Poems by Anna Wexler
Most beautiful baby born
into a laboratory maze
of uncalculated risks
your mother is waiting
behind an alien sign:
dont touch, breathe
or absorb this body.
It knows too much.
From the move-sanrising up
your milk was spoiled
as her grief was split
into every multiple of fear.
Still you come loving
her aching breasts
and continents of softness.
We know how to cover this child
with heirloom blankets woven
out of moonlight
but the old prayers
are shadows under the water
moving beyond sound.
May their syllables
return and teach us
between life and the endless
figures of its inversion
is the sweet dark moan of labor
humming across our bloodlines.
The Following Dream
I listen under
the thin cadence of your disbelief
where your voice begins.
All the lwa walked beside us.
From the deep spring
they spoke to us in echoes.
Without knowing you have forgotten
I remind you.
You keep talking
while my body listens.
There are always reasons
afraid and hungry
spirits seal every footprint
make the corn come gold
their blood quicken.
I wanted to drink
in the deep spring
where your voice begins
but you deny your hunger.
put basil in my dream
where I was lonely
green and pungent leaves
to sweep my body
clear of sorrow?
Poem by Joe Davis
|A man sleeping in front of the cinema next to bassin de la Villette, in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. photo by David Henry, May 2001|
What conspicuous nature operates
the thin apertures of belief and omission
that represent the truth
facts and strange companions press between
the ten thousand sheets
fingerprints peeling from the long record of days
page after page of history
and the footprints of councilors and ants
step by step
one by one
tooth by tooth
termites and angels slide out of heaven together
in big four-doors
they drive nice cars down through the high walls of paradise
where living things cavitate and disappear
with articles of faith
down in dark rooms of the obscure camera
where good friends and gathering godgs
return the fruits of flesh and blood
but it is apple-flavored
one time slash and burn operations
taking out Brazil for cheap power
and cold-blooded pleasures
there are ten thousand terrorists in paradise.
So now I take Josephs coat
many souls folded in the collar
I draw my breath in pockets cut from skin and clods of Earth
and sing my lovesong for the dead
long, departing lines press the air
like the thick of flies feeding on the carcass
I teach the grains of sand to sing my song
and pour them into the silences of Heaven
when I lift my voice it is the seeds of weeds and clouds of dust
and when I lift my hand it is a black flag
and all the princes of darkness stop to grind their teeth
familiar corpses wait at the grave
like racehorses grazing in their fields at night
stand by each narrow gates and call them out
by all their secret names
I go riding back and forth from the fat belly of Egypt
in the big green ship of Allah
sucking up infections from the legs of frogs
and dare to read the dreams of an evil genius
I take them up in plastic bags and set them out at night
soldiers in the covers of darkness
cracking in the wind
like voices of wisdom in the radio background
Heaven reaches down to lift her dress
giants and mastodons drop to their knees
great stones break apart on the tables
when I lift my glass the oceans pitch and curl
clouds of dust and seeds of weeds
they are robes
the leaves of the trees and the blades of grass
and I go down again to lie beside the Nile
and the princes of darkness can have the air.
|Saint Ursulas Passion, by Marilène Phipps|
Poems by Tontongi
Ballads For The Killing of Diallo
(dedicated to Amadou Diallo who, in 1999, was fatally hit nineteen times by forty-one bullets shot by four New York City cops)
|Tontongi reading this poem on May 14th, 2000|
Diallo died at the frontal
of his house a certain night
his smile survived intact
amidst pierced arteries
body showered in blood
but peaceful as a yogas siesta.
The four policemen were blown
in an ecstasy of bang! bang!
claiming masculinity in terror;
the beauty of their guns
the perfection of the fire power
the gymnastic glory of their move,
quick, precise, mathematical
enhanced by the poetry of the night
had avenged all that was lost
but thrived to be regained;
regained was the purity of the race,
calm security trust and repos desprit.
Diallo died one night
for the salvation of the land
for the grace of the Stock Exchange
but his village was mourning
his passing on a distant universe
they shed tears for his going away
from his mothers matrices
and his premature return to ashes.
The goods he sold were his mantra,
forced entry by sacrificial means
in the sanctum of all-market USA;
he was an angel of delusion
a real brother from the Bronx.
Had they known each other
Diallo would tell Abner Louima:
brother in blood and cry
the non-sense has a sense
of an ever-unreachable Promised Land
heading to a fake heavenly splendor
the guns wont stop
but all will still be there.
Had the killed met his killers
instead on the somber New York street
in a carnival in Rio or in Port-au-Prince rara
together virile and deflated
burst by the Ogouns fervor
joyful in carnal delirium
blessed and bathed in the animal sweat
Thanatos and Eros in fusion
living a last rite to life
they would surely be friends.
They would say to each other,
co-bacchanals in before-death ecstasy:
we are all pawns in a global madness
lets celebrate the fugitive moment.
And the violence of the lost time
gave way to a new day of light,
spleen, stress, blues, nightmare,
white fear and black distress
were relocated to Nothingness trashes
the village cried one last time
its conscience was now its only respite.
On the first day of the trial
as a last sacrificial offering
the people had demanded the hanging
for mayhem of the four vicious policemen
the rich cried their loss of safety net
and the poor the continuing hell.
But the jury handed to the Diallos killers
the medal of valor for their sense of danger.
Diallos death saved the day,
The last poem
(dedicated to Aldo Tambellini)
I shall write a poem that will tell it all,
sing the nightingales nightly song,
penetrate the labyrinth deep inside,
unveil its mysterys inner soul.
I shall turn on the light
and open up the doors and the ceilings
to the immense oversight of infinitude;
I will tell Cedyes story
his slow pace to the martyrdoms state
where his spirits were lost to Aganman.
I will tell how Marie Lagone was defeated
and ceded to the worms never again
to regain her glory in our world.
My poem will revisit Ti-Gerard painting
the belly of the Beast with beautiful colors;
I shall make it a Pantheon from Hell,
the twist in the depth of quiet indifference
toward a destiny made to cry alone
yet screaming to help the baby from dying.
I will tell the travails of Magdalena, proud Amazon
losing her universe on a flip of a dice, here and there
there were losses because no one was there to help
reinvent our cosmos anew;
there was suffering all over.
When Hell governs the celestial values
our empty frailties are gone to the abyss;
I will tell what it was that went wrong,
reenact the primal nurturance of the land
before Good-Feet killed himself on a binge;
I shall tell what should never be told.
My poem will tell my story
both my glories and my pains;
I will tell my nocturnal wonderments
my lonely rêveries at the Saint Andre Park
behind the eerie colossal shadow
of the Reims Cathedral;
I will tell my love for Christina
the beauty once lived before Armageddon;
I shall tell of my youth consumed by my dreams.
My poem must reveal the horrifying
degeneration of life toward irrelevance;
I shall tell why all looks so normal
in so dimmed everyday lifes nightmare;
I will tell the loss by my country
of its nutrients, eroded from its roots;
I will sing and curse all the same
the serial death of my brothers and sisters
sacrificed to the altar of natural selection,
murdered by Haitis murderous poverty;
I shall tell the unfairness of their fate.
I shall write the ultimate poem
the silent cry of the Zebras complaints,
the trap of the vast multitude
within the infernal coercion of exploitation;
I will tell the alienation of the policeman
whose gun is a curse dreaded by his own conscience,
perishing in the Great Void of Contingence;
I will sing a song,
a simple melody for the no mans land.
My poem will be made of tears
for those who have no more left to shed;
I will tell what happened to Michel
crossing his entire youths path from
running to running for his life
until he was found dead at midday
no one ever knew what his story was.
I shall tell of my purgatory
just like Mumia Abu Jamal told of his sojourn in hell;
I shall tell of the police brutality victims suddenly
transformed to Attila the Hun to cover the mayhem.
I shall tell of the banning of poetry in State affairs;
I shall tell The Amadou Diallos story
the Louimas and Dorismonds stories,
I will tell it all in one verse.
My poem must expurgate my manhood
unveil the animality of the best of my being,
reveal both the monster behind the friendly smile
and the humanity of my most evil deeds;
I shall undress the species to its pure nudity,
relegate our vanity to the dustbin of time;
I shall tell a new story.
I shall write a poem that will destroy it all
the beauty as well as the ugliness
the love as well as the hate;
my poem will start from the scratch
from the point where nothing is cursed or blessed
from the point of total innocence.
I shall write a poem that incites a global destruction,
a new Big Bang giving way to a new nothingness,
an original feast where all splendors are there,
there, at easy reach to the human frailties.
I shall write a poem anti-poem
a poem that will not be read to the king,
a poem for all that is not there and should be.
I will write a poem to cry,
cry the waste, the losses and the non-sense;
I will write a poem to tell you I was there
in blood and in flesh witnessing both the calvary
and the great potentials for a work of beauty;
I shall write a poem for happiness
the kind only kindred spirits have experienced;
I shall write a poem just to be.
I shall write a poem for only the pleasure
I extract from my state of total freedom,
for the ecstasy in conquering evanescence;
I will write a poem for the glory
from the smile of a beautiful child;
I will write a poem to celebrate the cerebral,
and yet subliminal cadence of the sexy gal
crossing the street with celestial wisdom
mixed with sweat, blood, contemplative sins.
I will sing the freshness of the dawn,
the suns majestic and ever peaceful sleep,
the pubertal elegance of the spring roses,
I will sing the beauty that is already there.
The poem I will write
will be hurting inside and boasting outside
just like my life has been;
it will radiate of the multiple splendors of the spleens,
turning the drought to a generous spring
and the desert of hell to a fertile Eden;
my poem will embrace the Grand Canyon,
recompense the artists inner pace,
and plant flowers along the lonely road.
I shall write a poem that will end it all,
all that contributes to the engine of hell;
I shall write a poem just to say nothing,
simply to be there.
I shall write a poem to destroy poetry
and put in its stead a big proclamation:
No more unnecessary death
No more anti-woman testosterone
No more Wall Street speculation
No more bosses that boss people around
No more bastards who hate life
No more rich people that live off poor people
No more whites that kill blacks
No more blacks that kill whites
No more schools that produce dummies
No more idiots with a license to be idiot
No more superwomen that become hyperbitch
No more misogynous heroes
No more abusers of children
No more people who choose death over life
No more zombies aiding zombie-makers
No more innocent people in death row
No more refugees dead in high seas.
I will write a last poem
a poem of love
a poem for you to read
a poem that will tell who we are
I will write a poem
to incite multiple impulses
a Big Boom of creative happenings,
a renaissance since the primal vision.
Tontongi Boston, February 1999
Poems by Ella Turenne
The meaning of my feelings
|Riding. by Ella Turenne|
What is it like to be emotionally aloof?
To feel from the inside in,
imploding from the inability to convey emotion?
Like the opposite of emotionally amplified
a comedy and tragedy
splitting sensations and sentiments.
You accuse me of being guarded,
the impulses take control,
and before I know it there I am again,
denying vibes that are clearly
on the tips of tongues and
fronts of lobes.
Charged and submitting to
the unreal demands of emotional experiences,
my rational self isnt strong enough to look past
that lingers from instances
of guised love.
What do you do with a busted heart
patched in all the right places,
flaunting all the right moves,
speaking with all the right vocabulary
once its old wounds are revived
at the moment of truth when
the genuine identity presents itself
only causing more rifts and deceit
rendering the receiver dubious of
potential motives and
fronts protect a weak and worn heart
from extra baggage,
potential falls, and
How to hear that word
from the anxiety,
from the thrill,
leaves me open,
and without sanctuary?
I, not wanting to be aloof,
am machined into the motions.
|Woman fleece. by Ella Turenne|
I cant not be me.
Those who choose to be alive
and not live,
not take risks,
fail to discover themselves
and live with the mask
society has brainwashed us to believe.
I cant not be black.
Mind, body, soul black.
I cant not be emotional.
No littles or subdues.
Sensations amplified to the 13th power.
Bubbling with energy.
I cant not be militant.
engulfing my world
are enough to drown my optimism,
suffocate my passions,
scorch my dreams
unless I self-revolutionize.
I cant not be truth.
Weve learned to live lies.
The truth will set you
a p a r t.
Knowledge is power.
Deception is the precursor to downfall.
Empowerment doesnt lie in lies.
|Neg Maron. by Ella Turenne|
I cant not be Haitian.
The Pearl of the Antilles
is displayed on my skin
for everyone to see and celebrate.
A history rich and mixed
with struggles and joys,
pains and passions,
is lodged in the shell of my soul.
I cant not be a womyn.
I will be seen, heard, remembered.
I will be mother, leader, daughter, inventor,
sister, healer, friend,
I am above, below, in front, in back, within.
Womyn I am
with or without a man.
I cant not be an artist.
The hits come every day.
The acceptance is rare.
The praise is scarce.
the love from my soul
is infinite and
Its how I be.
Why be black?
Why be emotional?
Think L.A. riots.
Why be militant?
Think 41 shots.
Why be truth?
Why be Haitian?
Think first black republic.
Why be womyn?
Why do black art?
Aint I black?
Dont I do art?
Why be me?
Who do I know better?
Poems by Doug Tanoury
Autumn In August
The unthinkable came to me
I felt her gone as a dream vanishes
Upon rising and gathers up its memory
In its wake.
Her touch is summer wind
In autumn trees,
A passing out of season,
Like leaves in August
Turning brown and crimson
And dropping off
On to still green lawns.
A thing out of step,
An order confused,
A long pattern of seasons
Broken and gone.
She is not dead
But only sleeping.
I say out loud,
Autumn cannot arrive in August,
As I make loud radio static
And breakers on the beach
By walking alone through dead leaves
That bury the grass gone dormant
In days of dark clouds
That sit on the horizon
Like cats on a window sill
In the zenith of twilight.
Late on these August nights,
I sit on my front porch
Unable to sleep,
And watch the stars,
But mostly I watch
The wind in the trees.
There is an elm a few doors down
That has branched out
Around the street lamp
So that the leaves glow
Translucent green in the night.
The wind moving branches
And leaves making it look
Like a carved jade sculpture
Come to life.
And I think that this has been
The summer of cut jade,
I have never seen grass so deeply green,
Or trees more ornate in their foliage,
And the sky has never been painted in
Finer shades of skyborn blues.
And I think too,
That this is what Icarus saw
And felt just before
So if my wings fail now,
Let me fall, for I have kissed the sky
As if it were a holy icon
And filled my lungs with the
Pure whiteness of clouds, so
If I fall there will be no splash,
No sound except a sigh lifted
Airborne by the waves.
I remember an August once
When I could talk to him
But didnt and each word unspoken
Rested like a brick on the silence
That lay thick as a layer of mortar
And grew into hardness between us
These days I think of him
Mostly when rain falls in gray sheets
With a soft hiss as droplets
Paint the pavement with color
Of an overcast sky and collects
On the road in pools in brought to full boil
In summer storms with the
Sound of thunder on my skin
I recall in the airs smell and
The wind cool in my hair
An August once when rain fell
In mortar gray hardness on our silence
Leaves of green
Dancing lively and
In sunset skies
Sycamores in full
Are slowly changing
Transformed and stained
In subdued hues
Weak tea tint
Watered down light
In sunset skies
Dancing lively and
Leaves of green
Signs In August
As the mornings grow cooler in later August
I notice flowers grow more vivid
Each blossom wears a brighter shade
Each bud promises a more vibrant hue
And leaves grow a lusher green
In these evenings of late summer
The crickets seem to call louder
In a meter more pronounced
And becomes to me as I listen now
The very heartbeat of night
And in these signs I see
The seasons end foreshadowed
And I reflect on its last days
As rain falls in the afternoon and
Ends in white bursts across the pavement
Making leave and blossom twitch and tremble
As if animated the flowers awaken
From dreaming colors of summer mornings
And trees listen and sway silently to songs
That fill an August night
And I too am now awake
And wear a new more full awareness
Of the signs and signals of a season passing
And the significance of small and tiny symbols
Like a raindrop glistening
On a crickets charcoal back.
Poem by Marie-Hélène Laraque
To Find a New Land
To live my old dream
to return to Haiti
to make a good life there
enjoy the weather and people
the plants and land
to bring something to my land
to see it thrive once again
to help the land be covered with
to plant trees, food trees, flowers
to work with like-minded people
to bring new life to the old land
to be part of something worth-while
to bring peace and to be a peace-maker
to help others to find a new way
a good path
to walk that path too
to know the heat and warmth,
the fog on the mountains,
the smell of the wet earth
mine once again
in the home of my ancestors
To live my old dream
to know freedom
to live it
and accept it, and practice it
unchallenged by the endless choices
calm and sure and knowing
to others on my land
living their freedom too
to feel truly secure
on every level.
To walk on my mountains
to discover the water places
in between the hills and the mountains
to walk into the cold water
feel the rocks under my feet
to walk among those rocks
pick watercress and mint
and feel my ancient people
and smile at the knowledge
and sureness of this.
To ride on horseback
in these mountains
and see for the first time
places I have wanted to see since childhood
the smells and tastes
of mountain-peoples food cooking
spit-out sugar cane, having
chewed it white, dry
sucking every drop.
To hear the old greetings of
the mountain people
as they pass each other walking
their Creole talk
the words and responses
I enjoyed so much as a child
feeling their connection
To feel the connection
with the people
beyond our separations
our sameness, our spirit
as it is given to me
To sleep there in the darkness
in the total blackness
but for the moon
and the candles
in the house of my childhood
up in the mountains
to rise and see the sun come up
through the mist
toes on wet grass
smells and sounds of home.
To know what to do with the land
to feel good about it
to plant it
to bring new life to it
to know it is well.
To know and accept my childrens
knowing they are well
and will be well
to be at peace there
to write and read
to know the silence
and the sounds.
To build something
a little caille in the traditional style
mud and sticks
and an earth floor to sit
and lie on
and a fire in the middle
to cook corn and coffee
and keep us warm
give us light and comfort
a knowledge of home
what it means to be alive
and a human being.
To bring encouragement and
to see my land used in a good way
to plant with my hands
gather, and share and eat
to know and understand the
things that grow
to know about the plants
and what used to be
to see how things are made
baskets, earthen vase, djakout,
and where they grow
tobacco, roucou, thyme,
seeds for necklaces.
To pick up flat stones
stones for carving
sea shells with holes in them
to wear in a sacred way
To see night fall
near the sea
and the soft hot air
the sun setting
the day is ending
the smell of the sea
the warm sand underfoot
the mountains in the distance
dark and full of mystery
the feelinglike nowhere else,
that painful beauty of home
my beautiful land like nowhere else: Haiti.
Marie-Hélène Laraque Boulder, Colorado, July 1997
Marie-Hélène Laraque passed away on March 30, 2000, at the age of 52. Anthropologist of profession, she devoted a big deal of her work to the cause of the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, notably those of Canadas Northwest Territories among whom she had lived during the last years of her life.
|Marie-Hélène Laraque, April 1948March 2000|
In an eulogistic essay dedicated to her memory, her friend Marie Wilson painted a woman of action animated by a great passion for life. Reported Wilson: As recently as a year ago , through the Dene chiefs here in the Northwest Territories, she arranged for the National Assembly of First Nations [an assembly of indigenous chiefs] to pass a motion recognizing a 1533 treaty between a hereditary Taino Chief, Guarocuya (Cacique Henri) and the crown of Spain. Through her motion, the Canadian chiefs recommended that a United Nations Special Report on Treaties and Agreements with indigenous populations around the world acknowledge this 1533 Bahoruco Peace Treaty as the very first treaty in the Americas between Indigenous people and Europeans.
Further in the essay, Marie Wilson affirmed that Marie-Hélène was so much devoted to her activist work that one week before her death, still optimistic, she was making plans to lobby on behalf of the dedicated health workers she had met while undergoing cancer treatment: She believed in the interconnections of people, and of our shared responsibilities to and for each other, said Wilson.
As we feel in the internal music of her poem, she was manifestly the passionate for life depicted by her friend: She had, said Wilson, a smile that could light up a room, and a beauty that was inescapable.
Her poem, printed above, is a beautiful poem which waves its simplicity as a badge of honor, uniting the earth, its seed, lifes zest, and even lifes rubbish in a grand Whole, a sort of cosmic unity which would collapse without the continual renewal action undertaken every now and then by some of us.
Its elating to see how the picture of her depicted by her friend, a Hélène generous of her time, a caring and passionate sister to the world, is vividly reproduced in the poem, like in the passage where she said she would like to return to Haiti to enjoy the weather and people / the plants and land, and further, to bring encouragement and new hope / to see my land used in a good / way, thriving, green [ ] to know about the plants / and what used to be.
The death of my daughter Marie-Hélène was a blow that was devastating to me, confided her father Franck Laraque, professor of literature at New York University, a well-known activist in the Haiti liberation movement. She left Haiti when she was ten years old, said Laraque, to rejoin my wife and me in New York. She returned after the overthrow of the Duvaliers, more than thirty years later; but she had never forgotten the country of which she had retained a tenacious and luminous memory, as attested one of her poems written in English that I translated into French.
Tanbou July 2001 [Read the French version of the poem in Poèmes en français]