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Poetry in English

Poems by Elsie Suréna

(Haïku)

naked white pines
a broken red umbrella
on the sidewalk

rainy day…
a couple eating late strawberries
in silence

a touch of red
on the old maple tree
sore throat forgotten

on the balcony
a black ashtray filled with snow—
does someone miss me?

summer festival
salt sprays cool my face
along the promenade

fallen leaves
scattered all over

like memories of love gone

Missing her

sparkling water
the brand my friend liked—
cicadas duet

in mourning
I still hear her voice…
threat of other quakes

bus in a snowstorm
reading The Unbearable Lightness
of Being

—Elsie Suréna

Poems by Karen Melander-Magoon

Murder of Palestinians

According to Haaretz Israeli news
November 25, 2012
Since the first Qassam rocket
Fell on Israel in April 2001
59 Israelis have been killed
4,717 Palestinians and counting
Have been eliminated with Israeli bombs
Mostly civilians and children
Golda Meir said
There is no such thing as a
Palestinian people
If you don’t exist
Can you be murdered?

Genocide is in the news

Genocide is in the news
Again
As if there were no possible
Respite
From rape
Murder
Ethnic cleansing
With blood
One million children killed in the Shoah
Two million women
Three million men
A holocaust not by fire
But intentional
Heartless purging of innocence
Inflicted
By our own species
Guatemala in 1982
Babies thrown down a well
Two boys survive
To hide from the memory
Until a phone call wakes them to the
Nightmare of their childhood
Now in Pakistan and Afghanistan
Genocide of the Hazara
Reminds us of other genocides
Semitic, Persian, Armenian, African, Native American, Asian
Indigenous peoples across the globe
Worshipping the wrong god
At the wrong altar
Or on a desirable piece of land
On oil perhaps
Or diamonds
Or gold
Or simply in the wrong place
At the wrong time
Convenient victims
Of someone else’s power hungry talons
The Hazara
Half of them driven from their homeland
A child bears a sign on her cheeks
“Kill” “Shia”
Shia refuse to be ruled by Sunni
And are exterminated
Taliban kill 3,000 of their Hazara prisoners in 1997
They murder 8,000 more in 1998
The village of Mazar-i-sharif
Holds the dead on its streets
Unburied against religious law
Until the Taliban allow burial
Due to the stench
For reasons of hygiene
They are finally buried
The murders continue
In the year 2000
Ismaili Hazara moving between settlements
On the Robatak Pass
Are detained four months
Before being executed
A year later in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
Three hundred Hazara are taken hostage
170 men are first killed
Including humanitarian workers
Women and children observe
Until their turn comes
Sunni, Taliban, military
Repudiate and murder Hazara
In Karachi
In Quetta
Eight hundred dead
Fifteen hundred wounded
In 2011 the Hazara Town massacre
and Mastung Bus Shooting
Leave over thirty dead
In 2012
Hazaras are killed in Quetta
And fleeing Pakistan
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
Vows to kill Shia
Hazara-Shia
To make Pakistan
Clean
Pakistan
Land of the pure
Must rid the world of the unclean
People descended from
Ghengis Khan
Persian, Pakistani, Afghan, Mughal
Sharing the Hazara diaspora
Sharing the Shia legacy
They are not Sunni
Are not clean
Are not worthy
To live
The boat of Hazara people
Bound from Indonesia to Australia
To seek asylum
The year, 2012
Sinks
Other boats pass by
And do nothing
To help the unclean
At last
Plucked from the sea
The Hazara choose to starve
Rather than return
To enemies
On January 10, 2013
One hundred thirty Hazara
Are killed in Quetta
Two hundred seventy
Are wounded
By bombs targeting Hazara-Shia
Five days ago
Just five days ago
More Hazara die
The year is young
Time enough for
Ethnic cleansing
Of the unclean
Children down a well
Civilian assassinations
Black against white against black
Or brown or grey or yellow
How many more
Bodies must be destroyed
To make us

Clean?

(Jan. 16, 2013)

A poet is jailed for life

A poet is jailed for life
A poet
For speaking his poem
Jasmine
Jasmine, the flower of the country, Tunisia
The flower of the Arab Spring
Tunisians call their revolution Dignity, not Jasmine*
Inspired by the self-immolation of a street merchant
The Dignity Revolution
The newspapers call it
Jasmine
Muhammed ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami
Jailed in November 2012
Evokes the pride of the Tunisian flower
Beautiful and ubiquitous in its perfume
Jasmine
To praise the revolution of the people
Whose refusal to accept corruption
Unemployment
Humiliation
Leads to a new order
And the words
Of a poet in Qatar
Asking that the demands of freedom
Be met by
His own Sheik
His own government
Whose Article 53 of a repressive Constitution
Protects an oppressive regime
Makes criticism illegal
And condemns a poet
Absent from his own trial
To life imprisonment
And yet
One cannot muzzle a poet
Any more than one can
Muzzle the perfume
Of the ubiquitous
Jasmine

* Muhammed ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami was jailed in November 2012. His “Jasmine Poem” was critical of Persian Gulf governments; he was arrested over a passage critical of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

Pollution Blows North

The Inuit
Close to nature
Close to the heart of mother earth
Enduring millennia upon millennia
Of nature’s harsh lessons
Of tough love
Born of conditions
The earth has created
Simply existing
Evolving
Revolving
And spinning through seasons
Balanced upon a
Revolving globe
As part of its pattern
Essential to its character
Non-essential to its existence
Drinking once fresh
Unadulterated water
Consuming fresh game and fish
And vegetation
Breathing untainted air
From healthy lungs of earth
Enjoying unsullied paradise
On a singing planet
Taught and raised in a challenging
Garden of Beginnings
Finding nourishment from rich clean soils
From pristine streams and oceans
Finding refuge in caves
Or sheltering under detritus of reeds and trees
Building families communities societies
To live with the earth
In harmony
In the arctic hemisphere
In harmony
With the earth
In harmony
Pollution blows north
Pollution from non-Inuit peoples
Who exploit the earth
Who will not learn
To sing and dance
With earth as partner
Who will not learn
To breathe the lungs of earth
Sweet vibrant membranes
With pure untainted breath
Pollution blows north
Pollution blows north to the Inuit
Blows north from China
Blows north from the Americas
Blows north with toxins
Blows north to poison
Once-thriving fishing villages
Blows north to suffocate
The living tundra
Blows north with asthma and cancer
Blows north to rock the Inuit
With winds of death
Against its cradle

—Karen Melander Magoon, D.Min karenmmagoon@gmail.com

Poem by Natasha Labaze

“The Beggar”

Buried in the soil of foreign tongues
Tongues that can’t pronounce
Your name
“Are you here for the funeral of…?”
Near the entrance,
lying in a coffin with
the brisk fall wind blowing
against your head.
Never to feel for one last time
the warm breeze of
your island
or the cool mountain breeze of
your mountains.
If this were Haiti, you might
have lived longer.
You might have lived for a shorter
time but before
the chorus even sang, there would
be a chorus of merchant women
singing their products.
As you lie peacefully,
Friends of childhood
Bearing farewell.
There would be a beggar
sitting on the steps
perhaps even coming into
the church to sing for his
gone brother… Your name
would not be foreign.

—Natasha Labaze

Poems by Tontongi

The Passing of Genuine Glory

(Dedicated to Nelson Mandela who passed away on Thursday, December 5, 2013, at the age of 95. On December 10, 2013, 90 heads of state and government and tens of thousands of people from around the world made the trip to South Africa to pay their respect to the South African leader. Solemn occasion which saw the world united in the embrace of a man that changed the world and left a legacy of endurance as well as wisdom and tolerance. I was pleased to see that due honors were given to such a high figure. My poem is part of this celebration.)

Generations of great men and women of action
warriors against wars and atrocities brought upon the people;
conciliators for human elevation and candor who stuck it
inexorably to the base instincts of voracity and inhumanity
of a few—that is you, O Madiba!

Generations of great men and women of action
spanning centuries of struggle for decency,
giving strength to the wretched and the vulnerable,
replacing the global enclosure,
Chaos and Thanatos’ universe
of depravation and indifference,
you were there, O Madiba!

Choosing isolation, sleeplessness and cold,
hunger and humiliation to make the point for hope
and for consciousness to brighten the land, defying
the bastards, the racial haters, and the exploiters
to make beauty and love the universal, higher aim.
That’s who you are, O Madida!
A brother, a father for the fatherless,
you incarnate the genuine glory of being,
you honor what is best in us all,
you challenge the light to spread
even in the darkest and deepest abyss.

Generations of great men and women of action
Ginen of royal blood and not drunken by its luster
and vain glory and hilarity.
You have made, O Madiba!
of suffering a statement for endurance
of hatred an instrument for common cause
of banishment to unwelcoming gehenna
a point of encounter for togetherness.

Though it at times seems, O Madiba!
you are perched in the cloud of grandeur’s trip
suspended in the twilight of high-mindedness
space where dreams and nightmares coalesce,
you believe other times sometimes need other arms.
You are flexible, Madiba, to the point of letting
bygone be bygone when bygone is not even gone.
You have refused to commandeer men
only showing them the best way
the point of ultimate encounter
graced by the magic of the passing instant;
showing them the pursuit of higher dimension
of being and suffering and completeness with others.

You have held the cause high, O Madiba!
The Xhosa Rolihlahla,
the Troublemaker of yesteryear.
You said loud the Iraq war was a fraud
of power projection and lies
you said Africa is not a curse
but a great vision for the renewal of destiny,
the place where we can reinvent new trajectories
and return to purer sources.

You have shown the way, O Madiba!
to transcend shitiness and the many adversities of life,
and growing up toward infinity while not ignoring the instant;
you know who your real friends were in moments of laments
and that the enemies of your friends are not real friends;
you show to your jailers they were false enemies made for greed
by those the system’s suffering benefits and you reach the hand
of brotherhood and solidarity in finding solutions to malfeasance.

I will remember you, proud and stubborn Madiba,
as the incarnate for the struggle for justice
before your veneration becomes a luster
for ambitious Republicans on chic funeral vacation;
you saved South Africa from horrors of cries for redress
mixed with hatred and destruction,
and vengeance and all;
yet your wisdom is made to serve
the elite corporate club of the mightiers
as well as the homeland brothers and sisters trapped
in the no man’s land of exclusion and malnourishment
and Robben Island of the mind.

Your wisdom is made to serve both the multinationals
that collected Apartheid’s hideous pains and gains
and those who were its targets and results.
T’il the end you implore Africa to unite
and the world to join together toward immanent justice
and the acknowledgment of the Other’s rights
and authenticity of being.

For us, O Madiba!
you will remain forever our guide in lost times
a source of strength
the eternal ancestral shore
the ultimate exemplar of glory
and the humility of being.

(December 11, 2013)

The Place Where They Go

(Boston laments II)

The place where they go
to blow up tall buildings
with daring coldbloodness
and making a mockery of the
suffering and the broken hearts
and the fear to go down the street
giving to skinheads their glory
under the brilliant sun and the reps
and lobbies in Congress their Patriot Act II.

The place where they go
to school and learn ignorance
from the most prestigious of teachers
and the faith in killing at the church
and the mistrust of the neighbors and
rivalry with friends and mentors
even when all is well in the paradise.

The place where they go
to acquire knowledge and know-hows
to build bombs and blow up Marathoners
on a sunny Monday in a Boston street
and to learn to relax while others are in tears
and to have whole cities applaud their policemen
for barricading them as goody-goody sheep.

The place where they go
to kill children while in school and cry
crocodile tears until the next mayhem
and the tormented gets his thrill and the NRA
garnishes its rating and the arm industry its values
and the patriot his Second amendment safe
and all has returned to normal and business as usual.

The place where they go to learn
as a Vodou bòkò’s magic to kill sitting
a world away in a nice office chair
the thrill blinding the flow of the blood on the hut’s floor
and the sound of the cries of sudden orphans bewildered
and stricken in pain and thinking of revenge and all.

The place where they go could be anywhere that offers
solace and praise for the most robotic among us and sell
the unimaginable to happy zombies in the name of Allah
and to non-believers that don’t give it shit either way.

The place where they go is a state of the mind conceived
by years endured in hardship in the beast’s alleys and
survived as if awakening from a long acid trip and never
got to know whether the journey was worth the effort
or the effort worthy of such a great journey.

The place where they go
just to go away
and rebuild the mind with new nutrients
defying the law of grandeur and greed;
the place where they go
to reimagine what could be
and make a vow to defeat
all that which magnifies madness
the place where they go
to clear up their minds.

The place where they go
to blow up happy faces
and false innocence
and the hypocritical ethicals
and all that which breathes and dreams
even their own want
even the possibility of rebirth.

The place where they go
to seek refuge and calm
is the place they bomb
regardless of the sorrow
they cause to avenge other dead;
the place where they go
to avoid horrifying Russian missiles
and Pentagon drones and all
is the place they bomb on Patriot Day.

(May 2013)

From the left: Tontongi, Askia Touré, Saladin Muhammad, Everett Hoagland and an unidentified person (background left) in front of the Newark Symphony Hall. —photo Tanbou
Amiri Baraka’s funeral, from the left: Menelik Van Der Meer, Ashley Rose, Soul Brown, Askia Touré, and Menelik at the entrance of the Newark Symphony Hall. —photo Tanbou
Amiri Baraka’s funeral, from the left: Brother Yusef, Askia Touré, Eugene Redmond, and Menelik Van Der Meer at the entrance of the Newark Symphony Hall. —photo Tanbou
Amiri Baraka’s Funeral seen from the entrance of the Newark Symphony Hall. —photo Tanbou
Amiri Baraka’s funeral, from the left: Roselyn Jeffries, Askia Touré, Leonard Jeffries, and John Selder in the dining hall of the Newark Symphony Hall. —photo Tanbou
The casket of Amiri Baraka at the Newark Symphony Hall. —photo Tanbou

The Elevation of the Better Barack

(A collage-reportage poem from Amiri Baraka’s funeral)

His name is Amiri Baraka
and not simply Barack
he is not a Muslim
although he makes Muslim culture cool
he sets forces on unsettling path
by shear poetic power and noise
and the ability to trigger
the rebellion of silence
and challenge the meanness of void.

Heavy police presence for the show
but the po-pos looked tired fighting the Brother
like Rochambeau saluting Capois-la-Mort’s guts*
they surrendered to a higher drive for immortality
and laid out with Scottish bagpipes pomp
and the jubilation of the masses
who don’t believe Amiri is dead anyway,
they say he is still here with us
they say he is going nowhere
this is a stickup, get out of here!
says Saul Williams with well-founded alarm.

They come from all over the United States
like birds returning to their original nest
the blacks from the Black Arts Movement
the reds from the Maoist Socialist branch
the Nation of Islam and its fruits guarding
the temple as treasure for posterity
Malcolm’s death was such a terrible deed
the enemy has set up the context
and the brother-kills-brother mindset
Farrakhan has long reconciled the tribe
he defended the Shabazz from the vultures’ grip
he has sent his respect to Brother Ras
and Sister Amina Baraka for holding the flame;
Abdul Muhammad says, “Amiri stood on principle.”

Tony Medina, a Brother from the hood blessed
with incendiary eloquence and streetwise pitch, says
Amiri Baraka is so bad he took Ariel Sharon with him
—the house went down in laughter; Brother Medina
says Amiri’s tongue is a “language of Bopulicitous intent /
James Brown black Langston Hughes /
Mouth of Malcolm Baldwin eyes.”

African drums like ancestral sacrifices
accompanied the rites in a jazz of words,
in a jazz of music,
and maintained the tempo
Asha Bandele renders the meaning
terse and dry, in only a few words:
“What a gift he gave us /
to those who have had so much taken.”

Brother Askia Touré was there too,
Amiri’s right hand youth and junior officer
of poet-led liberation army back in the day;
he is a survivor from the slaughter of time
and the CointelPro program that ravaged the hood,
he mourns his comrade with chants of glory
to elevate the soul, his words were for a family,
veteran of thousands of battles and sieges
“Amiri Baraka,” he yells, “presente!

Brothers Everett Hoagland, Tony Van Der Meer,
and Tontongi were there too, along with Sisters
Soul Brown and Ashley Rose of Liberation Poetry creed,
they came down from Boston cold to pay homage to greatness
bringing their hearts to warm those who stay the course.
Years before the big event Hoagland wrote a poem
to extol the ancestral, rebellious lineage;
he salutes Baraka, saying like a prosecutor:
“you webbed the hood with barricades /
of barbed wire words /
sharp as the amistad’s cane knives…”
He says Amiri enlivened our dreams,
haunting the bourgeois’ peace of mind.

The ushers carried the coffin up high
like a testament whose value they preserve
to the new generations of warriors
incarnated in children playing the trumpets
rendering a melody that cajoles and hurts
while enjoying the experience of a living ghost.

Danny Glover was there too
I envisioned him in the role of Toussaint,
he was now playing M.C. with Woodie King,
he says Amiri was his teacher, his inspiration;
Harlem, New York; Jackson, Mississippi;
Oakland, California; Chicago, Illinois;
Cleveland, Ohio; all lands of black torment and black hope
sent statements of comfort to keep the fight alive.

In aging Newark Symphony Hall,
the funeral unveiled unflattering references
to the darker chambers of official business
among a powerful governor and his nemeses
and associates doing openly what they do
behind Omerta’s thick wall of silence
the imposing George Washington Bridge being
the ring for battles and child-like power plays.

Cornel West was there too
his hair reaching to the sky
à la Albert Einstein and Don King,
“What a literary giant and kind revolutionary he was,”
says Brother West, elated.
“He dared to say Jesus was black,”
says another celebrant followed by a Chicago Brother
who says, reviving the music:
“We have just lost our John Coltrane and our Langston Hughes,
Bush’s successful negroes have supported ghosts.”
How do you say goodbye to a god
—and not just welcome him?

Sonia Sanchez was there too
shorter than the speaker’s lectern
but taller than us all even with pain-stricken face,
she says because of Brother Amiri’s words
and struggle and teaching the world is now better
she reads a loaded poem in cadence and all
that says everything one can say willingly
on death and dying
and being dead and still resisting:
“The Cathedral of your death…
The Middle Passage of your death…
The blues of your death…
The Dialectic of your death…
The eyes of your death…
The teeth of your death…
The equal opportunity of your death…
The morning star of your death…
Can you repeat: Resist! Resist! Resist!

With tears and a lamenting voice
as if losing a battle in an uncertain war
a celebrant says with convictional tone:
“He was the most truly free black I ever met…”
“Yes, he was free! ” agrees Brother Van Der Meer,
giving a metaphysical wonga strength to the words:
“He didn’t let himself be blinded by greed nor by vanity
and celebretism.”

Brother Calvin X was there too,
earthbound from Oakland,
Baraka’s companion in many street campaigns,
taken with gratitude and the solemnity of the occasion:
“Thank you for being a revolutionary, you show
that Black Arts and Black Power are one thing,” he says.
Another celebrant, full of joy, exults:
“He gave us black people a sense of power that
would have been unthinkable before.”

Michael Eric Dyson was there too,
professorial ease mixed with Black Baptist preacher theatrics
(some surmise he’s too close to the liberal media charm),
he says, “History’s language is music… Amiri was a bridge
between the streets and the [presidential] cabinet…”
Alas, the cabinet is more black than power, Amiri
would have said, but the Brother’s point is well taken.
Amiri knew power is more the structure,
and more the ownership than the attitude
despite the sanctity of the deal
power is not the color of the cabinet
it is the ownership of the streets
it is the control of the Stock Market.

Maya Angelou sent her love and expressed her grief
for the loss of poetry and beauty, while Savion Glover
tap-danced as if to provoke the coffin to break open
and Amiri to join in, defying destiny one more time.
Lawrence Hamm says, “He was the spirit of revolution.”

Ras Baraka is the family’s new lion,
the dauphin that becomes the reigning king, the Ras;
he has the tongue and the daring stand, the temerity
to tell truth to power, his eulogy was as much an appeal
to clean up the mess as a reflection on a loved and loving dad;
it was a celebration as well as a long lament for lost time,
it was music, poetry, chant of distress, exhortation
to challenge fate, to resist systemic malfeasance:
“My father titled his last book Razor because he wants
to cut some people before he gets out of here,” he says.
Through the son’s voice and demeanor,
through the flow of the words,
through the huge collective embrace, and warmth
emitted by the jubilant crowd, Ras’s words
reinforced what Sister Souljah said:
“I thought Ras’s family was rich,” she says,
“because he had a father
I thought he was rich
because he had a family that talked to each other
I thought he was rich
because the family was engaged in the community.”

Cast in a river of words that flew unhindered,
forming a unity of destiny, Ras’s eulogy, poignant,
reaffirmed the essence of existing and being,
being Amriri Baraka
the rebel of that destroyed silence.

Brother Amiri Baraka’s passing
as that just weeks before of Nelson Mandela,
warriors for the elevation of the Earth’s wretched
only pass the torch to younger hands
newer blood for the ancestors’ renewal.

When I was tormented in exile’s loneliness
his words represented the poet’s refusal
to bow to artificiality made holy reality;
he was the poet that seeks total freedom
amid the misery of the instant even at the price
of danger one faces in following one’s conscience.

Yes, the world is a better place because of Baraka,
despite continuing horrors and oppression.

(January 2014)

* Capois-la-Mort is the nickname of Haitian officer François Capois who during the last battle for Haiti independence on November 18, 1803, impressed so much French general Viscount of Rochambeau that he halted the fight to give military salute to Capois’s bravour.

—Tontongi

Poem by Danielle Legros Georges

A Dominican Poem

If you are born, and you are stateless,
if you are born, and you are homeless,

if your state and home are not
yours—and yet everything you know—

what are you? Who are you? And who
am I without the dark fields I walk upon,

the streets I know, the blue corners
I call mine, the ones you call yours…

Who am I to call myself citizen, and
human and free? And who are you

to call yourself landed and grounded,
and free. And who is judge enough?

And who citizen enough? And who native?
Truly. And who other?

And who are we who move so freely
without accents of identification,

without skin of identification, with
all manner of identification. With

gold seals of approval. With the stamps
of good fortune. With the accident

of blameless birth. Who are we to be
so lucky?

—Danielle Legros Georges

Note: In September 2013, a ruling by the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court stripped citizenship of Dominican-born persons without a Dominican parent, going back to 1929. The majority of persons affected are Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Poems by Jean-Dany Joachim

Public reading

The poet entered the hall,
The crowd rose to its feet
And applauded.
Like a champion going to the ring
She walked straight to the podium.
As the applause grew louder
The poet took a bow
The clapping died slowly.
She opened her book
While looking at the gaze of the crowd.
The poet then closed her eyes
And began to read.
She read through their voices;
She said her name;
She read their names;
She read their pains;
She read their country;
She read their abundance;
She read their war;
She read their nakedness;
Then she told their story.
She wanted to tell her own:
Her husband who left,
Her daughter’s name,
The country she left behind,
Life in the North,
The man she loved so much,
Until he stopped loving her.
The poet spoke calmly then
Again she said her name,
And opened her eyes.
Everyone was long gone.

The house of the poet

In his house of poet
He writes flowers
He writes the moon
He writes tears
The revolt of hope
He gets drunk in the music of words
He reinvents his city of exile
Wanders its avenues
Which moon after moon
Continues absorbing his past.

Ode to the first poem

For the pen or pencil
That scribbled the first word
On that very first page—Ayibobo
Ayibobo
For the first word
That opened the door
To give voice to a young mind—Ayibobo
Ayibobo
For that page
That witnessed thoughts
Turning into words—Ayibobo
Ayibobo
For that small house
On the side of the road
Birthplace of the first poem—Ayibobo
Ayibobo
Pou Matant Hermance
Who listened to them all
And never closed the door—Ayibobo
Ayibobo
For the land
For its sky
And its sea—Ayibobo

That’s life

If mother had never left
And the army had refused father’s quest
If the rain hadn’t stopped falling
And the trees kept on growing
If the sun hadn’t taken a short cut
And there were grains for the next crop
If the late hour didn’t come so fast
And broken dreams didn’t last
If my fate didn’t rush to grow
Pushing me slowly to the back row
As time proudly waited
To witness the dreadful twist
When all of us fall off the track
And nothing remains. That’s life!

(From the collection Crossroads/Chimenkwaze, 2013)

An unfinished letter to General Toussaint Louverture about the current state of Haiti

Dear General,

Sorry about the news that I am reporting
It is with sadness and desolation that my hands write such accounts
I shall be straightforward for there are no simple words to alleviate the heaviness of the matter
Nonetheless, this missive is of great importance,
for the nation is again in peril

Nanpwen dyòl pou pale Jeneral !
Peyi a chak jou dekangrennen piplis
Lanmò ap kouri sou woulib
Dlo je plen lanmè,
Men li pa ase pou lave chagren…

Yon pichon laterè san figi, san non
K ap manje fyèl peyi a 
Toufè, toufè madichon
Pou rasin fènwa k ap ba l jarèt
General Louverture, news about the country is disastrous
The place is in bad shape. There is no prosperity
The identity of the nation is on the verge of disappearing
Our sovereignty is being auctioned
We are running in broken circles and not going anywhere
There is more division than ever that keeps the country falling over and over in the enemies’ traps

For no reason
They keep on fighting
Cutting each other’s throats
They cut down the trees
Stock up the rivers
With their dead

For no reason
They pay no attention to the sun
And the wind
They don’t look at the ocean
They don’t allow the night to sleep

Notre mémoire s’oublie,
Et on se perd dans la multitude des étrangers
Qui foulent le sol
Dans cette valse moderne de colonisation
Les enfants grandissent dans l’oubli
Et n’apprennent pas qu’ils sont nés
Heritiers, Maîtres, et Gouverneurs…
On n’investit plus dans la terre.

Fil zariyen bade lakou lakay,
Menm pousyè pran nan pyèj
Se kòmsi se lavi k ap fini

They are so many now the enemies, but much harder to recognize
The need for another independence is almost imperative
This liberation is necessary for the citizens to stop cooperating
With those powers always looking to take advantage of the land

General Louverture,
Sorry again for disturbing your peace
I have nothing but praise for your work and vision,
But once again the nation is in trouble
Sorry General!

(2014)

—Jean-Dany Joachim

Poem by Stephanie Guirand

The disease of the oppressed

Oppression is an incurable illness
Uncategorized by psychologists,
Immeasurable by scientists
Inexplicable to sociologists,
But well documented by anthropologists.
Oppression is an incurable illness
The oppressed mimic their oppressor
Taking on their dress, mannerisms, speech
They fight for their chance at the abandoned throne
They bloody their hands for applause
They batter and bruise their sisters
They tar and feather their brothers
Like masochists, to feel the pleasure of the pain
Oppression is an incurable illness.

They re-institute oppressing systems
They preach the power of our long lost superman
Superman, with the power and the plan to save us all
But has never been seen in the flesh
Oppression is an incurable illness
They create obstacles and games they are bound to lose
They glorify suicide for the sake of the oppressor
They let pride, security, materialism blind them from their imprisonment
It’s as if the oppressed are pawns in a funny game orchestrated by…

—Stephanie Guirand

Poems by Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell

Frog

If it could be done, would you want
to be made into a frog?
If it meant having a thin-boned spine,
gray-green humid skin that feels
the sting of any slight insect you might
otherwise gobble and swallow,
sit the world apart
in a wide, four-legged sweaty squat,
the beating of your heart showing in your throat,
and yet be able to leap
a distance many times your own measure.

If it meant you can enter water
more vast than your body can ever swim through
and, nevertheless relaxed, arms and legs
stretched open like a molecule afloat,
round eyes absorbing the world
through greenish inner screens that draw
towards and within you the soft
slithering silk of water’s surface,
the slosh and sway of high palm leaves,
defiant birds gathered in the immense blue
and, even then, still be able to stare at the sun.

And if it also meant you could dive deep in the far depth of the water, go down, down to where there is no bottom, none to feel or reach, down to an infinity of movement that requires no breath.

If it could be done and it meant you would
know love, would you come,
to be born a man? Or even, woman?

Marauder

Come visit this life! My lamp
illuminates all that lies under.
Go easy with your body of a beast—
a heart pulses close under
the skin, wanting to be touched.
Allow yourself to be a night marauder
over what is boxed and tightly sealed,
keep your lantern lit
as you descend into graves—there are
such dreams left untapped
in one embalmed, entombed early.

Animal Calls

The ascending sweep over mountains
of village roofs under the sun,

exposed, laid bare, red—
mimics the human soul’s impulse.

In the valley, creatures born bound
offend and stain the earth.

Each animal sounds his call
that echoes in the heavens he listens to.

With his nails, he scratches and digs
the earth in response to silence.

He ploughs the dirt, excavates, and kicks off
sharp-edged rocks and bone fragments

as if icons, relics, and remains
of beings he cannot reach or know.

—Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell

Poems by Vicki Meredith

Nature’s Song-Out-of-Tune Accompaniment

Creation’s Orchestra
Has been
Invaded
By
Grafted
Tone-Deaf
Intruders
Who
Strive
To
Dictate
Her Holy
Melodies
Because
They
Cannot feel
TRUTH FULL NESS OF
HER MUSIC
Or
Understand
THE LAW OF
HER
RHYTHM.

OUT of Harmony.
OUT of Grace.
OUT of TUNE.
OUT OF SYNC

Distorted Children of
Outer-Galactic
Accentuators of
Hate,especially
for
Natural
Melanin-Rich
Tones
Have
Invaded
BAND
of the
ONE/ONE,

Profane Ivory keys
Performing
Sacrilegious

Hymns to
a Discontented
Alien
Warrior-God
Deimos’
Jealous Grandfather,
who
Dines on
Greed
Theft
Violence
Rape of the GOOD,
Harsh
Cymbals
of Destruction
Caterwauling
Discordant Chords
that
Preach
the
Abhorrence
of Ebony Others.

She of
The
LOUD VOICE
Strains
To
Sing
Songs
Of
Growth
And
Love
Over
Their Noisy
Instruments of
Belligerent
Clattering.

Unwary
Melanin-rich
Caretakers,
Of
Her Divine
Rhythm
Blessed
Offspring
Of
Her
Sacred
Sound
Have Been Tempted
Away
From
Their Charts,
Baited by
Shiny
Things.

Step-n-Fetch-it’s
Shameless
Children
Paid
Thirty
Pieces
Of
Silver
To
Distort
Her
Pitch.

A Small
Price
For
The
Souls
Hearts
&
Lives
Of Earth’s
Melanin-Rich
Children.

But
They
of an Alien Descent
Gleefully
Play
A
Demonic
Composition
Invigorating
The Symphony
Of
Confusion.

Lust
Replaces
Life!

Betrayers
Of
The Tonal Legacy of
We the Melanin-rich;
These
Use-to-be
Protectors
Of
The
Rhythm
Are
Marching
To
the
Inharmonic
Chords
of
a
Denser
People
who
Operate
on
a
Lower
Frequency.

WE ARE FALLING1
WE ARE FALLING!
WE ARE FALLING1
WE ARE FALLING1

Into
A
Chaotic
Pit

Elder
Drummer
Baggie
Warned
“They
Are
Trying
To
Kill
The
MUSIC.”

AS HE
USED
HIS
TRAPS
AND
SNARES
TO
DRUM
THEM
OUT
OF
EXISTENCE
&
VIBRATE
DEATH
INTO
LIFE.

HARMONIC
MUSIC
IS
THE BASIS
OF
ALL LIFE,

ALL THAT
IS
REAL

ALL
THAT
EXPANDS
.
THE
DANCE
OF
LIGHT!

A
Energetic
Ethereal
Tune
Materially
Manifested;

A
Consolidated
Lyric
The
Great
NOMMO
Who
Gave
Birth
To
Spirit.

Stevie
Recognized
It,
The
Song
That
Is
The
Key
To
Life.

Marvin
Understood
What’s
Going
On.

Sun
Ra
Retrieved
It
From
The
Cosmos
He
Knew
Space
Is
The
Place.

Olutungi
Caressed
It
With
His
Strong
Hands

Rashaan
Rollin
Kirk
Called
It
Out
B L A C K NUSS!!!!!!

It
Is
Time
To
PUMP IT UP
TURN UP
THE
VOLUME

Rescue
Our
Besieged
Vibrations

From
These
Un nature all
Purveyors
Of
Disruptive
Imbalanced
Notes.

RESTORE
THE
MUSIC
OF
THE
COSMOS
TO
ITS
PRISTINE
VOICE.

We
Exist
Under
The
Spell
Of
Music.

Nature
Sings
Vibrations
Of
Creativity
Because
It
Is
Love.

We
Must
SINGLIFE
We
Must
SING HOPE

We
Must
SING UNITY1

WE MUST LOVE
BLACK PEOPLE
WE MUST LOVE
BLACK PEOPLE
WE MUST LOVE
BLACK PEOPLE
WE MUST
L O V E1

(10/20/2013)

Clay

I am

a
thoroughbred.

I share

my
creativity,
my
divine color

with
the
melanin-rich
dark
soil.

The

Sun
is
my
kin

&

my

friend.

Ptah

spoke
my family
into existence,
while Khnum
molded
my ancestors
from the

moist banks

of

the Nile

&

Neith
blew
in
her spirit.

I am

a

thoroughbred.

Primitive,
Indigenous,
Aboriginal,
Native,

I

BELONG
HERE!!!

DO YOU?

Katie’s 1960’s Bluues Song

Katie sang the bluues
at the crossroads
of Mass and Tremont
She sang a sweet bluues
just like
in the movies.

Katie sang the bluues
resting on the
traffic light.
Shamelessly,
Soulfully
Singing the bluues,
Beckoning us to our
windows.

Sounding
a melodic warning
to my impending
womanhood.
They say that
a man
misused her.

So she washed
the pain with a
pint of
Gordon’s gin
and released the
bluuuuuess
and made it
a community event.

Always at the crossroads
holding the light
leaning on the light,
Katie sang the bluues,
down the street
from the
Rainbow.*

A natural woman
before Afros,
young, chocolate,
shapely,
a full-bodied woman
who made
her humiliation
public.

Alerting her sistah’s to
A three-legged danger.

She got paid in
sympathetic glances
from behind
laced cotton curtains.
We all looked
and rode her painful song
into the memories
of our hidden
shame.

Katie sang the bluues
right under my living-room
window.
A sorrowful gospel,
worshiping
in an
an open-air temple-
Appealing to
Love’s
Mercy!!!

Katie sang the bluues
4 o’clock every
Saturday afternoon,
At the crossroads
Of Mass and Tremont
mounted by
RELENTLESS SPIRITS.

While, throughout
My childhood,
I fearfully,
respectfully
awe-filled-ly
and faithfully
observed
her from behind
MY
veiled
window.

Until some
tired,
exploitative,
empathetic,
or patient
black man
came and
took her

away.

Vicki Meredith © 6/30/2001

This poem was inspired by a childhood memory of a depressed young woman, who every Saturday for a number of years, during the 1960s, drunkenly leaned on a neighborhood street light and earnestly sang a perfect blues. Her concerts always ended with some black man, who either loved her, wanted to use her, or was sympathetic to her grief escorting her away. The intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Tremont Street is located in the South End, a historic black music district of Boston—the legendary end of James Brown’s Night Train.

* The Rainbow lounge was a popular club located near to where these events took place.

—Vicki H. Meredith

Poems by Everett Hoagland

Amiri’s Second Set : Symphony Hall, Newark, NJ (January 18, 2014)

There was no more,
no more, no, yes, no more
musical poet. You

who/who/who/who/who
bopped up onto stages
of your life griot-
like, pounded podiums,
turning them into amplified congas
nearly your size with your dis-
proportionately large worker’s
hands, as you connected
the sections of your poems
by scat-
ting monk, tuning
the silences that silhouetted
the RAZOR-sharp truths that cut
through the bullshit. Some thought
it was about lunch time by then
(when all had dished out their praise,
whereas’s, wherefore’s).

But silently you remind us
it was really “Round Midnight.”

It was all there on stage:
hot black, brown, beige, yellow, white stars
with good chops giving you your props,
stage left of your silently echoing blues-
like gallows wit,

wordlessly,
telling it like it “t” is of us in the u.s.

At least for that weekend no one would be DIGGING
you more than your grave diggers who/who/who/who/
who had excavated your place of final rest,

except for the rest of us,
who/who/who/who/who
saw you there on stage
to the left of death

in what was/is

in fact the simple, evocative staged shrine,
you: a grained, brown, stand-up,
wooden stand your height,
topped with your jeff,
your kente cloth
hanging

down from the wooden neck of it,
looking like age-and-work-bowed you–
who/who/who/who/who
never bowed—taking a final bow,
bowing out and saying to each of us
in silent body language poetry,

We’ll be together again
at the protests, rallies,
organizing meetings,
polling places,,
voting right
by voting
leftist.

Yeah,
and we’ll surely
meet again, my friend,
in THE MUSIC.

Literacy Legacies: In The Tradition

(For Jose Soler, Askia Touré, Tony Menelik, Tontongi)

hey,
at first when he was on the beat
village scene, everett leroi j.,
a polished faceted gem of a post-

modern poet,
while publishing some tough
existential stuff, showed
waaaay back in the day

that an exquisite
twenty thousand volume
blued suicide note by a dead lecturer
did not have to make

mundane sense
because by poetic stealth
it had its on in-
herent sense of sane
self by way of the high-mode, low
road’s blued i.

Then when northern American cities’
urban summer night uprising were lit
by black fire that recreated us

as risen shadows
on all of our yesterdays’ walls, flickering
reflections on all windows we did not own,

imamu as chief nommo mau mau
outright told us to get out
of those centuries’
mess, we & our

poetry had to be
about raising the folk
consciousness, told us in the u.s.
to use our words as Slave Ship Bloods

had used cane knives on free market
slavery’s Amistad, that we could, should
write, point, carry, use books like guns,

that our oratory needed to be
the breath of life the unfurled
our red, green, Black Liberation flag,

that our organized ire,
our bright black fire would light the way
over the stoney road we trod.

Accordingly, we walked together
children, talked, struggled
against the oppressor
& with one another
not to be self-
loathing or preoccupied
equally like and liked
by the Other.

For most of the past
half-century, Comrade Amriri B.
role-modeled for you, me

We The People, truth is life-
affirming, demonstrated something : nothing
is more beautiful than the unadorned truth,
that it’s cool if white hot black truth
is expressed by rote by rant
In The Tradition

of David Walker,
& okay if we convey the truth
by word-play, have fun by making a pun
of the truth, that by the rite it is all right

for us to scat mood-mode truths
too deep, too down for words,

or slash bullshit with a Razor-
sharp low-ku, after all, history, current
events remind us about “who, Who, WHO” will

remorselessly try to coup your coo for you
to get your resources if they want to.
And re : those of you hewing
mewing poésie,

instead of greeting us with “Hi,”
or “How are you?” bebopping
activist author Amiri b.
always asked us

“What are you doing?”

He was a devout believer
that liberal, progressive, radical,
revolutionary writers’ actions should be

the afterlives of their words.

Here’s to the living legacy of Amriri B.
Long live the life-affirming, revolutionary,
activist/literary legacies of Amiri Baraka!

—Everett Hoagland this poem was begun at Symphony Hall, Newark, NJ, on January 18, 2014

Aller au sommaire de ce numéro de Tanbou/Tambour, hiver 2008

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