Wolff Bowden

Roofing in Belize

After the 67th Hurricane this century,
we began at last to understand the missionaries
who told us the good book would save us
from the lash of eternal hellfire,
the sour mango taste of poverty.

Even if we had money
there were no shingles in the city.
The prime minister glued them over pot-holes
so he could win his re-election.
They crumbled to coffee grounds
within a week.

My uncle, the police officer,
through his thin window at the station
watched a single flying shingle
decapitate a looter in one second.

In the eye of the storm we took shelter in
the concrete block church on Hecker road.
The missionaries had fled for America
seven days before, a timespan
they said was enough for God
to build a whole new world.

So many iguanas died, we crunched
their bones on our walk home, carrying
boxes of Bibles on our shoulders,
singing creole songs.

What was left of our roof was leaking
on the bedsheets on the babies, so
we dunked the Bibles in creosote and
laid them down like shingles.

Our roof looked like the heavens:
pitch black, sparkling here and there.
Two hundred Bibles crucified
by constellations of roofing nails.