Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Friday, March 26, 2010


by Louisa Calio

Dedicated to Carol Ann-Marie Cooke, a 41 year old woman who died from the flash flood April 27, 2005 near Somerton, St. James and all those who have lost their lives as a result of increased development, deforestation and destruction to Jamaica’s once pristine environment; as well as to all those men and women who are working hard to reclaim and preserve it.

de woman work hard every day
she carry de water on her head,
wash de clothes by the river bank
bring de water home for de children to bathe,
and de man say, you work good woman, but  I’m smarter.
Look here, I bring you de pump
and de woman she say, tanks.

In the land of wood and water
the water wheel made real headway.
Water began to flow for woman and man.

But de big boss come
and say, I bring you ‘lectricity today
and make de pump work faster,
but you must pay, pay, pay
and de  woman she say, you call this progress?
If you make de rate increase
I go back to carryin’ de water.

But he say, I make bigger progress now,
development now,
you come work for me
be a maid in de hotel
she say, I can’t afford to travel so far ‘way
and pay, pay, pay...
you development will wash me away! build on de river bed
you build where you shouldn’t
soon de rains will come
cover me up and de river, she will reclaim herself.

But de big man say,
“woman, no way.  I  control de water,
I control de flow, I tell de water where to come and go,
how high and how low.
I know... Everyting.

And de woman, she know de water like herself
and she say, mahn, you must go with de flow, work with de nature.

But the big boss is stubborn
he refuse.
He say, what you know, you a woman.
I  rebuild de road, rebuild de house, hotel
if de rains come.

And the Spring rain came last April
as it always does
and the road filled up with water
and the hotel went under
and the mud slid down and covered the town
and the cars on the road could not go
and Carol Ann Cooke, on a mini bus coming
home from work got swept away.

and de women dey say,
you can rebuild the house, hotel, road
but who can rebuild the lives that were lost that day?

“So I say, and listen when I say de woman... is smarter!”

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is not an attempt to write authentic Patois, but it is intended to offer the musical quality that makes Jamaican English a delight to the ear. The title is that of a Jamaican folk song.

Louisa Calio is an award winning poet, performer, and photographer. Director of the Poets and Writers Piazza for Hofstra’s Italian Experience for the last 8 years, she was Winner of the 1978 Connecticut Commission of the Arts Award to individual Writers, the 1987 Women in Leadership Award, Barbara Jones and Taliesin prizes for Poetry, The New Voices Trinidad and Tobago, and most recently honored at Barnard College as a feminist who changed America. Founder of City Spirit Artists, New Haven, CT, she has spent a life time bringing arts to people of varied economic levels. Her writings have appeared in the anthologies I Name Myself Daughter, She is Everywhere, Italian Heart American Soul, dark mother, Shades of Black and White, More Sweet Lemons, as well as in journals and newspapers. She has traveled to East and West Africa, lived in the Caribbean and documented her journeys in photographs and the written word, recently completing an epic poem Journey to the Heart Waters which was also the title of an exhibition of photos and poems that opened at Round Hill Resort in Montego Bay in 2007.