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Poetry in English

Poems by Vilvalex Calice

Dead Man of rue des Miracles*

A sign offering free dirt in Alabama.

A sign offering free dirt in Alabama —photo by David Henry

In this country,
Politics is a death wish;
A sure way to leave behind
Mothers, children and wives;
Fate similar to that of the dead man
On rue des Miracles.
The putrid smell of his shell
Assails noses hidden behind cupped hands.
Stiff corpse, rigid with rigor mortis,
Displayed in diapason
On the kiosk of parks,
In the crosswalks of major thoroughfares.

His soul on its way to hell
Got lost in the fray, vanished in the chaos.
Let’s face it. The market is down.
The devil offers pennies on the dollar
For a good, clean soul.
There is one salutary way out
But the stairway to heaven
Has been broken for years
And anyone caught with tools
To fix the problem is shot dead
Like the man on rue des Miracles.
His eyes, lusterless, gather and store
Sunlight to guide procession of vultures
In the next moonless night.

In this place,
The coward is encouraged
To sit on storefront balconies and watch
Funerals of brave men on their way to the cemetery.
Like the dead man of rue des Miracles
No one will come to pay their respect publicly
Perhaps, a brave mother, a loving widow.
No libation, no benediction shouted over
Litanies of plaintive cries, no chorus of sobs
Just colonies of red ants and legions of maggots
Paying their last disrespect
To the dead man of Rues des Miracles.
Many made the sign of the cross
In front of his remains.
No one said Amen!
The last word of every prayer.

*Rue des Miracles / Miracle Street—A street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

The Color of Death

Marqueed against
Desolate skies
Nameless souls
From Dafour,
Rwanda, Ethiopia…
In the desert,
In the forests
And on the planes
Beyond the rose gardens
Lay dead the surplus of humanity…

Tiled against the background
Misery never so colorful:
Each pixel loaded with details
Slingshot around the globe.
No exceptions in their predisposition
Black is the color of death
No matter what
The background.
Brace yourself for another Telethon.

—Vilvalex Calice

Poems by Tontongi


(a poem for peace)

As its shadow
in its inner sanctum
casts its last pall
the sun retreats to the beyond.

Still it’s the same time,
you know, on the other side
even in different shades
the same time in Baghdad
the same time on Park Avenue
the same time in the slums
same madness and same hope.

It’s the same blood,
you know, like the other soul,
the same artery in Shia
the same on the Sunni side
the same on the Christian side
the same in Haifa and in Qana
the same in Gaza and in Ramallah
the same in Philly and in the Bronx
the same in Port-au-Prince and in Kabul
the same even with the Infidels.

It’s the same pain,
you know, just like other mothers
the same sleepless nights
the same hope of waking up
to a less awful truth.

It’s the same dream,
you know, like any other hopeful spirit
the same trepidation in opening the letter
the same hope that beauty never fades.

It’s the same time
the same blood
the same pain
the same creed
the same family
the same madness
the same dream
the same illusion.

(First published in Auscultations, 2007)

Fallujah and Najaf

(or the new killing fields)

Death trap
across the Pacific
and played out
in the heart of Arabia.

Thirteen hundred years of agony
and resistance by the hour
thirteen hundred years of revelation
human imagination at its speak!

The invaders made no accounting
no way to know where, when or who
or what was killed by whom,
parents, brothers, sisters, sons or daughters
old friends
new friends
false friends
perished even those who had sung their glory.

And the people regained hope;
they remembered the Greeks,
the Persians, the Romans, the Franco-British
and the US-Europe Alliance;
they remembered democracy was not really a choice
they remembered hell made national policy
they remembered the cry of the baby who died
because the clinic had no lab
and the soil too depleted to grow seeds
“There will be nothing left
of Fallujah by the time they finish,”
said a witness to horror.

“They fought, major Johnson said,
better than the ones we’ve seen”,
they defended their city
just like Guernica once had,
but all week was raining hell
raising blood, raising tears.
“By Thursday, the ones that had been
reduced to a wasteland of rubble rotting corps,
broken sewer lines and feral dogs…
That part of Fallujah was the worst I’ve seen,”
major Johnson said: “There were bodies
and body parts everywhere.”*

How would those who had left and returned
react upon seeing their ghostly birthplace?
How would the survivors go on living
and surviving horrors?
How would a new day be?

Fallujah will have fought until
the last or just before the last spit of blood
is spilled on the rubble pavement.

The people will return
on a brighten, stellar night
the tale will be told
of the battles of Fallujah
battles fought and won and lost
and won again and lost again
but the people’s spirit
the people’s dignity
the vow to be free, with
free land for a free people
remained unbreakable,
that’s Fallujah,
always Fallujah.

Roads paved of cadavers
moon carved as a half-melon
splendid but bloomy in sadness,
its illumination aimed to redeem
and the fighters who fought for freedom
and those deceived by hurry warriors.

The invaders found no WMD
no angels of destruction
and left rivers of blood
blood of Ahmed, of Sofia, of Mohamed,
blood of the youth from Baltimore
died on the day of his birth,
blood of the youth from London
whose first ever trip was for Anbar,
blood of Specialist Casey Sheehan
spilled by Nero with smart bombs
and cohorts of warriors from afar,
still the body-bags were from the ’hoods,
from the ’hoods to Baghdad, to Sadr City,
to Fallujah and Najaf,
death trap in Arabia
dreams lost in madness
yet still longing for peace
torments with no end in sight
Empire’s demands are too high
and the blood flow too profuse already.

Fallujah is Arabia
even in presence of the invaders
the West has lost its innocence
on the altar of its oily greed,
once again after the past conquests
Fallujah is the city of new dreams.

Fallujah the besieged
city of the sacrificed
city of the brave
city of lost dreams
city of those who have not returned
even when all is done and gone
Fallujah will remain in our memory
the city of the unsung hero
city of the recovered beauty
in the midst of tragedy,
city of what should be.

The Empire is nude
capitalism at its best!

The war is rape
of conscience
of decency
the rape of a people
rape of beauty by horror
Halliburton at its best!

As the tears have gotten dry
and the blood flowing
why should chaos define
the infinity of being?

* The lines in quotation marks are from an article from the New York Times of November 19, 2004


Poems by Cheo Jeffery Solder

false dawn

(a prayer for barack obama)

the light seems to come
and then it’s gone again
not yet time for the sun
to birth the new day
some hours from now
the earth will turn
to reveal the chance
yet again
to rise
to work
to sing
to laugh
to try anew

barack is beautiful
no question
easy to love
no doubt
easy to admire
no question
easy to believe
no doubt
easy to follow
no question, no doubt

at heart he is sincere
his reasoning sound
he is fighting
the good fight
you can feel it
full of common sense
a secret socialist
just like fdr
just like w.e.b.
just like martin
just like malcolm
just like imamu
just what we need
he cares
he speaks
he acts
he leads
for you
and me
as americans

his rhetoric is long
speaking in tongues
eloquent and soaring
creating luscious rainbows
across the sky
of our collective possibilities
and so, so overdue
rain in a cracked and parched
deserted desert terrain

too bad
i am no american
not i
no american at all
history has taught me that
daily life
confirms and informs me
though it is
all i know

i am tempted
even so
to put aside my anger
my own private wisdom
hard fought knowledge and
clarity to see
with wakeful eyes
of hyper alertness
some call it paranoia
this strong sensitivity
to every danger
fully cognizant
and ever aware
i am
of just where
i am
this slippery slope
peering and listening
through the cacophony
of 24/7 news and
distraction most purposeful
to understand
to react
to what is going on
every plan to destroy me
kill my children
strangle my hopes
poison my dreams
cancel my future
negate my very existence

i am tempted
to forgive and forget
to act like pretty words
and lofty thoughts
inspirational, integrationist’s designs
can just wash away 400 years
can make me minimize
every unfair disadvantage
every length that i am behind
every insult to my humanity
every time i have been called

i am tempted
to forgive and forget
every inhuman torture
every unjust death
every precious life cut short
every soul not yet at rest
every survivor i see
of histories most savage
most heinous natural selective
struggling along
not beautiful
but doing their best

the temptation is great
to take my eye
off the ball
and forget that
a child of the sun
a lovely family brown
in the white man’s
is not my goal
at all
at all

i am tempted
to forget that my goal
is african land
away from here in hell
the american nightmare
the myriad photo-ops
to the contraire
being posed after all
a nation of my own
not being tricked
by images of
special dispensations
faux gold

no scrooge am i
i celebrate
like you
tiger, oprah, cosby, belafonte
fity cents, beyonce, denzel, deval
and all the other rewarded
the richly deserving rest
because how can i
not be happy
when some talented one
breaks away and through
to the top
small and hollow
though the victories be
because they lack true power
or they serve machines
not in our hands
no scrooge am i
i celebrate like you
and follow their stories
and cherish their glories
and i cry too
when they fall
way, way too often

i am tempted to forget
the shimmering vision
that haunts my dreams
of a new nation
where a first family brown
is the norm
but not the house white
rather the house black
the african house
the house of alkebolan
united and whole
is my goal
since i am no american
katrina reminded me
under funded schools remind me
ghettos remind me
housing projects remind me
malt liquor reminds me
crack reminds me
gang violence reminds me
prisons remind me
cories remind me
poverty reminds me
dead heroes and heroines remind me
tougher ordinary times and lives
than miracles can rescue
remind me

i am tempted
to forgive and forget
because the light he shines
is so right and square
so bright and fair
the smiles so sincere
the tears so real
the dance so happy
i long to join in
holding hands
in a multi-hued circle
singing songs of joy
longing again
to put this burden
this struggle
this fear
this fight away
to think and live
another way

the thing that stops
me up short
before i can gleefully shout
is that i see fear
in the eyes of all
who are about
“i hope they don’t kill him”
is the inner prayer
memories of blood
our most tender spot
it is whispered
on every corner
and vacant lot

our hearts have been broken before
we lost martin
they took
malcolm and medgar
so many others
too many others
famous and unknown others
to count
we’ve been here before
the false light before the dawn
the telling story is that we know
that he is but a man
not made of steel
but skin and bones
yet god’s light shines
from his glance
this love child of goats and corn

beyond that
we also need to be careful
pay close attention
don’t loose the thread
because he is not what he seems
this weaver of dreams
he is not there to serve us
as bad as we need him
he is there to serve them
this child of the sun
like deval
he speaks not for us
except in muted tones
under his breath
he speaks for them
and there is that
to ponder and admit

all this is hard truth
not wanted
but it is through
a clear glass we must look
to survive as always
nothing’s changed
as long as we live in a world
where peerless beauty
and courageous truth
and god’s gift to us
is in danger for shining
there is no alteration
there is no new day
there is only
the faint light
this timorous glow
cast in a yet another
false dawn
long night still to go


i pray he stays safe
i hope he wins
i pray he leads
i hope he is true
i pray he lives
just as
i hope we all
do so too


tick tock, the clock

(for askia, who is young yet)

like a slow motion film
this springing day
the plants that slept
under snowy embrace
come back yet again
to flower the vistas
as far as the eye can see

still, life is long
he said
in his final farewell
and it is true
these summer days
and winter nights
the time passes slowly
at first
and then the clock
bursts forward ablaze

black locks silver
and lessen
strong backs bend
can’t carry the load
sturdy legs teeter
a walking stick appears
the heart’s beat shallows
blood begins to run cold
sleep becomes a fleeting
the earth is calling
rest oh weary one
rest with me

still there is work
so much work to do
not fast anymore
but steady we go
teaching now
not acting as much
these winter days
sending god’s new warriors
into the fever pitched fray
unfinished serious business
so much to know
so little time
to learn enough
to make a difference

like the rings
in an old oak
the wrinkles
show the passage
of time out of time
like the rust
and cracked glass
in a junkyard heap
the eyes show
the pain endured
barely survived
picking up once again
because it is the way
life works
move when you can
and ’til you can’t

wisdom is a bitter gift
the detritus of learning
trial by fire
burn scars hidden
and internal bleeding
from one too many
body/soul blows


wisdom is the prize
we seek
us long distance travelers
knowing is what
we seek
us spirit guides
sent from above
and beyond
to lead the way
back home again
home again
for ra’s sake
for the sake of paradise
for the sake of
the sons and daughters
children of the sun
no price
is too high to pay
for the sake
of love

—Cheo Jeffery Solder

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