• MJ Fievre

3 Poems: Patricia Biela, Suze Baron, and Jeremy Paden

Updated: Jun 10

MAMIE'S HANDS by Patricia Biela

Grand-mère, je vois tes mains. Your hands coddle infants nourish your children.

Mamie, je vois tes mains. Your hands interlock God. Rosary beads hang.

Grand-mère, je vois tes mains. Your hands plant mango and bananane.

Mamie, je vois tes mains. Your hands teach poise, strength. My hands wait for yours.

(Virginia, April 25, 2011)

MAMA by Suze Baron

Because Mama cannot hear   and because she talks nonsense

everytime she opens her mouth  Everyone avoids her   Everyone

includes my children and me   Mama lives with us

Because Grandpa   Grandma   Unky and Aunty are dead   and because

Mama has no whys and wherefores in life   she’s lonely   very lonely

Grandpa   Grandma   Unky and Aunty loved Mama   They would have

taken time to listen to her   when she babbles nonsense they would

have understood

Because they’re dead   Mama is left with children who are burdened

by her presence   Children   she loves and for whom she would still

sacrifice her life

My brothers   Fritz and Serge   visit every Saturday   Fritz brings

drinks and Serge fruits   But because they’re busy men   they visit in a


Joseph   the oldest   used to visit and stay a long time   He used to take

Mama to Pinelawn to our sister’s grave   He doesn’t do this anymore

It’s something about inheritance   Mama didn’t give him the piece of

property he wanted Because Mama is lonely…


Here is a stand, let us sit for a night or two or three in silence before we speak. I wish it were a copse of blue-flowering lignum, shedding petals that float like butterflies, or the ceibas under whose canopies Anacaona and Guacanagarix held court, or the guayaba and guanábana that fed Guarocuya’s rebels, even the bushes and shrubs Mackandal used for his potions and powders, anything but this grove of felled mahogany.

Where is the poem that will not forget that Bolívar forgot Pétion’s aid? The poem that will remind Charles X that Haiti paid for her freedom in blood? The poem that will stand before Monroe and recite his Doctrine? Where is the poem that will escape from Fort Dimanche and wander through the streets of Port au Prince crying out for Papa Doc to remember he was the son of a justice of the peace and a baker woman, crying out that he not forget the wretched of the earth, strangled by his Tonton Macoutes?

Let us stay a while in this denuded place and write a poem that will not forget Haiti.

Haiti, I see you in a t-shirt that says Phillies 2009 World Series Champs, bending over a bucket of lard and clay and salt, making mud pies to sell at market. I hear you in the laugh of the boy with whom I played soccer one summer day on plains made barren from centuries of slashing and burning sugar cane.

Haiti, there are stories that we keep under lock and key in a cupboard. In that cupboard, beside your bananas, beside the green cane we no longer grind down to molasses and refine into sugar, beside your double-pot distilled rum, we keep you, wasting away on mud pies. And every once in a while we crack open the door and yell, “Stop cutting down your trees for firewood!” Never mind that you have no electricity. Never mind that a stove costs more than you will earn in a lifetime.

Let us write a poem that will haunt us like Tonton Macoute, even after all the children have been adopted and the halls of government have been rebuilt.

Haiti, how many wrongs can one poem right? Can a poem reforest your hills, keep tectonic plates from shifting, undo a dam that forced a valley of people to leave their fertile fields for slums? Can a poem resurrect your creole pigs? Can it redress centuries of misrule? Can a poem give you a livelihood where you do not have to peddle your goods to tourists, squeezing the last penny out of their vacation funds? Can it settle in and disrupt our lives like chagas disease?

Can a poem, like a strangler fig or mangrove, send down roots from the sky?

There is a fault which runs the length of the Caribbean and on that fault lies Haiti and on that fault are we. Let us write a poem that will change our lives, a poem strong enough to endure the pressures of the fault on which it stands.

(Lexington, KY, July 18, 2011)

Suze Baron is Haitian-American. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Patricia Biela is a native of Maryland and is a UVA grad with a BA in Psychology. A first generation American, she is of Angolan and Haitian descent. Biela is a Cave Canem South Fellow and has participated in 18 writing workshops including Callaloo, Cave Canem South, How Writers Write Poetry--International Writing Program-The University of Iowa, Hurston/Wright, Provincetown, and Dr. Tony Medina's Poetry Boot Camp. Her poems appear in Barely South Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, The Caribbean Writer, Drumvoices Revue, and World Haiku Review among others. She has a poem exhibited in Epiphany Salon and Spa, Washington, D.C. Biela has editing experience, and has written over 25 articles, some of which appear in Brainworld Magazine and Funds for Writers—Writing Kid. She is a third generation educator, teaches poetry workshops to retirees, and to other adults. Biela is honored to be in the Duke Young Writers' Camp teaching family. Her poem, "Please Leave a Message" can be found on Apple Music, CD Baby, Google Play, iHeartRadio, iTunes, Napster, Spotify, and more. Biela is also an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and has over 200 students spanning the globe.

Jeremy Dae Paden was born in Italy and raised in Central America and the Dominican Republic. He received his Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Emory University. His poems have appeared in such places as the Atlanta Review, Beloit Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Louisville Review, pluck!, and Rattle, among other journals and anthologies. He is the author of one chapbook, Broken Tulips, released by Accents Publishing in 2013. He is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and a member of the Affrilachian Poets.

#Haiti #Haitipoems #PatriciaBiela #Haiti #guanábana #PapaDoc #Mackandal #PortauPrince #TontonsMacoutes #Petion #poemaboutHaiti #Guarocuya #Guacanagarix #Anacaona #FortDimanche #guayaba #Monroe

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© 2019 by MJ Fievre