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Poetry in English

Poem by Karen Melander-Magoon

Haiti is rich beyond measure

Haiti is rich beyond measure
Fecund in its land
Wealthy with treasures beneath its soils
Rich with history and beauty
Rich with ideas and songs and people
Beautiful, dying people
Victims of genocide, violence by their own governments
And foreign powers
316,000 people destroyed by the vengeance of an earthquake in 2010
3,000 killed or sickened by cholera in 2010
Now the number is 8,000 killed by cholera
Half a million sickened
By people
Forcing their humanitarian assistance upon
Beautiful Haiti
Bringing cholera instead
To its people
Dying under the negligence and repression of thieves
Bringing disease
Laying bare Haiti’s forests and vegetation
Stealing Haiti’s resources
Stealing the lives of Haitians
In a land beautiful beyond measure
A strong and lovely people
Longing to live
To be free
To breathe
And sing
And love
Longing to be free of thieves
Who bring disease and death
Killing with insouciant negligence
The beautiful land
And people of Haiti
Those whose irrepressible dignity and courage
Made them independent
Two hundred years ago
Under the shadow of others’ greed
Under the shadow of imperialism
Haiti is rich beyond measure
Hills, seashores, abundance
Inspiring Christopher Columbus to sing of its mountains
And harness its people
Harvest its people
As slaves
Haiti is rich beyond measure
And robbed beyond belief
By western colonialists
Salivating at the prospect
Of its wealth of human booty
A receiving land for slaves from Africa
Slaves who would be free
In Haiti
Rich beyond measure
Now free to pay for freedom
Free to pay the west for human booty
Forfeited to freedom
To pay the west
For lost slaves, lost labor, lost chattel
Watching as their land
Rich beyond measure
Continues to be raped and ravaged
By thieves bringing gifts
Of oppression and disease
Corporations lying as giants on the land
As giants on the people
In Haiti
Rich beyond measure
Determined to be free
Electing leaders democratically
And wisely
Yet used and abused by giants
Playing games
In Haiti
Rich beyond measure
In Haiti
Rich beyond measure

Haiti, Land of the mountains

Haiti, land of the mountains
Haiti, land of the Taino
Land of a gentle people
Land of suffering
Land of rape and pillage
Gifts of the Spanish, the French, the Americans
A land whose stories do not end in justice or peace or moral lessons
A land whose stories end in blood
A land who remembers the Taino maiden from Boriken
Now the neighboring island of Puerto Rico
Now home of infamous Guantanamo prison
Home of a Taino girl
Who washed her father’s rainbow belt by the river
When a Spaniard on a horse saw her beauty
Killed her father with his huge white dog
Raped her brutally
And cut off her head
So her body would be unrecognized
The Taino lived peaceably
In the Caribbean
Always peaceably
Among enemies
Who enslaved them
Enslaved them to work the plantations
Until one day
In Haiti,
An enslaved people
Repudiated their slavery
And won their independence
Only to be punished again
Indentured by the powerful colonialists
Made to pay blood money for their bodies and labor
Oh unhappy imperialists with slaves
Worried that a free Haiti
Would corrupt other slave economies
With the wish for freedom
Oh let us cut off the head of Haiti
So the ownership of its beauty may not be recognized
Its people unrecognized, anonymous
Punish its arrogance
The arrogance of a savage, invisible island people
Rape its soul, rape its land, its forests
Pollute its waters
Rain horror on its people in the city and land of the sun
Till there is nothing left but disease and poverty
In a gentle people’s

Do I hear Drums in Haiti?

Do I hear drums in Haiti?
A heartbeat pounding out
Blood and heat
Pumping joy
And melancholy
Blood flowing to the sea
Washing through the corals
Singing of its source
Do I hear drums in Haiti?
Chanting of its soul
Vodou introspection
Singing sun and sand
Do I hear drums in Haiti?
Drumming from the mountain
Carried by the beetle
Trembling rhythmically
A beat of ancient legend
Jazz and folklore
Song and story
Chanting rocks and reeds and fountains
Chanting birds and blood and mountains
Chanting birds and blood and mountains
Do I hear drums in Haiti?

The Haitian Princess

A Vodou princess sits upon the mountain
Dressed in green
Her legs stretched wide
Reach to the horizon
As waters swell within her fertile womb
Her soul dances
To the song of the whistling frog
And laughs with its ventriloquist kinsman
As he creates a tapestry of music
In seven note chirps
Long and distant
Thrown like gossamer petals
Above her green
In orchid dreadlocks

—Karen Melander-Magoon

Poems by Gary Hicks

herod’s descendents

oklahoma city
colorado twice over
the uncounted of the ’hoods and barrios
abu ghraib
my lai
sand creek
wounded knee
the 38 indian chiefs hung in minnesota by abe lincoln
dresden and leipzig
the tens of thousands of nicaragua and el salvador and guatemala
the millions of congolese dead to make available the chips for the laptop on which this poem is written
the tens of thousands in “fast and furious” mexico
and on and on and on…
newtown has proven once more that
what’s going around is coming around
and these twenty-eight slain are
twenty-eight more reasons
that i am a communist
calling for the indictments
the trials
the findings of guilty
the removal from our midst
of those who knowingly
and willfully make available
for whatever the market would bear
the weapons of mass destruction
of our children the world over
the murder of adults who would
protect the children
indict! try! remove
the gangsters and
their organized crime
called capitalism
(berkeley ca 12-19-2012)

re: travon martin

(for t.m… somewhere between a requiem and a te deum)

the only
with stand
…your ground
is that we
to get
at standing
on proletarian
feet not
on liberal
to being
stand your
at every
site where
a sister
or brother
was murdered
by a cop
every twenty
eight hours stand
your ground
at every
dark alley
a drug deal
goes foul
a back alley
turns fatal
at every
room in a
house where
took someone’s
or one’s own
at every
virginia tech
where a
suburb turned
out to be
in the ’hood stand
your ground
with those
of us
singing to
get to that
place where
we don’t
have to stand
our ground
because we
can now sit
in peace
(berkeley ca 7-25-2013)

—Gary Hicks

Poems by Tontongi

The Automaton at Sandy Hook

(in memory of the 20 pupils and 6 teachers killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on 12/14/2012)

He has our natural features
and hails from the same species
he has our smile and creeds
and pathology of the soul
and the greed for vanity’s sake.

He’s different the experts say
but not that much from the Enabler,
he is illogical says the Dialectician
and insane concludes the Psychiatrist
but not that much from the Mother Cell
the nourishing source
the germinating seed
the empty space here and there
even within the friendly enclosure
the furtive look of the neighbor
the effort to avoid all contact.
the empty square
seriality at the neighborhood level
like I saw it in the South End.

He is the apple fallen near the tree
the product of the chemical mix;
he is NRA, the Congress and Wall Street’s
combined voracity just like larrons en foire
to create Macabral and Maldyòk.

He is you and I assembled
in automation made fate
and faith in the Market’s goodness
in the gun’s good feeling
and its mythologized lore
the Second Amendment made fetish
of a nation guided by high valued imperatives
of the Military Industrial Technological Complex
and desensitized by mediated hypes
by the Nintendo’s procurement of pleasure to kill
the thrill of the murderous instinct
the lost spirits already perturbed
would find solace in madness
a shorter distance to salvation.

No! He is not the Other, the killer,
he is not even a stranger
he is part of a whole
prototype of a rational scenario
perhaps your existential denial.

The little fan of the New York Yankees
who refused to leave home and yet
still getting the excitement rolling
in the schoolyard and beyond;
the little beautiful darling, smart light
and pride of her parents
they had not had the time
nor to have or to inspire hatred;
they didn’t ask to come among us
still they took pleasure and reveled
in the happening of the moment
in the miracle of growing and learning.

“We cannot go back to the school,”
they said, “we don’t have a teacher anymore.”
Other teachers are trapped before death
and yet still trying to save their pupils’ lives;
parents who will never see them
their memories haunted by every instant
that preceded the fateful morning.

The most evil emblem after all
despite images of gunman toting gun
is the quiet of corporate input analysis,
the invisibility of arms-profiting dividends
the big guy that pockets the plus-value
from killings and mayhems
from families in pain;
the honorable entrepreneur hero
who produces a high-tech producing factory
that produces the AR-15 style rifle
and the elegant, sky-lurking drones
that kill miles away in the comfort
of the peaceful father in a US suburb
in the invisibility of the distance.

They hire MIT geniuses for maximum effect
those kill as magicians do
to erase all links to physicality
as if God himself had conducted the action,
metacosmic fluidity guided by laser,
and yet the blood spilled is real,
real red blood of the villagers;
they kill, the drones, with an impunity
more impenetrable than the Newtown killings
those have never paid for their deeds
because no deed was ever committed
in the absence of accountability.

Killing is never justified
although it always has a context
even a nourishing matrix
and a bad attitude
and a huge arsenal of means.

Even Halliburton which sells arms
and oil and illusions and cynicism
in the same package is innocent in this scheme:
the soul of the country wants it, they say,
the Founding Fathers wanted it, they say,
major national interests want it, they say,
it’s the continuation of the fairy tale.

They kill for the Empire
as for the nation-state
for the honor of the family
for the decimals on the bank account;
they kill because they have the means,
beautiful garments for social engineering.

Before all the tears will have dried off
and the spotlight changes focus
and the next mayhem occurs
and the memories of the twenty-six
evaporate in the air and Walmart registers
its nice cut in weapon sale
and the maniac gets to be happy
with his beautiful dispenser of horrors
and the mayor gets to show magnanimity
confronting a danger minutes after the fact
and the Guns Producer Industrial Complex
shows robust elevated patterns
and the Psychologist shows, immovable,
confirmed tendency to deviance,
hate of the mother and her doubles
and the children, product of her matrix:
casualties of madness
also of living cost challenges
innocence perished in Hell,
that’s what these children are
in the objective meanness of Globality.

They are not rare artistic marvels
for the sake of beauty, the weapons,
they are instrument to an aim
regardless of the original intent;
their function is to kill
and ease up the labor of God
manifested in sport killing
in political killing
in Mafia killing
in killing for the pleasure of the libido
testosterone in chute libre.

I invite you, my friend,
to stroll along the river way
on a full moon any night
when a warm, caressing wind penetrates
the instant, oh eternal instant!
I invite you to join in and rejoice
of the splendor of the space, its smell,
I invite you to let loose
of all the links of horrors
and the false stress
and the appetite for hideous thrills.

Before Newtown there was Oklahoma City
there were Ken State, Waco and Colorado
there were Wounded Knee and the Negrier
there were My Lai, Abu Ghraib and Fallujah
there were Hiroshima and Nagasaki
there were LaSalin and Site Solèy
all memories of past thrills.

(The children would not have died in vain
if we approach thoroughly the calamity
and its many facets; often the absurd is the problem
that has eluded conscience’s penetrating gaze.)
These little cadavers conjure you to close down

both the engines and the sustaining source of Hell;
they conjure you to sanity’s road in the face
of madness and cold-blooded interests;
they conjure you to utopia
they conjure you to elevation of the senses.

(January 1st, 2013)

The Teen and the Sharkish Gaze

(dedicated to Trayvon Martin cowardly murdered by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, on the night of February 26, 2012; a crime for which Zimmerman was eventually found not guilty by a six-female, almost all white jury. Major protests erupted in many US cities demanding that the Justice Department press civil rights violation charges against Zimmerman)

It was a pre-spring in the rain
the soil soaked in the silence
of the dark night and the sharkish gaze
of a vigilante with malady-stricken thought
and aim of salvation and protection and insulation
of the coveted false paradise
false sense of menace and lacking
the nightmare of invading hordes
the boredom of unalterable emptiness
and family dysfunction, living absurdity
amid law and order and disorder
and laissez-faire economics mixed
with the Far-West attitude
and habitude of conqueror
the Big White Complex of old
Jim Crow in the remaking
remixed for twenty-first century taste
Tea Party and NRA working in unison
toward a USA without the Other.

And the teen in the slow pace walking
his hoodie as profiled-thuggish thief enveloped
his innocent head while his hands hold Skittles candy
and juice, hurrying to escape; he’s scared
of the penetrating gaze, the evolving horror
but he stands heroic to the price of his life
defying the accusing gaze of madness
projected as a vast fishing net;
the mapping of the coveted enclosure,
the Rousseauian founder of social order
claiming ownership of empty space
and building dreams of grandeur and greed
this time it is not even his to take;
he is pure illusion, the eager stalker,
but he has a gun and a sickened flair
the teen has no chance and even his innocence
cannot spare him since other forces are at play:
Only the roaring of revolt may save the day,
and one hundred cities-strong,
a people’s tsunami upholds the ideal
even the lynchings cannot destroy,
even the beating of Rodney King cannot uproot,
even the killing of Amadou Diallo cannot sully.

He had the right to be there
and not be dead for a curse
a teen looking for his better days
as we all do before our prime;
it’s pity after such a long trail
that we should fail to pursue the right rail
the search for beauty remains the best moral grail
even when all seems so deleteriously baneful.

It’s not even about him, the eager stalker,
nor about the hand that acted on that night;
it’s about deeds that took place five thousands years ago
in many continents; it’s not about the symptoms
it lies in deeper roots and deeper entrenchment,
deeper perversion of the ideal of being
it lays at its Trans-Atlantic foundational scheme,
in the trade and the plantation’s hell.

In the silence of the dark night
and soil soaked by the pre-spring rain
the lurking, eager stalker got his prey,
the president got his bon mot
he can honor his neutral aura
while Jim Crow returns as the law
of the land, sneaky law and low imposition
of charm and malignity, the gun lobby perseveres
demanding its dues as noblesse oblige
while a whole race is subjected to hatred
to the infamy of less than human value,
this is America the beautiful;
Cornell West says POTUS is the global lurking gaze
tossing drones and tears on unaware villagers
whose families are falling dead like birds.

It’s about the shallow rationale that makes
British royal babies and O.J. relevant;
the logic of dummies and dupes and doped,
the pre-ordained conditioning of a young man
willing to help sustain the illusion of Having,
the buying of a fake state of being
the lunatic avenger of the white pride
like the zealous policeman thinks he’s saving the State;
alienation comes in different shades and shapes.
You may kill, my friend, in a pre-spring night
still your salvation is far a good done deal,
you better find a better way for a change;
luckily the 100-city protests set a different tone:
We are still dreaming of new dawn.

(July 2013)


Poems by Natasha Labaze


The church was there a second ago…
Just as the woman knelt down…
Just as she bent down…
Just as she began to make the sign of the cross..
Just as her first knee touched the pew…
Just as she completed her genuflection…
The earth rumbled…
She thought God had stormed through the church…
As she looked above, a cloud of dust and cement
Came pouring down on her knee…
The sky was now the roof…Heaven?
Just as the young boy ran to his mother’s
Red car as it approached his school
As his hand waved hello, the earth
Began to tremble much faster than the rhythm of his greeting wave
Wave of love
The trembling stilled his hand…
as he ran from
A crumbling wall
towards his mother
Whose car spun like a top…
By the time, the earth paused
The boy looked up…
He had no idea what had just happened…
Though mother and son were so close,
A cloud of dust, cement, and debris
Blocked their view from each other…
The mother wobbled out of the suffocating dust
And quivered in what she believed to be
The direction of her son’s school…
She could not see a school…
Perhaps she was going the wrong way,
But when a hand grabbed at her ankle,
She looked down and could discern
The uniform colors, blue and white…
She bent down and picked up the child
In a daze, she hugged her…
This was not her son…but she hugged the girl
With all the love and fear she had for her son…
Both remained in an embrace as the dust and debris
Settled slowly around the crowd…like a curtain opening…
To reveal a dreadful scene…
Fallen, crumbled wall
And her son’s greeting hand now limp
As he lay face forward
A cement block had fallen on his back
She was afraid to let go of the girl
And walk towards her writhing son
How many times had she asked him to
Settle down…
Finally, the crying girl let go of the woman
To look around…
The mother frozen made her way stiffly to her son
In her mind, she wondered why she was not running…
She gazed at her son and finally
Bent down to push a heavy cement block…
It did not budge…
She yelled for help…
The boy yelled for help
His legs trembled…
He vainly writhed under the weight of the cement block…
She yelled…
He moaned…
She fell trying to pull off the cement block from his back…
All around her people struggled to rise…
To rise like the dust…
Lying helplessly on the ground, the mother could not remember if she had had a chance to wave back…


(Pour toi maman)

—Natasha Labaze

December 2008
This would be her last chance…
Last chance to return home
To Haiti
Last chance for her feet to be powdered with
The dust of her native province, Leogane
Pye Poudre
Feet powdered by the dusty ashes of our ancestors

Leukemia peeked its head from behind the curtain
“Not yet. Not yet.”
So Leukemia crawled back under the curtain
In shame
The grand fatal appearance would have to wait

Before the end of the New Year of 2009
Teased with the taste of a new year
An unconsummated year
Blown in with the ephemeral
Brackish (?) breeze of the Caribbean Sea
My mom’s last breath would fuse with the cold wind
On foreign soil.

So my mom majestically returned home
To walk through the dust of her home
Now wounded by an earth shattering quake
The rumbling moaning hungry bellies
Exhaustingly shook the land with famished anger

This journey would be my mother’s last…
Her last blink of disbelief when she looks down
At Ayiti from the small airplane window
After months of bitter grey cold days
When the existence of Haiti save the voices from phone calls
Seems to be nearly impossible.

Her last chance to peer at
The emanating eroded and partially lush mountains
Of her home
Her last chance to feel the heartbeat of anticipation
As the American Airlines Flight begins to lower and the
Homes, roads, and trees become more distinct…

Her last chance to feel the heartbeat of
Hope that perhaps the “perfection” and exactitude
Perceived from above will be real on the ground…
Perhaps the piles of discarded fruits and foreign
Items covered by a protective dust layer…
A layer trying vainly to cover the filth,
The nation’s self-contempt
Have been picked up
An emboldened last hope that the beautiful luscious
Green paths as viewed from above
Have not been scarred by an eroded thread of dry dust…

The same dusty land on which my mother walked along
Hoping her every step would help alleviate the hunger…
Her last chance to warm her bones still shivering from
Cold winter…
Her last chance to listen to the beseeching voices of
Merchant women advertising their goods in a sing-
Song chanting voice that rang in my mother’s
Ears above the swiping Supermarket beeps…
Empty belly…Baskets filled with potatoes…
Baskets filled with “Zoranj, Zoanj.”
Her last chance to sip that distinctly

Cold Haitian orange juice
Her last chance to smuggle change into the maid’s
Hand as she persuades her to buy some
Greasy road-side griot
Despite the doctor’s and her husband’s warning
Of high blood pressure,
Her last chance to surreptitiously
Rip open that oil-stained paper bag
To chew the roasted spicy unctuous meat sold by
The road side…
Manje Janbe Chen, they are called…
Meals Leapt Over by Dogs and Gods
Gods that obliterate any harmful

Her last chance to feel the warm waters of Fauche
Her last bath—final ablution
Within home waters…

Miner’s Wife

We used to look into each other’s eyes
At least I thought we could
And plunge into each other’s depths
As we plunged into bed…
But now, I look around the corners of your eyes
To see what is lurking behind
Her lingering scent…
Any missed lipstick smudge…

You are 2300 feet below.
Neither of us can touch you.
Now, we need to touch ourselves.
Reconnect with the self we had abandoned to you.

You are practically buried alive.
I hear a woman’s moaning voice calling
And praying your name.
Our voices in synch as we sigh your name.
I look to the side, and then I realize…

You are down below…
I am praying for your death.
I am so angry…
I am praying for your life…
For our children…
For my own desperation…

How dare you?
How dare the earth trap you beyond
The reach of my arms.
Beneath the sight of my tears…
Did my tear drop make it down…
Along with the healthy meals they
Are sending down?
Or did it dry up in the air on its way down…
Or collide with the stone…
Or did my tear mix with the muddy water leaking down
Muddy water
Muddied tears
(Chile 2010)

—Natasha Labaze

Natasha Labaze is a teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her parents are Haitian and moved to the United States in the 1960s. Her mother’s life has inspired her to write. She has published a prose poem entitled, “Reflections on Water” in the online literary magazine, Tanbou. She has also published a piece, “Love Letter to Haiti” in the Bronx Biannual, Issue 2. Natasha Labaze has a lot more to write about her mother’s abundant life.

Poems by Doumafis Lafontan

Pure love

You and I are a real love story,
It is only true because of love lost.
At the end of our love, we are aware of its energy.
A return is possible by one means only,
The experience of our story.
Going beyond this end love persists,
Maintaining many of its traits,
In the next relationship.
The quality of this new story,
It ends the definitive characteristics of our feeling.
The light is only in our heart,
In the heartbeats interfering to make rhythms.
This harmony dispels all possessive feelings.
Before it ceases desire, illusion, lust …
To love is to let oneself go
To the night notes that sort of preceded us.
Pure love, unending, unchanging,
Of which the heart is the maestro,
Unconsciously leading our way out of thought
To the positive knowledge of love.

Grooving Ensemble

By the land of sunset,
In the shadow of the duplicitous darkness,
Away from the indiscreet eyes Manzè (young woman) unclothed.
Breasts blown out,
Ass wrap-around tight like Asòtò (ritual drum),
Her eyes bright like bòbèch (lamp) add to the delight of the decor,
The beats of her heart audible lust.
Out of the blue Gedenibo (native person) rose,
He is getting to love soft, slow.
The pleasure is hip,
It is the real hop.
With the rap of the gentle desire uncouples clear, fresh.
Her mouth, as the jar of sweets, pours in his ears.
His systolic rising comes circling at her waist.
They are grooving, ensemble,
The play of the erotic,
Affection makers sounding joyful words,
In the calm of the tender night blue bird taking a listen:
Gedenibo bèl gason (handsome native man),
Wooly hair,
Broad nose,
Burnt skin,
Going up his divine horse.
Manzè’s body, like a hive
Became one with his sting.
She lets herself go,
Winding to his heartbeat,
Twisting like a dancing bee,
She is getting love over honey.

On the virtual wall

Like a golden leaf.
Your picture adorns the virtual wall.
Each time I take a look I feel Irie (good).
Indeed, how good and pleasant it is.
My wish came true:
Like open sesame, here you are;
Abracadabra, I can watch you.
Blessed love;
I’ll care for it,
I’ll make it grow abundant.
In the days of despair, you’ll be hopeful.
In the days of sorrow, you’ll be joyful,
Like gold in the natural, my word will not change.
I am the state of delight.
Take a dip,
You’ll rise, like the early dawn,
Shining before men on the virtual wall
With each stroke, like a rub on the lamp,
Desiring everlasting love.

Mistress of sentiment

With thoughts and raindrops,
I am enjoying the awakening.
So I have plenty of energy
To compose this note
That I dedicate to you.
I find you so mysterious.
But I probably know all I need to know about you.
Except your original hurt.
If that were so,
You would not be the only one,
The first,
Or last.
It is fair to say,
Everyone has been hurt,
Or at least has felt disappointment.
You are guarded.
So am I.
Except with you,
I am open.
Yea, merrying you,
All this time,
Never a touch,
A kiss, or
Yet, my cherishing heart endures.
As my soul watches,
I embrace this moment
The sentiment, I have been waiting for,
Only to return it to its mistress.

Couple uncoupling unto its likeness

If I had to frame meeting you,
I would use the word with sound:
Out of many,
You are one
The fittest with hip,
To bear seeds
Hope giveth,
With care one grows,
Living in harmony
Rather Niabingi,
It’ll make you groove,
Body move,
Hip hoping,
Bringing joy to its place,
Feeling rose (dew), doumalala.
Dancing does that.
Where we met.
I remember.
You were captivating.
Had me thinking spoken word:
Catch it,
Catch it
Woo me,
Woo me
Watch it,
Watch it
Doo me,
Doo me
All night,
On and on.
You and me
Eye to eye.
It was seeing unto liking;
Love loving itself light and easy;
A couple uncoupling unto its likeness.

Love to be loved

Seeing you,
A moment that felt like so much to say,
Yet so little time.
But this is no moment for despair.
With clenched hands I am building the next encounter.
Thus I dedicate these lines to you.
They enfold the secret sound of my voice.
The word in the manner of Griots.
It will move you,
Like Niabingi and heart,
Beating Kete, Bingi, and
For it is proper to live up.
Blessed, I bring you good tidings:
Be passionate of the movement;
Make the world a better place;
Respect all cultures;
Make a difference in someone’s life; and
Love to be loved.
Beloved, I have taken away the shadow of death.
Herein let yourself shine like new.
Modeling love,
Like the sun loving the sea,
A story of our land told in the songs of Ginen.
I perceive clearly,
You are the star, I have been waiting for.
Your presence emits love over me.
In this poem of the epic moment I seized,
And I have returned to radiate.

Keeping humans real and social

Upon hearing from you
I started smiling.
Then I tried to think,
In a sort, strange, I am in the void.

I let go.
Fast as light,
I unfolded unto your likeness.
You are that I am to you,
Meaning does that
Our only possibility.

Paradise lost is discovered,
Our land, a symbolic garden.
Life means itself,
It got mode of living;
We live it
To the fullness thereof.

Over the distance, our heart and mind unfold,
Like the azure water head,
And the blue sky,
Same unfolding unto its likeness.

Hope and history will remember,
The personages that brought forth characteristics of our land;
Independent of time,
In this way they are eternal.

Our path of life,
We have a common purpose,
Making perpetual the return of life, and
Keeping humans real and sociable
Without telling the story of creation.

—Doumafis Lafontan excerpted from the bilingual collection of poems Krik! Krak! Dèyè gen mòn / Krik! Krak! Mountains Behind Mountains, by Doumafis Lafontan, ed. Trilingual Press (Près Trileng), 2012.

Poem by Denizé Lauture

The Blow That Opens Our Center

In the afternoon
Near dusk
Near night
A damn afternoon
A Tuesday afternoon
First Tuesday
After the beginning of Mardi Gras
A fatal Tuesday
A Tuesday from hell

It appears the earth’s empty belly
Needs to eat people
Needs to drink blood
It appears the earth
Is swallowing her own guts
Her twisting guts
Her dry hollow throat
Needs to eat people
Needs to drink blood

Her old bones like a serpent out of Hell
Bend along her long back
Her tail and her head
Touch the ground
She shakes
Shakes her body
Like a mean mule full of fleas
Like a demon with a million
Enraged arms and legs

Agwe god of the sea cries “No”
The earth does not listen
Serpent Deity Ayida Wedo cries “No”
The earth does not listen
Simbi of the Water cries “No”
The earth does not listen
Papa Legba and Papa Danbala cry “No”
The earth does not listen
She does not pay attention
She ignores them

She rumbles
Like the cannon sound of the Jakmel sea
Rumbles like
Heaven’s thunder

Everything upright human and beast
Even things close to the ground
Are knocked to the right
Knocked to the left
Fall to the left
Fall to the right
Spread like flour to the ground
From Port-au-Prince to Jérémie

Concrete streets and back yards
Split into ten thousand pieces
So human blood
Can pour into the earth’s throat
Countless white clouds
Like white zombifying powder
The white powder of death
Cover Ayiti

Children and the elderly
Become white zombies
White ghosts yelling Anmweee!
People fall people fall people fall
Blood pours blood pours blood pours
Our Mardi Gras and Rara seasons
Fall into a hole
Below the foot of the Sabliye tree
We no longer hear the snoring bambou
Or the sound of the drum
There is only the sad sound
Of the death conch shell

Those whose eyes are still open
See the A B C’s of death everywhere
See the books of death everywhere
Libraries of death everywhere
In a white veil of death
In a sea of white dust
Haitian blood marks pyramids
Becomes crosses
Along roads with two branches
Across straight lines broken

Rich Haitians just like the poor
Turn into paper leaves below house walls
Like sugar cane or corn in a grinder
Our feet like our legs
Our legs like our arms
Our arms like our heads
Crush under the heavy weight

In the center of every street
At every intersection
Haitian corpses lay across sidewalks
The lucky ones who are still alive
Move like huge lizards
Slide over corpse after corpse
Corpses arranged like the letter “A”
Arranged like the letter “Y”
Arranged like the letter “I”
Arranged like the letter “T”
Arranged like the letter “I”
Ayiti spelled in corpses

Under their feet—red
The red blood of their brothers and sisters
With clenched bellies
They crawl two hands at their heads
Two hands behind their heads
Two hands holding their jaws
When they stumble—It is their friend’s body
Their grandfather’s body
Their grandmother’s body
Their brothers’ bodies
Their sisters’ bodies
Their father’s body
Their mother’s body
Their children’s bodies
Their arms open like on a cross
O poor children of my motherland
Both arms open like a cross
Jesus Christ descends from his cross
Makes room for us

Crosses Crosses Crosses
Crosses here
Crosses on the other side of the border
Crosses on the other side of the sea
We have to bear so many crosses
We carry crosses until we turn into crosses
We sweat blood under crosses
We vomit blood under crosses
We piss blood under crosses
We defecate under crosses
Crosses the day before yesterday
Crosses yesterday
Crosses today
Let us say “NO!” to tomorrow’s crosses

We are placing our crosses
On top of God’s shoulders
On top of Papa Legba’s shoulders
On top of Danbala’s shoulders
Larenn Ezili’s shoulders
On Agwe
On Ayida Wedo
On all the heads and shoulders without bodies
All spirits without bodies

We will gather our dead
Wash them in perfumed leaves
Bury them in fertile ground
We will plant the Mapou tree of love
On their graves
Love for life
Life for love
Our children will grow
With love and life in their hearts
With life and love in their heads
They will love all people
Hawks will no longer prey on our motherless chickens

We take the blow
To the middle of our skull
But damn it when our head splits open
It is life and love that enter us
Hope will always sparkle in our hearts
It may seem we are on the road to Hell
But we will discover the right way
Because we are the grandchildren of Guineans
Africans who know how to eat fire
Africans who know how to dance on volcano lava
Africans who know how to steal the sun’s fire
We will arrive
Yes, we will arrive.

—Denizé Lauture Translated by Monica Hand from the Haitian “Kout manch pilon nan mitan sèvèl tèt”, 2010.

Poems by John Ripton

6 am

it’s 6 am
scratches overhead
light edges a curtain
to a cold wall i wake
a child tied in its crib
a thought i carry
to the faucet
but water offers no reprieve
just a steady hush
not a word
not a sign
outside a thin moon
peers down at me
stones grumble beneath my feet
perhaps the newspaper
perhaps the paper has an answer
maybe words can speak
after all
night melts
half into day
just the way i do
i drop the paper
on the table:
“Iraqi market bombed—
50 dead and wounded”
it’s 6:15 am
and coffee percolates
it parses second
from second
meaningless leaks
of water
of light
and last night’s rain
filters through my sleep
and another headline reads
“Drone strikes in Pakistan”
i pull the business pages
set them aside
to wrap dead mice
i trapped in the garage
and turn to sports
it’s 6:26 am
grass still grey
silhouettes of trees
delicate frost fingers
lace fallen lavender
brushes the back door
it’s 6:31 am
the paper is mute
but i notice an image
on the front page again
a sunken-eyed dark child:
“Somalia in crisis”
i rub my eyes
press down the toaster
and look for strawberry jam
it’s 6:43 am
burnt edges of toast
but jam’s sweetness lingers
on the edge of my tongue
brewed Arabian coffee
a delicious bitterness
warms my palms
it’s 6:55 am
and i reach for my coat
the Weather Channel channel on
but a chef is stirring anchovies
into a Neopolitan sauce
then a banner on the screen
calls for rain again
i fumble in a closet
for an umbrella
find nothing
but boots and coats
i close the front door
thinking of mice
and how uncertain
the forecast is.

Crossing into Carolina

Crossing into Carolina,
past Richmond’s war monuments
to Fayetteville’s Fort Bragg,
from glory worn
to thin brass patina
pitted and stained
by rains and birds,
haunted by flag-bearing ghosts,
to glory gone mad
in Abu Ghraib’s cells
and RPG’s whistling
like incoming gods
and headphones pumping
JT’s steamrollin’ blues,
just a churning urn of burning funk,
a faint taste of Iraq’s
sweet blooms of blood
mixed with piedmont dust.
Crossing the South River
tributary of the holy Tigris,
tortured twisted pines
on dry banks,
snaking over sands
like sidewinders,
seeing silent phosphorous flashes
in the distance.
Arriving, at last,
in Fayetteville,
looking for respite
in Fort Bragg,
past its gates
into Fallujah
(a stench of burning flesh
hangs in the summer heat),
trying to forget
the decomposition,
the hungry dogs and vultures,
the countless dead
gathered beneath a steamy sun.
just a churning urn of burning funk

split-ting words

let me split words
stand sentences on head
balanced in space





like stat(e)astician-ad(d)men
spinnin’ elect “Rons” in ’fuges


bankin’ on the Street,
i’ve learned their pol-i-ti-code:
those super-chloroformed-logistics
Disney tried-and-true pig lipstick
used on the masses, let’s say

i know how they engineer
mirrorRED memorieS
of Everyman and
forgive me
if i go ballistic
but i just can’t resist it!
i’m off their su-por-i-fics
their ad-dic-tive






no longer injecting
acid into pinholes
into rods-and-cones


into black-and-white ideas.
what a mad mama
of a world to win—
it’s really Iran(ic)
when you don your
Afghan and stan(d)
up to your Chin-(
a) grin on your Faces
but ya’ better watch your arses
’cause C-I-A(s)s become I-S-I(s)
when P-O-V joins E-R-T-Y
and war becomes holy
with incoming gods
screaming I-E-D(s)
and Toyota(d) Tal-ib-ans
mad-ras-sa(d) Tal-i-bans—


guard A-mer—i-can trucks
bound for Khan-da-har.

let me split words
let me parse truth
until no-thing’s left
not Wall Street pro-phets
split-ting shares
nor Zi-o-nists making
Swiss cheese on West Banks
nor drones pol-li-nat-ing
we all fall down.

yes, let’s split words—
screened words
pro-cessed words










knows we know when
truth breaks free
peace rains down
and man-na falls
into hungry mouths
as Jer-u-re-gains-sa-lem
and his-story


her-story too!


words are split for good.


Dos voces sobre desayuno
(Cuba 2002)

¿A donde vas tan temprano
esta manana?

A comprar una pistola a matar
el gallo de la esquina.

¿Porque quieres matar
este gallo?

Porque me dio otra mentira
esta manana.

¿Que dice este gallo?

La mentira peor de todos.

¿Pero, que le dijo?

Que no hay pollo
en la caldera.

Pero esta es la verdad!

Pues voy a comprar
dos balazos.

¿Porque dos?

Uno para la caldera tambien!

(july 2002)

Two voices at breakfast
(Cuba 2002)

Where are you going so early
in the morning?

To buy a pistol to kill
the rooster at the corner.

Why do you want to kill
this rooster?

Because he lied again
this morning.

What did he say?

The worst lie of all.

But what did he say?

There’s no chicken
in the stew.

But that’s the truth!

I guess I’ll need to buy
two bullets then.


I’m going to shoot the pot too!

(july 2002)

—John Ripton

The Berkshires III —photo Tanbou, 2013.

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