This is a paraphrase of words spoken by Mayor of San Juan Carmin Yulín Cruz on Friday 29 September at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, with additions and subtractions introduced primarily to service the necessities of an iambic pentameter line.
Here we are dying, and I cannot fathom
The thought that this great nation cannot figure
Out the logistics for so small an island,
One hundred miles by thirty-five—so mayday,
We are in trouble.
FEMA has requested
Documentation, we have given them
Documentation, and they had the gall
To ask this morning, “Mayor, what are your
Priorities?” “Where have you been?” Indeed,
FEMA’s employees have been treated with
Utmost respect by me; I have been patient,
But there’s no time for patience anymore.
So I request the US president
To make sure that somebody is in charge
Up to the task of saving lives. They were
Up to the task, as well as they should be,
In Africa when the ebola virus
Came over, and in earthquake-sundered Haiti.
We are all part of one community
Of values that are shared—for saving lives.
So I will do what I never imagined
I would do: begging. I beg anyone—
Whoever can hear—to save us from dying.
If anybody out there is listening,
I tell you we are dying—being killed
By inefficiency, bureaucracy,
And we will make it with you or without,
Because what stands behind me all is due
To other people’s generosity.
This is what we received last night: four pallets
Of water, three of meals, and twelve of food
For infants—which I gave to Comerío
Where people have been drinking from a creek.
So I am finished with being polite,
Mad as hell with my people’s lives at stake,
For we are but one nation, maybe small,
But huge in dignity, zealous for life.
So I request the members of the press
To send a mayday call across the world.
Here we are dying. If we fail to get
The food and water into people’s hands,
We will see something close to genocide.
So therefore, Mr. President, I beg
You to take charge and save lives. That is one of
The founding principles of the US,
United States of North America.
If not, the world will see how we were treated,
And long remember, not even as though
Second-class citizens, but animals
To be disposed of and disposable.
Regard posterity: enough’s enough.
These were the words of the mayor of San Juan
Excoriating the corrupt indifference
Displayed in the inept crisis-response
Of federal government initiatives
One week after the hurricane made landfall,
Wreaking disaster and damage untold,
Poised to unfold, for all the world to see,
In an irreparable catastrophe.