say this is only a dream and afterwards morning

say  i will emerge from this shadowy darkness

obstinately I grab the day in my teeth

taking steps back  growling

but life pulls it away tearing it to shreds

blindfolded in my dream

i summon up names of streets

places that witnessed my life and  youth

port au prince streets i owned as a young girl

and in my sleep

my lost steps join street corners I crisscrossed

in childhood days

men ki kote la ri fè kwen

grande rue

rue des fronts forts

rue bonne foi

rue pavée

ruelle marcelin

where have you all gone streets I loved?

i miss you down to the sole of my shoes

how many places this temblor stole from me

the champs de mars had dovecotes once

and now they’re gone

and the palace?  my palace collapsed

tell me what careless hands dropped this old confection

it lays now


crumbled like a white layered cake

rue des miracles

dear to my heart

miracles happen in this country

don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,

the first major recorded one was in 1804

and a january too

and a few days ago

15 days after the earth trembled

a 15 year old girl’s live breath trembled too

a small miracle

one out of two hundred thousand

miracles happen

haitians would have died of willful neglect

hunger and grievous pain but here they are

rue des miracles street of miracles

i’ll say a hail mary and hail all the saints to you

rue bonne foi

street of good faith where we have been tried and found righteous

rue des fronts-forts

se lè gen dife ou konn konbyen kokobe ki gen nan ri dè fwonfò

this entire city of wounded

how will they all fit in rue des fronts forts?

ruelle chrétien

konbyen kretyen vivan ki rete pou entere tout mò sa yo?

and the living remain only to bury the dead

in my sleep i roam in a city i have lost

and two hundred thousand ghosts

i have yet to grieve for

ki mouri san libera

sans je-ne sais-quoi

kou avadra

died without a flower

a song or a prayer

but a white cross placed by daniel rouzier

black ribbons floating in the wind

so we do not forget

two hundred thousand ghosts follow my footsteps

the earth opened magaly said

and swallowed the house and the people

as if it were hungry

i did not

i did not master the art of losing elizabeth bishop

the world is empty of what I prized and what was mine

and like a dog  i try obstinately to keep yesterday in my teeth

taking steps back and growling

as life pulls it away tearing it to shreds

michèle voltaire marcelin

(painting: sénèque obin)

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