Coming out of the closet

Poetry is a medium that helps me make meaning of my experiences, my thoughts and feelings, which is something we are called to do continuously as development practitioners. It’s a tool I often privately call upon when faced with the inevitable doubts, and triumphs, and heartaches of this work.

Inspired by Dennis Whittle’s recent post on Poetry and Development, emboldened by Saundra Schimmelpfennig’s sharing of her poem, and encouraged by @akhilak @zenpeacekeeper, and @rkrystalli on Twitter today, it is time for me to finally come out of the closet.

For the first time here, I’m sharing a small selection of my unpublished poems that may hopefully ring familiar in other aid workers’ souls too.

I am a poet, now loud and proud. Here goes nothing…


The Vortex
We are called
to look within
and dance with uncertainty.
For what we thought we know,
no longer holds.
Or does it?
It’s time to ask again,
Even if the answers don’t
Rather than collide,
two forces mingle and exchange.
Waters indistinguishable
and yet one.

Ode to Samsonite (or, A long goodbye, travel companion)
Since returning from Africa,
you have sat on my porch.
Neither can I bring you inside,
nor send you away.
It’s so hard to believe
I will not be on my way
with you again.

Unfathomable Journey
Promise of opportunity
the deepest, ugliest, cruelest
parts of humanity
lying at your feet, on your feet, shackled to your feet.
Greetings, young ones
we do not have to
acknowledge your soul.
We tear you away
from yourself, your home.
But don’t let us – take also this secret
deep in you,
there is something
no one can destroy.
If you can, hold on,
with all your might.
Let this unfathomable journey
point you,

Atop the Adobe Wall
You stake your claim,
on a land that is already yours.
Flailing and screaming
so that we all take heed.
Behold the master,
who is not yet a master
of himself.

Shift I
The running water
pushes against the shore
changing direction
but reluctantly,
loosening, struggling,
and then RUSH –
The sand moves
quickly but gracefully
and the water
now has a new flow.

Ranchero Village
Neko calls out
to remind me
I am not a foreigner,
but rather an immigrant
The mother tongue
I fumble,
yet it cannot be lost.
The listeners at times
wonder about the
words I use,
but the soul saying them,
they will always understand.

What you cannot take on,
you are not given,
they say,
she repeats.

Each new challenge
arrives to greet us
with visions of
what we are capable of,
and clues as to
what we deserve,
she hopes.

Will the load ever lighten?
she asks.

Or do we just get stronger
so we can carry more?
she waits.

Global Conference
Somehow, you live in me still,
Residing where my passion
Is stored, is stirred
Around every corner,
There you are
Living and speaking and being,
Like me.
I know you will always dwell,
Yet I am startled to discover
You there, once again.

You are strong,
coming clear.
Defining, clarifying,
speaking truths.
Keep raising your voice,
Your voice echoing
among the pillars.
As you grow,
and be heard by more, by all.

Picture Perfect
Ruddy, smiling faces
dance with delusion.
Hold hands and don’t let go.
Stepford lives and wives
can be yours.
Servants of the image
bow before the throne.
Non-believers breathe fire
with the smallest objection,
and to walk away,
penultimate betrayal.
Ruddy, smiling faces
will be denied them.
And the non-believers
finally yell ‘Amen.’

Haitian Heart
My heart shrinks so easily,
you write, describing your day,
already full of death and dismay.
They should not have to see this,
you say.
Nor should you.
But here we are
in a world that would
trample the weakest,
while bringing hope to the lost.
Keep your eyes and ears open —
to capture our shared misery,
and do not forget,
that all the while,
your heart is ever,


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A Heartbreaker

Diving into the Deep End


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  2. You could have typed “garble garble garble” and I would have still loved it. I am very grateful that you and Saundra and others are embracing this merging – however temporary – of development and poetry. And this so much better than “garble garble garble.” I especially liked “Test” and look forward to more!

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