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Poetry in English

Poems by Vilvalex Calice

Autopsy of the Soul

In Cité Soleil,
sunlight burns out like a candle.
Fire is extinguished
by hardship and anguish.
Darkness befalls and permeates
fissures of the black soul,
evanesces diurnal clarity
to reach corners of the heart,
before unattainable hole
where hatred lies in wait
for a murderous putsch,
a propitious coup.

Death, only death suffices
to overflow edges of a sky
darken by the silt of misdeeds,
the sate a sea of ignominies,
sending concentric ripples of revulsion
into the mind of recusant avengers,
overseers with sub-machine guns,
hegemonists and juggernauts,
Guardians of White Supremacy.

What are you still doing in Haiti,
slave drivers?
lending a hand to our re-enslavement?
Why are you here
spitting death and destruction
in the midst of your people?
You are the bait in the catchflies
of their Misanthropy and Racism.

Assassins so bold and immodest
vow to kill us again,
raze the slums to the ground,
sponsor internecine conflicts,
with approbation of their masters,
in the name of Demon-cracy.
But, in the last autopsy of the soul,
bullets tear the flesh of our heart
yet fail to kill our spirit.
We are a spiritual people.

A Gathering of Vultures

The mother’s heart sinks to the bottom of her paws,
Knowing too well the jungle’s unforgiving laws:
She says: “Baby, please do not venture too far
As the young beast hops behind a giant poplar.”
The playful cub seems royally annoyed,
His first night out is utterly destroyed.
There goes my chance to finally elope
Freely in the bush like a grown antelope.
It’s about time, MOTHER, someone dispels
Those archaic legends and those fairy tales.
There are no vicious predators and vulture
Old beliefs are robbing me of my future;
He laughs and says: He who hesitates and warbles
Will only find greatness in stories and fables.
Tell me, mom, the last time you saw the middle of night
Watch darkness conquers day and snuffs out its light.”
Mother’s riposte is firm, her tone decisive and final
She hopes to instill fear in the young animal…
“Listen to me. Listen to me good, my child:
Learn to take a few steps before running a mile.
Pay attention to what I am about to say
So your bones don’t end up under a mound of clay:
One day, before you were born, my cousin and I
Went to fetch water while the sun was high;
We heard shots, we spun around and fled.
Now I have a bullet in my thigh and my cousin id dead…
Although we were young, strong and both very agile,
We could outfox lions, not a gun’s projectile.”
He drew a long breath and let out a sigh
For his mom’s concerns he had this reply:
“I understand your fear and share your grief
I cannot sit here to grow old and stiff.
Mom, sorry for being stubborn, even incredulous,
I will try to get home before the fall of Angelus.”
A great sadness invades his mother’s heart
These words pierced her soul like a poisoned dart…

There, at first light, near the brook, under the baobabs
Was a feast of vultures, flies and hermit crabs.

—Vilvalex Calice

Poem by Jean André Constant

Bullet Voice

from the bottom of my island
I shout at you
inhabitants of similar islands
and unequal ghettos
my pale anonymous voice
learn it literally
let it spurt within your rows
change it into leitmotivs
to mutilate the minority

—Jean André Constant translated from the poetry book in preparation «L’hymen de mon île»

Poem by Melissa Beauvery


I want to be lost in translation.
Merging from English to Creole
Merging from MTA to kamiyonets
Merging from bowls of cereal to labouyi
I want to be lost under kenèp trees
Transforming park sprinklers into rivers
Transforming hot dog stands into vendors selling fritay
Transforming electrical ovens into flaming charcoal
I want to be lost in mountains
Forgetting days of the week
Forgetting train turnstiles
Forgetting frozen meat in super market aisles
Forgetting harsh winters
I want to be lost in you
Becoming Boss Alexis
Becoming Ti Morphline
Becoming Madan Fritz
Becoming Kondu
Becoming Manu
I want to be lost in dawn
Hearing roosters singing
Hearing Machands shouting their goods
Hearing children’s squeals of joy
Hearing grunts as one carries heavy buckets containing water
Hearing my grandmother morning prayers
Hearing hope
I want to be
I need to be
In the warm arms of Haiti.

(February 2006)

—Melissa Beauvery

Poem by Prosper “Makendal” Sylvain, Jr.

I Don’t Look Haitian?

They approached me with a smile on their lips
exchanged greetings as well as ignorance
by telling me that I don’t look or act Haitian.
They shook my hands to welcome me,
and then shook my soul with their audacity,
the utter audacity of Lady Liberty,
“give me your tired your hungry, your poor”
except those from Haiti,
this, the most blatant hypocrisy.
And still they say I don’t look Haitian, I don’t sound Haitian
as I recall the Black Spartacus from the Breda Plantation.

Is there any particular physical feature that monopolizes and has a patent
on how exactly I should look, sound or act as a Haitian?
I… don’t look Haitian? Why?

Is it because I do not have the seawater of Biscayne Bay
dripping from my tattered clothes?
Is it because I also arrived here in first class and coach
or is it because I am not as dark as they perceived me to be,
did I mess up their entire theory of relativity,
that all relatives of Haitians live in the dark and must be comely?
I don’t look Haitian you say?
Is it because you did not catch me with a bucket on my head
working in some factory with an accent on my tongue until I’m 40,50,60 dead
NO! I think your notion of me should have expired
a long, long time ago.
I apologize if your idea and concept of me
is not what I have proven to be,
not just boat people, Krome and Guantanamo bay,
I have evolved from your thoughts of my yesterdays.
Steel girders align my back and my knees do not bend ever since I passed my 1804 test
I no longer feel that I must acquiesce
and for this, I know I am blessed.
I am proud of the accent that sits on my tongue,
my tongue is its throne, and pride is my home!
I have no apprehension to stand straight or look the world in its eye as I rewrite his-story and give birth to The Truth from a lie.
My drums are the sounds of eloquence,
my color is the purest essence!

Mad I think you may be at my nationality
Are you still upset because we declared we were free
after riding the freedom train to its 1,804th last stop,
upset still because we made the world’s mouth drop…
“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Haitians have declared themselves free.
Napoleon and Leclerc embarrassed internationally!
Haiti becomes the original Statue of Liberty!
Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”

We held truths to be self evident before the first shackle,
built an above ground railroad way before Harriet went Underground,
gave birth to Kings and had dreams before Martin,
knew any means necessary before Malcolm,
knew rivers before Langston,
released caged birds to sing before Maya,
tripped egos before Nikki
spoke to American pharaohs like Moses to let our people go,
took one giant step for mankind before any man on the moon,
took the road less traveled before Frost,
married freedom before any other Caribbean nation
and answered the question to be or not to be by being free and being Haitian,
spoke with the same tongue as Patrick did, give me liberty or give me death!
Our minds and our hunger for freedom
were blatant weapons of mass destruction
long before Gomorrah attacked their Saddam
Did I not look Haitian when I took over The Brooklyn Bridge?
Did I not look Haitian on MTV wrapped in a blue and red flag of Ayiti?
Did I not look Haitian when I founded the city of Chicago?
Did I not look Haitian when I destroyed slavery?

Did I not look Haitian when they needed me,
how did I look in Savanah?
and how did I look when I caused the purchase of Louisiana?
why were they afraid of us?
was it because Toussaint was called The Black Spartacus?
Open your eyes and you will see me
I am still Haitian even as you now call me
an immigrant and a refugee!
My Haitian woman, strong and resilient, the rose of Haiti,
when God created her he liberated me
to swim within the essence of the pool of her beauty.
Her soul is the cosmos and she encompasses the universe,
she is the water of life that can quench any thirst,
sculpted by the hands of Mother Nature
who dipped her into gold and silver
then adorned her with and onyx, pearl, mocha café au lait, vanilla-chocolate complexion,
yet still she suffers at the hands and voice of rejection.

Men psssssssst! and whistle-call her as she walks by,
and she must always turn and find a way to ask why
do they call her attention in the same manner as one would a dog,
when she did not bark or profess to have a tail to wag,
she is a Queen and lightning and thunder erupt in her presence,
God gave her the stars and the moon as her birthday present,
the soil as her playground and identified her as beauty,
the statuesque Aphrodite of the Antilles!

With this woman by my side, I hold my head up with strength and pride!
I am from the land where my true father’s died, the land of beautiful mountainsides, for her I sing!
Look past my face into my heart and you WILL see,
My only nationality IS defined in three letters and those three letters will always and forever be…
I E T!!! I E T!!! I E T!!!

—Prosper “Makendal” Sylvain, Jr. ©2005, All Rights Reserved. Excerpted from the book “The Truth: From The Mountains To Your Mind” and the CD, “Makendal: Live and Uncensored”. makendal30@aol.com

Poem by Jean-Dany Joachim


Before dawn
The carnage started,
My city fainted.
Heavy machines sneaked in
And seized the roads,
The stones howled,
The houses,
The beds,
The windows,
The tables,
And shrank-shrank,
And dark came again.
The air stopped breathing.

Poem by Marie-Hélène Laraque

Early Spring, Too Full

You are far away
No way to find you

Across a continent
I reach out to you

in my spirit

in my bones.

They say
that a long time ago the people
of my island home
used to be able
to fly at night.

There are stories
about those who could change themselves
in the darkness,
hang up their skin on the branch on a tree
and fly into the night
to wherever they wished

But before the light of the morning sun
they would have to return into their skin
or never again find their shape
and life as human beings.

I am not a bird

and I have no such powers
to fly into this northern night.

But tonight

my spirit wants to find you
be with you where you are
somewhere on this huge land
together again.

Like my old people of long ago

I wish to leave this body tonight
follow my spirit where it leads
fly far into the darkness

to find you

to find you
to find you again.

—Marie-Hélène Laraque

Poems by Denizé Lauture

The Cactus and the Bloody Flower

Once in the dark of the darkest night
Deep into the fleeting bed
Between two quicksand dunes
Of a barren civilization
A wandering Cactus
Met a glowing Blood Flower
He knelt
Placed her shadeless body
Between three dreadful goads
Suddenly as smooth
As the loving fingers
Of the Greek gods.
His lips met deeply
Each open petal.
A wonderful rainbow lining
Shrouded them
From all evil eyes
And Radiated their sweet dreams.
The morning after
A gentle fresh water lake
The most exotic carnation garden
Where there had been a barren land.

Den of the Ultimate Crucible

In the den of the denizen
Slicing shadows
Into lascivious loaves
The dreams went wild.
Each neuron of denizen’s brain
F lashed on the den’s walls
Uprooted oaktrees
Hanging roots up and tops down
With thousands of hemorrhaging limbs.
The denizen stumbled into an eerie circle
With three different centers
Whose radii were warring shafts of light
Blocking blinding bending each other.
All tangent lines curled
Into agonizing rainbows!

Semences d’Or

Like a ripe juice-filled grapefruit
By a devilish woodpecker
His heart bleeds and bleeds
By the deadly swords
Of apocalyptic warriors—
Yet he cracks open his skull
And with both hands
Places his throbbing brain
In front of his bulging eyeballs—
The membrane shielding
The rich supergeometry
Pulsates with elemental rhythm
And like an exploding fruit
Erupts and Disseminates
Protean gold nuggets
Precious seeds of the growing tree
Of Universal Love…!

Curse of the Altar

He was an altar boy
He devoured lots of God’s flesh.
Gobbled lots of God’s blood.
Stolen God’s blood!
Stolen God’s flesh!

During the darkest Black Mass
An almighty curse
Crucified his hungry soul
Upon a twenty-one-cross-altar.

He became a carnivorous RING-DOVE
Perpetual pecker
Of ululating gods!

(excerpted from “The Black Warrior And Other Poems,” Subpress, New York, 2006)

—Denizé Lauture

Poem by Tontongi

Enemies’ Symphony

The American Falls in Ontario, Canada.

Les chutes du Niagara—spectaculaires, peu importe comment vous les regardez. —photo par David Henry

(dedicated to the “gang” at the Thirsty Scholar)

The unbelievable feast
the unreal happenstance
putative enemies
dancing in make-shift dance-hall
a river of smile
replacing a river of blood
replacing different spades of skins
same blood
but look like two different species
the enemy is everywhere
in a river of blood
on a road to nowhere.

Wait until you come across the Rubicon
even for a less dramatic cause than Caesar’s;
wait until you join the enemy
in his quest for his redeemed question
and sing along together the last song
and ask for the news from the front;
the limbs destroyed and dreams deferred
beauty in fugitive, furtive encounters
building continuance in absence;
I have enjoyed the dance
the community in the soul
the donated space for transcendence
people in communion
I have enjoyed the dance
and the soul-searching.

An asymmetric boxing duel
transubstantiation in evildoing
the alterity of the instant
changing the carnival
from good to bad
or bad to good
or good to bad and bad to good
and bad good as US alternation democracy.

Baseball as an excuse
boxing as metaphor
but real harm is being done
still we are singing along
adversities connect
instead of being a hindrance
to the devilish tone and goal;
we are dancing along
because there is only one life
mine and yours all the same.

Putative enemies
yet the heartbeat is the same
the blood all the same red
human fate in action.

Ours was the ether world
offspring of the old time
we were children in rebellion
we longed for something in between
between total madness
and total rejection;
we longed for the human touch
the state of no non-sense.

One said the blacks were all bad
and the whites not too far off
another said the jury is still out
one called the girl a demonic bitch
another made her a beautiful saint
we had different points of view
but we knew war is to maim and kill
even when beautiful lyrics enhance its appeal.

Putative enemies
and companions in madness
still dreamers for a time of charm
and ideals made everyday miracles;
we shall build our own temple,
glory for beauty on earth.

Pseudo Haikus For Immigrants’ Haters

(dedicated to millions in the United States who mobilized in March–April 2006 to demand equal rights for all US immigrants as for all US-Americans)

Lou Dobbs, major-jon in his CNN perk
immolates his own people’s spirit
in a time of lament and fits.

The Mayflower’s descent in wretchedness
found in the new land a respite
the same Columbus acquired.

Germany’s “guest workers” and the like
few years after the final solution
convey lessons in bashing absolution.

The Mexicans have come back home,
would you think since this land was taken
a day the Rio Grande was in blood and mayhem.

You say “Go Home!” I say “Go Home Too!”
We all come from a nether space of despair;
I say “Let’s All Together Come Home!»

Ranting may well protect your stuffs
other peoples exist in our world
Cosmos turns around and conscience still molds.

Racism degrades the eternal meaning
the cross-germination of recreated beauties
you may want to return to time passed.

Time when the liberation dream of being
even in the absence of genuine love rituals
regained the right to question and to hope.

—Tontongi March–April 2006

Poems by Patrick Sylvain

For Love and for Life

(for Edwidge and Fedo)

Over the years,
Language and country
Became our covenant.
Our friendship walked with barefooted ease,
And we discovered each other’s personal landscape
Through laughter, tears, dreams and trust.
I am moved among words
Recalling your sunset smile
And the harp in you that had been dormant
Until Fedo slowly played the right key.

Ayiti se peyi sipriz.
Menm lè lahèn ap pyafe,
Lanmou kache nan tout rakwen.

Many keys, many chords.
The harp, like a partner,
Is a difficult instrument to master.
Taut wires, soothing sounds.
Its elegant and simple shape masks its complexity.
Its player must be patient
With determined fingers.

Nan kalfou kat chemen, lanmou louvri tankou yon petal.
Youn sot Mayami, youn sot Nouyòk.
Rasin youn mele ak lòt, yon melodi tanmen.
Zanj, lwa, zansèt, tout vin fè yon men kontre
Pou zegwifye lanmou sa a ki te kòmanse
Ak yon senp ti souri epi yon ekla ri.
Ayiti se peyi sipriz,
Menmlè ou kite l’,
Li genyen zetrenn pa l’ pou ou.

Fedo mastered your harp
Translating the rhythm of his heart
Onto each key. Sharp, flat, soft.
Minors and majors.
Each undulating sound bonded
The harp with the harpist.

Sou wout emosyon,
Lanmou se yon kolizyon nanm,
Ki ka pote ou ale tankou yon vag lanmè
Kote kriye ka melanje ak ri.
Kounyen an, nou pa nan mitan kat kalfou,
Melodi lanmou n’ deja nan fondasyon kè n’.
Mwen swete chak moman ap yon moman lanmou,
Menmlè gen dan sere,
Oubyen tè an pran tranble nan vi konjigal nou,
Sonje lanmou n’, sonje noumenm
Ki aplodi kouwònman lanmou sa a.

Marriage is not a clipped wing,
Nor a nightingale that hangs upside down.
Marriage is an accompaniment:
Fingers and strings,
Brushes and canvases.

Fonn youn nan lòt
Tounen sous dlo miwa
Pou chalè chagren vi selibatè n’
Pa janm seche rezèvwa lanmou nou.

Love is a metaphor for a world
Where cozy emotions and splendid dreams
Are housed. Yet, love also rents flats where
Frustration and anger reside.
As you are both words-smiths,
A translator and a writer, remember
To choose neutral and inviting words
To be your voice stream.

Sonje se men delika ki plante flè

E nan jaden afeksyon n’,
Rasinen nanm nou pou chak flè ki donnen pral yon flè lespwa.

Remember this hour is one of devotion
And recall the joy felt
When you shook each other’s core.
Remember the first embrace, timid yet happy.
May the laughter of the gods and goddesses of our island
Be your laughter, and may the wave of the harp lull
Your core to eternal musical happiness.

(August 17, 2002)

Reflecting on the Cape

August moonlight on the cape
And solitary stroll to poise
A gallivanting and fatigued heart.
The unfurling waves dispersed
Their recitals and murmured fear.

Damped feet, I briskly removed
Strapped-brown leather sandals,
Warm sand elated my sole.
I halted my steps to marvel
At the scintillating stars.

What light have I dimmed in my heart?
I felt sluggish with flickering guilt.
I am cognizant that prime is not eternal,
And the fearless and aerobatic seagulls
Must flap and die at the ocean’s edge.

Tiny lights vacillated on the dark sea
As white foamed waves crawled near my feet.
Strolling with fixating eyes on the firmament,
I stepped on seaweed and cracked shells.
The stars grieved my anguish in silence.

(From Love, Lust & Loss, Editions Mémoire d’Encrier, 2005)

What are Poets?

Poets are
They dissect
The world
with similes
And stitch it

—Patrick Sylvain is a writer, cultural critic, translator, educator and photographer who lives and teaches in Massachusetts. His latest collection of bilingual poetry, “Love, Lust and Loss”, is published by Mémoire d’Encrier, Canada, 2005.)

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