Tammy L. Tillotson: The Picture of Haiti

In the background, a girl
wears a sunny yellow t-shirt
with a sailboat inside a heart.

I want to ask if she got the shirt
at one of Virginia’s Annual Lake Festivals.

Does she remember—
The colorful tents up and down Main Street?
The wonderful aromas of plentiful food?
The frozen drinks in souvenir coconuts?

Did she watch the fireworks on a boat?
Was she one of thousands on the bridge?
Did she get to ride in a hot air balloon?

Those events were all for the public,
but this photo is of three Privates.

Each sitting in a folding lawn chair,
like the kind we used to bring to not sit in
while watching the Beach Music Festival.

In their arms, each is holding
one of Haiti’s tiniest orphans.

The hospital is inside a tent.
Port-au-Prince has no incubators,
just aluminum foil and lightbulbs—

like what Grand-daddy used in the pens
to warm the newly hatched chicks.

The NICU desperately needs bottles.
There’s not enough milk.
Infants are lucky to have a shirt.

My heart deflates,
tears stream down my face,
as my own children merrily dance,
‘round me singing, “Row Your Boat.”

Chase City, Virginia, January 20, 2011

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Tammy Tillotson lives and writes in Chase City, Virginia.  Her first chapbook Lady Fingers was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012.  Her poems have appeared in Becoming: What Makes a Woman (Nebraska University Gender Programs, 2012), Chopin with Cherries: A Tribute in Verse (Moonrise Press, 2010), Flashlight Memories (Silver Boomer Books, 2011), the Poet’s Domain, Sweetbay Review, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Scream online.  She is a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia and the Writers Studio in South Boston.  She holds a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Hollins University.

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