3 Poems: Patricia Biela, Suze Baron, and Jeremy Paden
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
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…
ON THIS FAULT, LET US WRITE A POEM by Jeremy Paden
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 graduate of the University of Virginia with a BA in Psychology. A first generation American, she is of Angolan paternal and Haitian maternal descent. Biela is a Cave Canem South Fellow and has participated in 16 writing workshops including Callaloo, Cave Canem South, Provincetown, and Hurston/Wright. Her poems appear in Berkeley Poetry Review, The Caribbean Writer, Drumvoices Revue, and Onè? Respè! among others. She has a poem exhibited in Epiphany Salon and Spa, Washington, D.C. Biela has written over 25 articles, many of which appear in Brainworld Magazine, ehow.com, and Funds for Writers—Writing Kid.
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.
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