Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

“Storm Drain Baby”

May 17, 2019

Spring House 3


Yesterday a baby was born,

Placed in a storm drain

To die by a father who wasn’t.

Three days of heavy rain

Washed the Blood of this Lamb

Into the sea.


He was found, expected to live

And died,

His short life measured in scant public



The 19 year old father said as they

Led him away:

“It was a miscarriage gone wrong.”


The rain continues today

Rushing down streets

To storm drains,

Making a gurgling sound.



Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

Blackberry Winter, Tornado Relief and Charity Organizations

May 5, 2011

Blackberry Winter

We are getting a short spell of cold weather, right in the midst of spring.  This is so unusual for us, but there is a name for it:  Blackberry Winter.

Apparently it’s common in the South, but after many years living here, it’s the first time I have heard of this.  We are waking up to temps in the mid 30’s, and the high isn’t more than the mid 60’s. Quite a shock after some 80’s  over the past few weeks.

Nothing is normal with the weather now.  The tornadoes of last week have claimed our attention and some of the living.  My husband and I have decided  because of the price of gas  and the issues of going into a tornado area,  we will find some organization and make a donation.  The problem is what organization.

Usually we make a contribution to the Red Cross, but upon reading more about the salaries of the top executives, we are rather ‘chary’ about doing this again.  Does our money go to where we want it, or is it paying salaries for people who are well padded executives?  I think a lot of people are reconsidering where their hard earned money goes today in these issues.

Here in Atlanta, there has been a push for people to ’round up’ their grocery bills, mostly with Publix food stores.  This is fine, good, in fact, but we wanted to do something different.  Unfortunately, another charity organization, “Hosea’s Feed the Hungry and Homeless” which  has been promoted for tornado relief, has a big question mark over it’s operation right now.  Elisabeth Omilami, the executive director and daughter of Hosea Williams, the founder of this organization, sent out an email (using the organization’s corporate email), asking for donations for her daughter’s ‘nest fund’ for her upcoming marriage.  In an interview, Omilami was arrogant and dismissive of the reporter, saying she didn’t know that it went to the general mailing list (which is thousands of people), that it was supposed to go to her ‘extended family’.   Well, it started a firestorm of complaints from some people about that email.  It’s rather pushy and also not in great taste for her to ask for money for a ‘nest fund’ here.  And also makes people wonder where their money actually goes? I think people are right to worry about something like co-mingling of funds.  Someone from the Secretary of State’s office is now investigating this situation.  It could cost her organization a lot of supporters in the future.  These are serious issues and they should be investigated.  It’s sad, because this organization has aided the homeless and poor families in the past.

Watching TV the other night I was struck by a short interview of a man who owns a roofing business in Tucker, Georgia.  He and his wife had just loaded up their truck and taken supplies to Pleasant Grove, Alabama, where they have relatives.  I contacted Jason and talked to him yesterday morning.  I was mightily impressed by his attitude towards what he was doing, and he is a very humble soul.  He told me a few emails that his wife put on Facebook started it all, and they felt compelled to do what they could.  They couldn’t believe the response. After talking to him, I felt good about sending our contribution to the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Alabama.  Jason told me to mark the check for tornado relief, make a copy of it for tax purposes and supplied an address.  I feel confident that our money will go to where it will make a difference, and not to a nest fund.

If anyone wants the address, or Jason’s email or phone number you can contact me privately.  At least I feel now we can make a difference with our small donation.  Pleasant Grove was destroyed, and many people killed.  I am not a Baptist, nor actually a Christian, but it really doesn’t matter.  We can be, my husband and I, part of that stream of humanity who can help.

Lady Nyo


It is Blackberry Winter

One last shot across

The bow of  emerging Spring.

Winter does not play fair,

Will not give up the ghost

Exit with a dignified bow

Preferring to show its rotting last tooth

The blackberries are blooming

Lacy white collars surrounding

Kernels of lusty fruit,

Fruit black as midnight

Sweet as a baby’s kiss,

Unavoidable staining of hands and mouths

To be shared with a snake or two down below.

The Easter planting is done

The earth knows Winter’s game

And blankets seed

With dark, moist soil

Cozy enough to shelter tender life.

We will make blackberry wine

From Blackberry Winter.

The present chill will

Sweeten the fruit

And we will give a toast

To Winter’s frayed glory.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

Storm devastation in the South

May 2, 2011

Devastation of April Tornadoes in Alabama

Forgive me if I seem stuck.  I am.  Each day brings more news of the misery of these horrifically violent tornadoes.  I don’t remember the most recent count, but there were around 200 tornadoes that swept across 8 southern states.  Many now have been designated as F4s and F5s.  This is remarkable and unusual to happen in a season, much less in a 24 hour period.

We learn that F4’s leave nothing but foundations and rubble.  F5’s apparently take the rubble with them, and leave a something that looks like scorched earth.  F5’s apparently have 220mph winds.  Nothing can survive that amount of power.

Alabama suffered the worse of it apparently, with whole towns gone.  The death toll, which will rise as people who were seriously injured die, hit 350, and I hear this morning the missing are also at that number.

Atlanta was spared this fate, and only power in some places, trees and tree limbs fell.  Of course the violent rains did damage, but that is recoverable.  What people in Alabama and parts of Georgia suffered is life changing.

Many of the towns that were destroyed were also in farming communities.   ( Tuscaloosa was a college town.) The livestock are dead, the barns are gone and so is a generational livelihood. 

After 40 years in the south, I have learned  these country people are tough, compassionate and hardworking.  They live by the strength of their backs, their hands and their invention.  City folk wouldn’t last a week at this farm labor.  Years ago I watched a gentleman repair a tractor, with few tools and what he called ‘make-do’.  There was no running to Auto Zone or a farm supply because there weren’t any near enough and he, and others, had learned from past generations to …..make-do. 

I also remember an old woman living in the mountains of North Carolina who met us as we came towards her house with a shotgun.  Once she recognized us, she put that gun down and invited us in.  Her house was a three room cabin, no electricity, no running water but she had the most marvelous quilts hanging on most of the walls.  Her water came from a rain barrel and it was sweet and clear. Her bathroom was a corner of a stall and she was very embarrassed about that.  Years ago her husband had died in the middle of winter, and she, alone, rolled him out into the deep snow and covered him until she could make the arduous trip down the mountain to alert the authorities.

The people who were hurt by these storms were average folk.  They suffered terrible  losses and those who have been reading the papers or listening to TV know themselves the devastation.  If they had insurance, good, but many didn’t.

It is hard to decide what a person can do, because the need is so enormous.  I am an outsider, looking in, I haven’t had my life ripped up in such ways, loved ones killed.  In so many cases, there isn’t a ‘rebuild’.  There isn’t anything to rebuild.  That was the power of these tornadoes.

Right now I have to put some of my life on hold:  I don’t know what to do, but I know that money is only a fast and easy solution.  In 1998 there was a F5 tornado in Hall County in Georgia.  I remember my 10 year old son and I felt so compelled to do something we loaded up my husband’s new truck and delivered supplies.  It was like a barren moon landscape as we drove through, looking for people to give what we had.  Devastation to the right and left, and then, a cow in a pasture, calming chewing her cud. Surreal.

I’m older now, and my son is in the Navy on a destroyer.  I will have to find people who are already doing something.  I just know, again, I can’t sit on my hands and enjoy the spring. 

 I am re-posting the poems of late last week because they still apply, maybe even more now, but I also know that I don’t have the energy for more poetry.  What I have needs to go to something more…tangible.

Lady Nyo

With my begging bowl

I will go out in the world

to seek answers, not alms

why death and life

is so random,

why some are spared

and others not,

no mind to the age, condition, status,

all random, random.

And why tender Spring so violent

and why we hug the space

between joy and sorrow.

“Spring Storm”, written the night before the tornadoes, when I couldn’t sleep, afraid of what was predicted.

The winds  howl tonight

Race round eaves,

Disturb  the haunts in the attic,

Force wind chimes

Into a metal hambone frenzy,

The clash of harmony grates

On  ears, on nerves

no sleep for this night.

There is death to the west

Fear in the vanguard.

It is springtime,

No gentle embrace now

Just a blaze of destruction , despair.


Is far down on the ground,

Deep as a cellar

Deep as the grave.

Above the moon,

A sickly green sphere

Is in on the game,

Winks through the clouds

Casts a miser’s gleam below.

Throughout the night

Dogs howl,

A Greek chorus

Scattering primal fear

Over the land.

Each moan of wind

Heralds the apocalypse,

My eyes squeeze shut

Against grating of branches,

The rattle of panes

As I grasp for sanity

In an insane night.

I ride out the storm,

Dawn breaks,

The silence complete,

The earth placid, serene

As if the night before

Only a nightmare-

And I ridden from sleep

To the usual ground.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

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