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Poetry in English

Poem by Arthur Williams


This is a defense of a beauty that is only skin deep
Of a luster more enticing than gold even when it’s a cinnamon bronze
Of a liquid encasement of the culture and pride of a strong but abused People!
This is Melanin
Yes, beauty only skin deep
But the ills of society plague us in horror of this thin sheet
And our death and suffering has portrayed
An epidemic
So devastating it has long ago gained claim to the title “The Black Death”
Yet blessed are we
That although life is hard, Heaven is fair
For though there were none immune, the resistant lived on to understand
That to save us all we must contribute uniquely to our environment
That when such a diagnosis comes out, the needles go in
And every subsequent generation
Injected the most coveted and copied culture into society that the world has ever seen
This is a symbol of our value as a people
This is a symbol of our triumphs
Of our beauty, our grace, and our ever firmer self esteem
This is Melanin
A pigmentation that accounts for the coloration of the skin
From caramel fondue to pitch purple
And I don’t care where you fall on the spectrum
You are all my people
And in the white hegemony of this America
We are that pigmentation and
We are that Melanin
Like skin, we share the dichotomy of exposing while protecting
Even now we are exposing later generations to the
History of destruction and terror born of hypocrisy that is the
Legacy of their ancestors
A legacy we pay for daily in Vaseline, aloe, and coconut oil
A lotion, a poultice, a balm, to heal me of this whiteness that burns my skin
So hot, I call it ash
My own personal Pompeii and I refuse to walk around covered and molded by that heat
I am not charred
I am blessed with Melanin
Yet even now we are protecting these generations from the fear of violent retribution
As we try to integrate through protest and not pugilism
Protecting them from the hateful path of their forefathers through creating awareness
And bearing some sympathy for their reactions to having their way of life upended
We try to protect their souls by having the best of us lead the rest of us
In prayer for them
Thank you pastor, Amen
For that is us—The Melanin
Like time we share the dichotomy of embracing while projecting
Embracing the past and through love for ourselves and others overcoming it
Even though the past lives in the scope of our knowledge and increases the scope of our Pain, it never clouds the lens that we shine through
We will always project hope for the future
That is Melanin
A pigment that has been since the beginning of man in the Africa of Pangaea
And will be until the end of days, And on that day
You can believe that every person on this planet will be some shade of brown
Some say that being black is a crime but I say that
Not being black and blue
Is the crime
Without bruises this tapestry, this prophecy can never be hidden so
This is the grand design
This is the beginning and the end
This is power
This is Melanin.

—Arthur Williams

Poem by Tontongi

The Dead Boy On The Beach

(Dedicated to the Middle East Refugees and the Haitian-Dominican Deported)

The dead boy on the beach
swamped by the ocean’s waves
his body lay along the windy beach
is a reminder of your deeds and bad faith;
he is the fruit of your labor
he is a reminder of what was done
years before he was even conceived
years before the Libya’s no-fly-zone
years before Kuwait was declared liberated.

The dead boy on the beach
and his older brother and mother
and thousands others who cross the seas
and perished and eaten by the sharks
are the harvest of what you have sowed.

The dead boy on the beach
his father mortified, dejected by his losses
is the product of your stratagems
the byproduct of power that makes and
dismantles, holding in your hands and hubris
destinies of whole communities,
mastering the science of control and subjugation.

The dead boy on the beach
along with the Haitian-Dominican deported
from the land of their birth
thrown out to the unknown
their odyssey is a testimony of our defeat
defeat of human decency
defeat of the spirit of solidarity.

The dead boy on the beach
is what happens when DR’s actions
are not counteracted by the world conscience
letting people to be thrown to a land of suffering
that is facing its own challenge to horrors,
its own challenge to the accomplices of DR’s madness.

The dead boy on the beach
is the spin-off of Benghazi was is flame
when a dictator’s demise was traded
as dividend shares at the Stock Market
exemplar of what destruction can achieve
symbol of power projected from the sky
coalition of the sages with money and missiles.

The dead boy on the beach
and his companions of human hell
those from the Levant as those from the Caribbean
are reminders of what happens
when crazies are given free reign
in matters of life and death.

The dead boy on the beach
is what happens when State power goes unrestrained
what happens when religion is the guide
and combines with greed and xenophobia
to create even more marvelous gehenna.

The dead boy on the beach
is not a social media sensation;
he incarnates the cruel truth of degradation
the dreadful poetry of his death is no accident,
it’s the implementation of data analysis
the component of cosmological scheme
only a world wide counter-scheme can defeat.

The memory of this dead boy on the beach
is the history of things passed,
the happening faded in absence
human contingence in action.
Tell my why the dream of a better world
shared by all refugees on earth
must be a scourge and not an embrace
a grand embrace, an osmosis of destinies
refined to the image of our dreams,
immanence as the order of things,
beauty made expression of what is real
the reach of the Other as transcendent
in a world perverted by blind faiths
leading little minions to their celebrated hell…
O beautiful hell!

The dead boy on the beach
bellies a wrong way on the road
the signal to take the right turn.

(September 2015)

Remembering the Blizzards of 2015 in Boston

(A prose poem written from notes under the avalanche of snow)

They came in series one after another with fury
and exhibited a calming potency that challenged time and space
reconditioning priorities while the air itself was repurified,
all became white as the most beautiful of lilacs, pervading
life with its horrors and menaces, still exciting all the same
like in the conte de fées, but a fairy-tale of extremes,
extreme propulsion of wind, extreme propulsion of frothy
elements, Mother Nature imposing her limitless prowess,
and we the animal kingdom facing both tragedy and opportunity
lived the odyssey as we could, some of us even happy with guilt.

The first day of the first of the serial, terrifying storms,
I enjoyed their grandeur through the secured lenses of my windows;
the next day the bars were all open with exuberant attires,
and snowy romance regained attraction as the blizzards added zest,
and gained momentum and flourished, while the idyllic Nature-lover
turned to recriminations, for their job on the line, no longer
could the workers afford Nature’s devastating caprices and ravages.

Within three weeks of the recurrent snowstorms they had deeply
tapped nerves not well-disposed toward them in the first place,
by now the white matter has become without any doubt the villain.
Amid such disdain for their supposed heavenly quality, I felt like a traitor
for loving the snow although I continued to exalt in its lacteal,
panoramic artistry, even when I was freezing on my way to the square.
The teeth-grinding noise of the blowing wind in the half silence of the night,
too beautiful to be really terrifying had somewhat appeased me,
“It’s New England,” I thought, until this snow blower’s loud humming
polluted my quiet, and showered my face with high-powered, rapid
shooting of snow and blocking my view, I screamed “Hey! You!”
Nothing happened for a long instant, then suddenly the machine stopped
the operator had realized a human being was in peril.

The changed reality created a new, welcoming cordiality
among peoples of all creeds and races pushed by the narrowness
of the passageways to share spaces with genteel humanity.
The plow machines and their operators were the heroes du jour
battling the scourges of Nature with insistent devotion even
when the State allocation was meager and timid in the face
of angry MBTA passengers demanding accountability:
There was no love for the snow when stranded in traffic
for hours on end, hungry and tired after a ten-hour shift.

Many people just hibernated their cars leaving lines of snowy
monsters sculpted by Nature’s capricious sense of order and beauty.
The most caring of the residents and businesses did a great job
cleaning up the sidewalks, others just complied with the law’s minimum
standard and other just didn’t give a damn, like Phil’s Towing
who left its sidewalk untouched by any human consideration or caring
even after making big bucks towing people’s cars with frenetic zeal.
Those gave the pedestrians the choice between climbing up piles of snow
or subject to getting killed by drivers frustrated by the slow pace of things.

We ought to negotiate every instant of survival and challenge our
worst bestial instincts, often having to re-deal the whole house of cards,
bring about new guiding principles emanated from the simple principle
just to be there, there, among other elements that Nature oppresses.

And just like the last spasm of the white liquid ending with hurrah
its feisty adventure, the Blizzards gave a finale befitting their grandeur;
they blanketed the aging piles of darkened and dirty snow with new,
virginal, fluffy snow that danced in unison with the brightening sun
—the horizon had become a piece of art, an enlivening beauty.

I remember how immense a pleasure I took as a rebellious boy
when I witnessed the devastating fury and terror of Hurricane Flora
ravaging my beloved Port-au-Prince—I enjoyed her daring challenge
to Papa Doc’s order of things, the blow to his claim of absolute power!
The Blizzards of 2015 gave humility lessons of their own,
they taught us that human legs, besides their playful quality
are the most reliable means of transportation, and even of well-being.
They also told me that whatever else had or could have happened
in the world, or whatever other news that CNN had broadcast, people’s
awareness was blurred by the immediate tragedy they were confronting
in the moment and which captured their attention and their sense of humor.

I overheard many secret uses of the storms’ redefinition of space
and comfort and all; some welcomed the freedom they provided
to be lazy and feel the moment, expressing the hope they’d help them
have long overdue babies, while others lamented their loneliness
although snow romances had suddenly quadrupled even in the cold.

Poised to confront the Blizzards’ onslaught with exciting apprehension
Jill cooked a large pot of soup made of split peas and sausage
as I made rice and beans to sweeten our forced retreat.
Deep in my inner soul even in the face of people’s frustrations
and unmet expectations, I delighted in the sudden change of rhythm,
in the diminished functionality of normality the Blizzards had imposed;
they regained majesty in my eyes even when unsure of their ultimate intent.

The people found ways by sheer will power and the fear of losing
their jobs or their high living comfort to cope, with ingenious calm,
with this thing—this white thing all over had brightened perceptions and even
the most goody-goody of the citizens questioned the State Administration’s
lack of imagination and preparedness although no one could predict
Nature’s capricious malevolent impulses on such a long duration.

It’s New England indeed, we knew in this place on Earth
all can happen at once and all four seasons and their extremes can cohabit
within half of an afternoon as if that were their normal occurrence.
The Blizzards of 2015 won the battle but they will have faded away
in our memories; hopefully this poem will be a testimony to their glory.

—Tontongi January/February 2015

(A shorter version of this poem was published in the 2015 issue of magazine Auscultations.)

The Mummeri Buggeiri Valley in the Springbrook National Park in Queensland, Australia.

Looking over the Mummeri Buggeiri Valley in the Springbrook National Park in Queensland, Australia, January 2015. —photo by David Henry

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