Academic journal article Journal of Haitian Studies

Why Rasanblaj, Why Now? New Salutations to the Four Cardinal Points in Haitian Studies

Academic journal article Journal of Haitian Studies

Why Rasanblaj, Why Now? New Salutations to the Four Cardinal Points in Haitian Studies

Article excerpt

for

Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique

1965-2018

Keynote Address, Twenty-Ninth Annual Haitian Studies Association Conference, November 3, 2017, Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Mwen Rive lan lakou a

Map e mande si pa gen granmoun o lan lakou a

CONCEPTS OF HOME1

i just left it

lying there on the table at espresso cafe

a cup lined with fizzzzlessss foam

pressing the pages down

pressing to keep them down

to keep them closed

so grandmere doesn't see them

if my grandmother ever read these words

echoing screams of Kundera's post-mid-life crisis

she would have raised her eyebrows

lowered her head rolled her eyes

stuped real loud

and with swaying hips of her womanly form

she would have walked away

with a bad taste in her mouth

that's my critique of Immortality

i remember knees rubbing

as i tried to outrun

katia who was always the fastest

she was even faster than djeanane who was taller than all of us

blue/white checked pleated skirt twirls when i spin

flies when i jump

trying to reach extended branches

that were closer to the sky than they were to my head

i remember us collecting rocks

that i held onto tightly within closed fists

i remember running on paved sidewalks

passing the Cabane Choucoune

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge

on our way home we would stop at a pye zanman

look for the yellowish orange ones the ripe ones

we'd throw rocks like boys at the zanman

until we knocked them onto the ground

we would wipe them off our uniforms

and stuff them into our mouths

biting away flesh that was barely ripe for eating

but soft enough to let spots of juice seep through

leaving tongues tasting of sour

we weren't suppose to keyi zanman on that street

or on any street

where we would be seen acting like ti moun san fanmi

ti moun san manman

my mother never knew we did that

unless

we bit into one that was so green

that we had to spit it out quickly

carelessly

letting it stain our clothes

when i was in jamaica this summer

i ate breadfruit and saltfish

i ate bonbonsiro

i cooked like mother or ivela would

i never measure anything

i cook like that

because that's just the way us women

at rue darguin no. 8 cooked

at Dragon's Bay villa

i skipped about in my yellow flowered dress

the blue bay

the escovitched fish

small strips of kan in a plastic bag tied with a twist

for the tourist price of 30 J

the smell of and the taste of blue mountain coffee

with carnation evaporated milk

to which i'd add spoonfuls of brown sugar

brown sugar that i'd have to demand

because raw sugar has no place on tables in hotels

it is colored

raw sugar has no place on tables in hotels

it is colored

because it is not refined

it wasn't processed in britain or in the united states

lean dark waiters in white shirts and red vests serving

uptight white american tourists who want eggs over easy

instead of ackee and saltfish for breakfast

who sit under the almond tree

my almond tree by the bar

drinking rum punches

the almond tree overlooking the bay

the almond that i wanted to climb

i jumped trying to catch extended branches

jumped again

my dress

rides up

glimpses of the

eternal thigh

up

again

i lost my balance

i lost my shame

as i jumped up again over and over again

trying to grab arching branches with almonds

that have not seen me for fifteen years

i didn't even check

to see if they were yellowish gold or even close

that wasn't the point

no you see

i had to knock them down from the tree

wipe them off my bathing suit

and sink my teeth into them

as soon as i possessed them

as soon as i had them in my hand

without wasting a moment

but they fell on the sand

i didn't even wipe them

i bit right into them

one at a time

because i had to

i had to because

they reminded me of the place where i came from

this place- a country- my country- a man

the zanman reminded me of this man

this man with whom i share a torrid love

a man that didn't like women

that smothered children before they were born

because in their mother's belly they promised

they'd have too much fire in their souls

they were black

he knew they'd all be blakk

he knew they were all blakk

and they promised they'd want to be free

and they promised they'd fight to stay free

because they were blakk

and he knew they knew what would happen

and he knew they knew what would happen what always happens

he knew they knew they couldn't be french

because they only speak

he knew they knew they couldn't be french

pase se moun andeyo yo ye

the zanman reminded me of this man

that i haven't gone back to

that i can't go back to

that i don't want to go back to yet

that i don't want to see so t o r n

bleeding

because i don't want to believe that ayiti can

bleed

that ayiti is bleeding

i don't want to see

i don't want to see

her

bleed

ing

but it's always been-

he said

high

suicide

alcohol ism

family violence

rapesrepeatedrapesofbabieschildrengirlswomenladiesgirlswomen

violenceagainstwomen

blood has been

shedding in

south africa

black blood

colored blood

blood

a lot of pnp and jlp blood

red has always been the color of the blood that has

c o l o u r e d

south africa

how do you call a place home that doesn't allow you to forget

how do you call a place home that tears you inside out

that makes you wish you could not feel

that makes you wish you could not think

that makes you wish you could not see

that makes you wish you could not remember

horror that has become an everyday commodity

a place that keeps bleeding

that keeps bleeding

even after operation restore democracy

that will continue

to bleed

until

until there's no trenchtown

until there's no lost city no sun city

until there's no white power center

until there's no whites only signs in children's minds

until there's no whites only signs in children's hearts

until the colored are free

until white people are free

until black people are free

But it keeps bleeding

but we can't make it stop

or can we

you can't make it stop

or can you

do you turn away wallowing in guilt

delving deeper into a forgiveness

that doesn't exist

a forgiveness that ceased to exist

a forgiveness that will never exist

there's blood too much blood in south africa and it's spilling over

there's blood too much blood in south africa and it's spilling over

blood is spilling over on necklaces

blood is spilling over in cité soleil

blood is spilling over in garrisons

red is the color of the blood spilling over from makeshifts boats in the

caribbean sea

red is the color of the blood spilling over from makeshifts boats in the

caribbean sea

there's too much blood on this country that i love

there's too much red on this country that i love

this country that won't let children live

that kills them

in their mother's womb

so women now

give birth

to

stillborns

how do you keep yourself how do you keep yourself from wanting to

touch from wanting to smell from wanting to be from wanting to feel to

find a peace that ceased to exist to find a peace that never existed to find

a peace that will never exist

to stop looking to stop looking for something

to stop looking to stop looking for anything

to stop looking to stop looking

so you can

find

HOMAGE TO THOSE WHO HOLLERED BEFORE ME2

Silence chose me

I didn't choose silence

silence immobilized me

I could not breathe in my own skin

without breaking the silence

I could not live in the castle of my skin

as I came of age colonized

knowing I wasn't meant to survive I screamed

knowing the power of the erotics I screamed

using the erotics as power I screamed

out of my passion I screamed out

loud words that resonated the sound of a hammer going through flesh

screeches shrieks hollers screams

another woman hollering

hollers screams

another woman of color hollering

hollers shrieks

just another black woman hollering creeks

like caroline, catherine, ellen, ella

hollering shrieks

like zora, audre, gloria, sandra

hollering creeks that crack

hollering creeks to crack to shatter the screens that border the walls of

the tower

that safeguards the gatekeepers mirrored crick-crack

krik! …

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