Aller au sommaire de ce numéro de Tanbou/Tambour, Été 2003

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Poetry in English


Poems by Tontongi

What Would Old Breda Say?

Dedicated to Toussaint Louverture in commemoration of the 200-year anniversary of his martyrdom

He had sworn seven times
since life past in his ancestral Ginen
to the dark dungeon in Jura’s Fort de Joux
through Napoleon’s in-law’s court
for liberty’s roots to stay alive
even on the road to nowhere.

Old Breda would want the island’s brave
to penetrate memory since the original agony
and find solutions to the warring curse
within a family string-pulled at will.
Old Breda would have wished
for the plantation’s offspring to aim high
even when Suckingall wants discord
among all of those who sing hope.

Old Breda didn’t cry
even when cheated and deceived as he was
by Hédouville’s play of Rigaud’s aims;
Old Breda would have been pained
to trade dawn for nightfall
and for the demise of respect and fairness
of people for people
and country for country and people
even when Uncle Sam’s wrath obliges.

Old Breda would call
for Jean Dominique’s death to be avenged
for Noriega to be released with an apology
for food to eat on Easter Sunday
for justice for Sandino’s heading to his death
through colonist deceit be made an epiphany
of people’s rights and beauty and human dignity.
Old Breda would demand
reparation for Charlemagne Péralte’s death
and for the island’s fate centuries past Leclerc
had brought imperial might for right
be made a testimony to glory.

Old Breda would not want
Iraq to be made a pretext or a saint
nor for the museum library bombarded
under raining missiles in Arabia
be made an imperial glory to cherish.

In Jura’s dungeon
Old Breda swore for his star to brighten
and for constellations in dark alleys
become the lightning rod
and for liberty’s praises be loud
he swore for all of that had passed
would not come back to haunt justice’s quest
Old Breda would call for peace.

What would Old Breda say
if two hundred years have not brought
a flowering oasis of multiple wonders
in the heart of the plantation’s ills?
What would he say if the sun turns dark
if the nightingale has not sung at sunrise?

What would Old Breda say
if the people lose hope
faced with Bonaparte’s double
faced with the stubbornness of fresh feeling
for old ills and fresh blood for burnt past?
What would Old Breda say
if Antoine Nan Gome is made pope
on a Baghdad square
live on CNN in open air?
What would he say if our cry for help
fell on closed hearts?
What would Old Breda say
if “boat-people” thrown out
return to the island
and build something grand?
What would he say
if Port-au-Prince is blocked
by liquidators with smile?
What would he say
if the lost memory were to come back
and Haiti were again our pride?

What would Old Breda say
if Maswife doesn’t climb the pole on January 1st?
if basilica can’t destroy evil curses?
What would Old Breda say
if the roots are withered and depleted of nutrients?
How happy would Old Breda be
if we break open a new dawn?

—Tontongi Boston, April 2003
Nòt: Li vèsyon kreyòl powèm sa a nan «Pwezi ann ayisyen»

Rest For The Warriors

(dedicated to Gadi and to peace in the Middle East)

1. The conquerors

After the last combat
you will need to rest
O dear soldier of my glory days!
After you had conquered
thanks to your valorous might
the land we have both coveted
and the gold that sustains its pride
you have left me empty
devoid of hope
yet still expecting something else.

The nourishment of my youthful dreams
has withered, faded away,
in its stead a calvary of pain,
of broken bones,
blown away flesh,
tears in faces that could no longer smile,
soulmates separated by the ocean’s width,
families petrified by losses,
has invaded my soul.

Dear soldier of my glory days,
you have left me in the cold;
our villages have become fortified barracks,
shopping malls caved alongside the minefield
and oasis of well guarded quiet cemeteries.

Still we remain compagnons of the same time
and space and peoples’ aspirations toward
new camaraderies in non-lethal follies;
we remain compagnons in everyday discoveries.

Come and retire your gun, my dear soldier
we now need you for much deeper ideals,
come to redeem the fight.

2. The conquered

After the last fight
the fight to reconquer our lost lands
we were left with our dreams while our everyday life
was filled with worries of not let pass at check points;
fear of being left behind in employment lines,
panic for not knowing how the next meal will come,
life in deserted land
time spent in inhospitable jails
tears that never seem to dry.

After the last Intifada
and the last blowing up of busses
there comes the time to heal;
after the last land reconquered
we will still need the people to be there
all the people.

After the last fight
you will lose your coveted land
but you will retain your dreams
and a human space in a tormented soul.
After the last fight
shall come the lasting peace.

3. Peace of the Brave

The skin that is burnt or beaten or pierced
could be of any shade of pigmentation;
the instrument of evil is color blind.
Yesterday was the Jew’s sojourn in hell,
today is the Arab’s turn;
but his funeral changed from tears to spear.

Tomorrow will be a day of curse
if the warriors for peace let the way to Sharon;
the Jew will again be made the enemy
while the Arab will remain the Savage,
the hate-monger will have a filled day
at the expense of human decency.

We may never erase from our memory
the Arab boy killed in his father’s arms,
nor the two Israeli men lynched as a ritual sport.
nor Rachel buried alive under the bulldozer’s wheels.
But one should have the courage to say no,
no to the killing of people by a powerful
army right under CNN’s glare;
no to the might made right and the humiliation
made as a policy just to degrade the soul;
no to the destruction
and the burning and desecration
of the schools, the synagogues and the mosques,
no to the occupation of stolen lands
and yes to the existence of Israel.

If evil will have the upper hand
if the Israelis will remain the conquerors
if no one will stand up for justice
if the Jew is made the scapegoat,
then we must say there’s no hope.
But if I shall cry for our losses
or for what we will never have,
I ought to believe peace is still possible
France and England after all
once fought one hundred years of war.
Palestine will become the land of
all its peoples and their faiths
and their dreams,
a land of peace and justice
a land of love.

The Saviors From the Cold

Dedicated to the people of Iraq and to world peace

They will come tomorrow
or today or anytime now
they are all powerful
and that is not even the question.

They will come tomorrow
because they have already massed
in martial posture along the beaches
and the borders
in the desert’s sands
and on the mountains’ top
on a night of cold
and that’s not even the question.

They will come tomorrow
because they have the means to come
and destroy millennia of wonderment
and keep hope entwined with despair
and love from entering life’s sphere
and the adrenaline in stupor and awe.
They will come tomorrow
because their well-suited angel of madness
had opened the door with his own topping.

Will they see where the bombs land
the torsos pierced on a sunny morning?
will they hear the voices
from the old and new coasts
resonating the craving for world peace?
will they hear the children cry
amid the smoke on torched balconies?
will they hear justice cry?

They will come tomorrow
because they must grease the machine
which programs them to come
and affirm the nobility right of the Empire.

They will come tomorrow
regardless of the number of dead
the aim is not to let it be.
They will come tomorrow
and ours will be defiant cries
calling for the re-conquest of liberated space;
we must stop them before the vultures
from the sky could claw whole villages
we must stop them before the end.

I’ve seen the oppression of the tyranny
I’ve seen the desert Bedouin’s crimes
I’ve also heard the war roars
the tumbling of the tanks
the missiles and the technologies
the cleanly degrading from afar
of peoples’ parts and universal right
I’ve heard the bulldozing of the bamboo stems
which stood in dissent on the road to conquest.

I’ve heard the painful moans
from the loss of the dearest ones
from the hurt of the last lost war
many distances away from the hometown
I still mourn the passing of Gerry The Jovial
who joined the “beautiful adventure” life offers
in Air Force just to flee the neighborhood’s curse
and eat on time in friendly macho posse
and pay on time his lofty college cost
only to return in a bag with a flag
after being made enemy for a cause
that was not even his from the start.

I’ve seen young crops lost
wasted like my deceased siblings
in subtler societal war madness
denuded of war lyrics in dejected horizon
they will have died before the time
nature had offered for their use
after the long lines at emergency wards
amidst losses and pains amidst the penury
stomachs full of the emptiness of being
complication from surgical targeting
Belgrade in flames
Kabul in ruins
Baghdad depleted under uranium shells
the cries of bored children
countries succumbed to the Bully’s charm
burnt oil fields
increased malnutrition
and infant mortality
and dropout dumbs
inflational gas price
kids killing kids
laid-off minimum wages workers
welfare to work to mouth
glory of the angry white men
and nights without super
mornings without breakfast
nights without sleep
souls without space
blood on the sands
tears everywhere
is that the war your want?
your war
O beautiful war!

The killing field has many faces
the fearful Republican Guards decapitated
by earth-tremoring missiles as well as
First private Suarez or noble Sergeant Gutie
along Second Grader Shad and they all died
in huge sandstorm of mortal furry
incited by the fire power of the enemy
some died before the new fatherland
had made them its full sons or before
new sons had met their new fathers’ faces.

They will come tomorrow
at the dawn of hope’s birth
they will come with engines of death
high-tech at the uses of delusional claims
and oil envy with planetary grain.
They will come
and that much is now sure
but we shall block their trajectory’s burst
and spare the abolishment of human pride.

They will come tomorrow
and we will be millions strong
in New York to regain the memory of our death
in Paris to make sense of chaos
in Conakry to redeem the ancestral soul
in London to keep Russell alive
in Cairo to pity the sold-out princes
in Santiago to avenge Allende
in Mexico to purge the affront to Castro
in Port-au-Prince to save what is still left.

They will come tomorrow
and we will be there to sing hope
and ask for new constellations;
they will come tomorrow
and we will be there to claim peace
expand daily beauty without the non-sense
they will come to sow and shed blood
and we will be there to open new roads
they will come tomorrow
and we will be there
to demand justice
and the joy of being.

—Tontongi Boston, March/April 2003
Author’s note: This poem is the second title of a trilogy on the USA-Iraq conflict that started with “Baghdad Soleil”, first published in 1992 in my poetry book The Dream of Being. The third poem of the trilogy, “As Baghdad Burns”, will soon be published in Tanbou.


Poems by Danielle Legros-Georges

extracts from Maroon

Hen Hen Hen

A dive from tree

from rock and rock
skipping like an aged heart
chained to machinery

a running hum the strum
of a life chord plucked.

Still feet warm heart
cold feet heart jumps rope

hope skips a rocket’s purr
pierces twilight.

Flight the wind supreme
rooftops dreideling

blue-green marble worlds
swallowed like pills.

Pills? Pillbox church-hats
and steeple spires

are dots from here.
Keep the beam

not to drop
to bob untethered

unrepentant
Look! Icarus rising.

No, woman metal-winged.
Flighty hincty maybe

but flapping yes shaking
off the chick-bird tree.

Cat-calls fall flat
to her ear to wind

she hatched for speed
for cruise above rooster’s

crow. Kookoorookooroo
don’t wantchu anyway

they say and puff
it up peck at plumes

Fume.
Well.

Hen hen hen
sistren

wing and work
a thing

bring and gather
band waists

croon:

make haste
make haste

flying lessons
starting now.

Night Watch

The old woman has turned her ire on me.
I am a symbol to her, an evil,
the daughter she never had
or never wanted
to have.
Dead,
I’d be
more useful
to her. The nails
and hammer she seeks tonight
would build a coffin, a boat
in which to float me away.

Was it so long ago
that she’d spread a blanket in sand,
the shoots of the day turning the
world to spring, and her husband
there, and her own mother there,
and despite the elder’s glare,
the water and air playing into light, into
frenzy, and in her heart all was alive.

Stills, they are stills, the old woman
says. I see my life before me
as if in a movie.
The film rolls
quickly.
I don’t believe myself
this age, and yet I am this age.

This night she paints her nails violet
and calls back the indigo placed in
slats,
the tap, tap, tap, and scrape of the
violet-grey matter into wooden
squares, the dye into the white fabric
ready for color.

Unraveling is a basket of blue clothes
to be ironed, a mountain of blue
and a hand curled around
the iron,
around its dead weight,
her fingers curled around a cloth
around the handle beside a mountain

of blue skirts, blue jeans, the blue
of a seemingly never-ending day,
blue and everlasting day, the blue
of an almost-blue hibiscus, blue of
irises,
her now-iris-rimmed eyes, and the
irises
themselves on her dresser.

She is swift to name what destroys her:
My mind is clear, yet my body
crumbles. My memory
crumbles, yet
my mind
is clear.
I can move so
quickly through time.

I’ve placed the irises on her dresser.
I know
I have little time to find how her
time tied her body to pain,
how she tied the pain
to her body, how she knew her mind
surpassed her
time and became a curse and how
girls became curses and crosses to
bear. I bear my cross with her.
I take on her anger—one thread to
her story.

My father is Dogon

My father is Dogon.
I know this to be true.
I see him in the face
of a man I see walking
on Flatbush Avenue.

To him I say only,
“You look like my father,”
to which he says only,
“I am Dogon.”

My father is Dogon.
I know this to be true.
I see him in the face
of a man I see walking
on Flatbush Avenue.

I have no other proof.

Nova

based on a voudou lamentation

they say it is death
to look upon the star
the star brings death

the sickness called your name
I saw it pass us by
now look at us here
a sign for the living

the brightness flashed over us
it curved around our names
it arched this hand of death
Death’s arm curved around us
now look upon our misery

today we are changed
look upon the misery
that has changed us
our words become stones
the stones are words around us
our words are pressed
as our hearts are pressed

they say it is death
curving its tongue
it is death they say
they say it is death

Ogoun

A million birds sing
in the tower whose steeple

hoists a rooster into space.
The rooster—symbol of baptism,

of kings to others, of god
to some—struts, with fine crest

red, with violet underfeathers.
He lords his roost. We peck

at the meaning of truth
in the courtyard beneath

in academic speech.

But the blacksmith
who surely knew,

sculpted this cocky beast
to be in all ways vain,

as goad to god to strike
his metal wings with thunder.

No storm comes; the day
is fair, and Mr. Rooster

tips his beak
to the sweet, sweet air.

A Painting at the Met

They are all four astride a horse.
The woman almost looking back
over the small child she clasps.
The man, in front, holds a boy
in one arm, the reins in the other.

They are fleeing something vast,
the map on which their bodies figure.
It is the 19th century. They are black.

I see: the ashen color of their clothes,
the dread that composes the woman’s face,
the grip of distress in the man’s holding
the horse steady. They are bold. I don’t
know that, for them, there exists a choice.

Flight writes itself on their backs.

Everyone Loves a Good Villain

the ones whose deeds elicit long and hushed
nos which deepen as the hole into which
our man or woman falls grows, because, face it:

We all want to know that we never could,
never can, would never, and at that point
it doesn’t matter which fiction we’re fed,

we eat it up, what stands out there, our
other face. We jeer at the blackguard, go
out of our ways to poke the fiction, and in

doing so release ourselves. Villains build
community. They tell us who we are.
They come outlined as a young black man

with a three-musketeers bar in his pocket.
He’s thought to be packing a gun. Our
chocolate fantasy melts as he falls. We’ve

been trained. Shoot first, falter second.
We hate to lose our villains. We’d loved

them for hating them so. Letting go means
a piece our of skin peels from us. No more

baiting or thrill of the hunt, no more corners
into which we trap the beast, and when we
are done, the villain disarmed, made real

we do not know what to do with ourselves,
our hands lie beside themselves.

—Danielle Legros-Georges
extracts from Maroon, Curbstone Press, Connecticut, 2001
Li plis sou Danielle L. Georges nan “Yon Pwofil” pa Tontongi


Poems by Aldo Tambellini

December 14, 2001
12:45 am

KILL

an eye for an eye

for defense

KILL

an eye for an eye

for offense

KILL

an eye for an eye

for revenge

KILL

an eye for an eye
& the world becomes blind*

KILL

a heart for a heart
& the world becomes heartless

KILL

a mind for a mind
& the world becomes mindless

KILL

a madness for madness
& the world explodes

GENOCIDE INFERNO

* Ghandi
February 18, 2003
2:45 pm

       choked by silence
       was the orphan infant’s cry

       black
       was the sky

       the world stood still
       madness had conquered the sky

       that insane night
       a psycho played god

       the nuclear bomb dropped on earth
       blacker than black was the sky

       carnage & earth burned
       blacker than the blackhole swallowing the sky

       that inferno night
       the radioactive empire was now death
and dominion

       blacker than the blacker black was the world
       lost inside black matter in the cosmos.

January 18, 2003
9:30 pm

        there will be days
                             when the feverish tarantula
                             deliriously dances
                             suspended by a thread
                             from the web
                              spun over a bio-toxic cloud

              there will be days
                            when the defying tightrope artist
                            with no visible safety net
                            throws the rope above the bigtop
                            daringly walking on it
                            suspended towards a dangerous sky

              there will be days
                            when the gathering storm
                            reaches the breaking point
                            pouring out
                            burning molten led
               raining over the rotating globe

there will be days
              when the imprinted skull
              camouflaged over
the mysterious moth’s wings
              morph the sky
              into the darkest nuclear night

there will be days
              when the energy stolen from the sun
              will explode
              earth will liquefy
              there will never be light
over the frozen silent planet lost in space

there will be
              silence & peace forever

there will be
              no more strange insane days

June 3, 1999

              flying above the incendiary sky
              the winged heroic angels
              rise from deep inferno
              disseminating a liberation message

              smart bombs
                     carpet bombs
                            mother of all bombs
                                   exploding missiles

              the flares & flashes
              you see on your shielded TV screen
              are real human flesh debris
              steel & cement
                     meltdown fusion

passively
       you look at the old rerun
       killing machine
       as an obsolete video game

       says the god on the screen:
              we kill to save endangered lives
              we kill for the peace dividend
              we kill destroy & rebuild for jobs & security
              we kill evil tyrants defying redemption
              we kill for human spiritual liberation

              WE KILL

                     WE KILL

                            WE KILL

                                   we kill the human soul

                                          reprogramming a better one
                                                 in the machine

March 21, 1995

              get the poor off the street
                      & ship them to nowhere oblivion
                     get the objectionable unsavory sight far away
                     dispersing with endangered species
                     & then forget they ever existed
                     there is no place for poverty
                     in cosmetic democracy

              get the poor off the street
                     & let neglect & time
                     consume their remaining days
                     evaporating their existence into air

              get the rich to wall street
                     to invest in third world country cheap labor
                     then build cultural monuments
                     with deductible tax dollars
                     with the artists glorifying their wealth

              make the rich super-rich
                     to be mentors & models
                     of successful democracy in action
                     for the world to emulate

              but for God’s sake
                     get the damn poor off the street
                     anywhere out of here
                     anywhere to disperse
                     out of sight.

March 27, 1996

you’ll never know what love is
              until you taste the venom in oppression
              until you feel the intense burn from denial
              until the bitter herbs become ambrosia

you’ll never know what love is
until the infant’s cry touches you with vibrations
              until you see the homeless dog beaten to death
              until a child throws a stone for freedom

you’ll never know what love is
              until the wheat is harvested by the starving mother
              until you see the hunted tiger caress the new litter
              until a praying mantis mates under the moonlight

you’ll never know what love is
              until the microscope blows up the pain
              until you hear the airwaves speak of human rights
              until the guerilla cuts the head off the dictator

you’ll never know what love is
              until the media snake swallows its poison
              until you see the invisible oppressed become people
              until the sun rises to a new day of justice

that’s when you’ll know.

—Aldo Tambellini


Poem by Denizé Lauture

Toussaint Bréda Louverture:
This universal man

He was
An African
A slave
A coachman
They called Toussaint

It was
In the hills
Of an island
On a plantation
Called Bréda

He was
An African on the island
A slave on the plantation
A coachman of the hills
He was Toussaint Bréda

There were
Slaves in arms
Brutal slaves-traders
A hell-like colony
A total barbarism

And rose up
A beacon
A star
Lightning
And Louverture

He became the beacon
Of the slaves in arms
The bright star of the colony
The lightning-rod burning slave-traders
Louverture against barbarism
He became Toussaint Louverture

A man born slave
A slave turned veterinarian
A veterinarian leader of men
A leader guiding humankind
General Toussaint Louverture

Ultimate smith of brotherly love
Thundering comet of freedom
Blinding sun of equality
A titan of humanity
TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE BREDA
This universal man!

—Denizé Lauture September 2003
Professor at Saint Thomas Aquinas College, in New York,
Author of Running the Road to ABC, 1995,
to honor the bicentennial of the martyrdom of Toussaint Louverture.

Note: Lire la version française de ce poème dans Poésie en Français


Poems by Berthony DuPont

Political Crisis

They are salesmen sharks
They are never ashamed
Nothing is ever enough for them
They have sold the nation
Fighting for commission
Starting unfounded disputers
Standing on both sides of the streets
Denigrating each other
Claiming they are not the ones
Draining the people
Duping the poor
Drinking the people’s blood
In foreign straws

They are salesmen sharks
They are never ashamed
Nothing is ever enough for them
They bear all the names of dissension
Pretending they are enemies
However they are friends, family
Students from the same social class
Their boats moored alongside
On the same Washington quay.

They are salesmen sharks
They are never ashamed
Nothing is ever enough for them
They resemble trash
The strong odor of trash
Carried away by the wind
To soil Haiti’s streets
To bemire Haiti’s face
Under a continuous crisis
A crisis stuck in an impasse
Where poverty has taken over

They are salesmen sharks
They are never ashamed
Nothing is ever enough for them!

Poor Merchant’s words

O sun!
You are shining
Shining bright
Like a fire bush

O sun!
Our only daily bread
The poor man’s single client
Poor people roaming to streets

In quest of a better life
With a basket on their head
Impoverished people
Constantly walking
All day long
Under a burning sun
The sun is also our misery
It is so hot!
But as long as it shines
There is hope for selling

O sun!
Our baskets are full
We have not yet sold
Home is awaiting us
With no electricity
No torchlight
Do not go down yet

O sun!
Do not leave us in the dark
With merchandise
Which cannot wait for tomorrow.

—Berthony DuPont
Nòt: Li vèsyon kreyòl powèm sa a nan «Pwezi ann ayisyen»


Poems by Edner Saint-Amour

Wonder

When the plane of snow
lands on the earth below,
our eyes unravel wonders
before, they have never.

When the boat of snow
crosses the roads below
our eyes unravel wonder
before, they have never.

Not a wonder

To be, what I am compelled
is not a wonder to unravel.
You will walk toward my heart
but you will never reach its yard.

My heart is a song, a written song
you can’t hear its echoes resound.
My heart is the blowing win on the lake
you can’t see it face to face.

To be, what I am compelled
is not a wonder to unravel.

—Edner Saint-Amour fall 1990

A view of the ceiling of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome
Intersecting arches in the ceiling of Saint Peter’s Cathedral —photo by David Henry
Aller au sommaire de ce numéro de Tanbou/Tambour, Été 2003

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