesterday, I read about you in a poem, Ethel. After Hurricane Katrina, you waited, and prayed, and hoped with others In the Convention Center, your pleas, unheard by outsiders. You died among your people, lost. Then, louder than the Newscasts, your poem’s voice spoke To me from afar.  Reading the poem was like looking into your eyes.   In my mirror, I see my eyes Ethel, And through my eyes, my thoughts tell me things unspoken. New Orleans was a lonely place, because there were no others, I left my wife in California, saying Aye-Aye Navy Captain, I will go.  But I was lost In the city where I was an outsider.   California became home again but then I returned to your city a year ago with other outsiders. With my eyes, I saw a different city that was not lost. We heard your call and came to help Ethel. With the others, I spoke.   I spoke About the things I did with the outsiders. With those others, I tiled floors and painted murals. We restored houses and with my eyes I saw the heart of your city Ethel. Your people were not lost.   Their spirit was not lost As your children spoke. I looked into the kids’ eyes Ethel As I played ball with them and painted their school with the outsiders. In their eyes, I also saw the hearts of the others-   The others From all over your country Came so you would not be lost. I saw in their eyes Loud words spoken. We the outsiders did not forget you Ethel.   The blood of your people, Ethel, flows through the veins of the outsiders Too. I came with the others so your people could speak. In our eyes, you will never be lost.

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