by Patrick Sylvain
It was still daylight as peddlers’ feet hurried
Toward rest where dependent mouths
Awaited meager meals. Desperate.
For laborers, it was near the end of a harsh day,
Tilling the earth shirtless, barefoot, calloused
Hands armed with century old sickles and hoes.
Unadorned mountains stood linked
In waves like camel humps dominating
Basin-crouched cities and plains.
Stubborn indices of continental drift,
Geographical collisions and bedrock are
Testimonies that earth requires her own text,
That she too writes history in blood.
An orgasm of death entered Port-Au-Prince
From the south, conquering a line of feeble towns.
Hopes granulated in an extended corridor
Of crushed bodies as a urinal of despots flushed
Into silence. Innocence is sliced by poverty.
Listen. The great baron’s blades are sharpened.
Tumbling and caving rocks brokered bustling
Streets into a morbid stillness. Port-Au-Prince gagged
On dust spewed by the encroaching reaper-apocalypse.
Time oozed by as brave Haitians froze upon the sight
Of an instant masquerade and macabre carnival.
Spirits floated as thousands were snatched
By unannounced cherubins train-wrecking the earth.
Basin-filled cities and provinces became
Begging bowls still cuffed to 1804.
Despite hunger and expectations of mayhem,
Thousands of embattled bodies vigorously sang
To the cosmos refusing to partake in a dance
Macabre. Aid delivery charades and dignitary parades.
We know the roads and we know the ropes,
Still cuffed to the beacon of 1804’s maroons,
We are swimming upstream against forceful
Tides of history, calamities and ravenous eagles.
Repeatedly clawed, our bodies, scaled with miseries
Are now caught in an NGO’s undertow.
After two hundred and six years of desperate strokes,
Nature broke us. Now, there’s a parade of vultures
Decked in full regalia on our shores. We are meat.
With punctured ribs and collapsed lungs, our gills
Are pried further open as our seasoned substance
Is wheedled and herded onto pristine marble slabs.
Despite resilience, we await the plunging predators’ beaks.
Patrick Sylvain is a poet, writer, translator, photographer, and academic. He is on faculty at Brown University’s Center for Language Studies. He has published in several anthologies, academic journals, books, magazines and reviews including: African American Review, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, International Journal of Language and Literature, Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America, The Best of Beacon Press, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, and others.