You can’t survive on salt water

-seven haiku for old orleans-

dead dogs hang from trees
bloated barges sit on the
wrong side of levees

dumb pigeons have flown
now it’s people’s turn to perch
roasting atop roofs

a caravan of
yellow busses drowns because
the mayor can’t drive

official death counts
exclude so-called looters shot
on sight of their skin

dry folk uptown hold
their noses, rejecting wet
people’s funky stank

things that go bump in
the night: your boat against a
dead baby’s body

a son returns, finds
four month old bones wearing his
missing mother’s dress

New Orleans writer and educator Kalamu ya Salaam is co-director of Students at the Center, a public high school writing program; co-founder of Runagate Multimedia, a publishing company; leader of the WordBand, a poetry performance ensemble; moderator of e-Drum, a listserv for Black writers; and co-moderator with his son, Mtume, of The Breath of Life - A Conversation About Black Music. He can be reached at

Get more news like this, directly in your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter.