drip drop
port-au-prince’s life slips away
drip drop
like a canoe
ocean waves thrust
within the sun’s flames

port-au-prince disintegrates
drip drop
like a bad rain
drip drop
that refuses to fall
even when promised cookies
it teases gardens
so grownups can complain
teases gutters
so children can’t bathe

one by one
port-au-prince counts its dead
like a pack of zombies
on some big don’s land

one by one
adds up to a bunch
a bunch of people take to the streets
there is no band, no rara either
a bunch of people start dancing
one last drumbeat
a killer rabòday
pak pitak pitak
pak pitak pitak
pak pitak pitak

one by one
is not one
one by one
is a lot
a lot of bodies
under concrete
hearts around the world ache
two oak trees’ feet bound by chains
flagstone road buried under tons of stone
slabs of rough concrete
hard flowing slabs of concrete
harder than dried tears
in the eyes of port-au-prince city

drip drop
port-au-prince’s life slips away
drip drop
its face worn and torn
pockmarks from syphilis
like a young man’s soul
bruised by heartbreak
honey if we were together
we would look so good

we would look good in all colors
would blossom like bel-air
during Lenten processions
like candelabra in delmas
almonds and star apples
in prepubescent memories
we would splash around
in the waters of guinea hen ravine
wrap ourselves in airplane wings
play ring around the rosy

drip drop
everyman’s life slips away
if we knew how to count
we’d already be far
honey, I wouldn’t be far
we’d have a million twenty
but life carried a one
because we don’t know how to count

drip drop
port-au-prince’s life slips away
drip drop
we’ve been rolling forever
we’ve been struggling forever
we’ve been outside forever
sleeping under hay
sleeping with no supper
to find the mermaid’s comb
but we are still so ugly
the night is heavier
than a bag of salt

honey, come let’s be in love
so we can be beautiful in every color
so i can love you like yesterday
like a hooker by the train tracks

your ass might sag
i’ll close my eyes and dream
and i’ll see you prettier
we’ll grind endlessly
and you will rise
and you’ll become prettier
than any sun goddess

drip drop
drip drop
drip drop
drip drop
drip drop
drip drop

“pòtoprens nan sewòm" © Louis-Philippe Dalembert. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2013 by Nadeve Menard. All rights reserved.

titak pa titak
lavi pòtoprens prale
titak pa titak
pòtre koralen
vag lanmè makònnen
nan mitan flanm sole

pòtoprens degrennen
titak pa titak
tankou move lapli
titak pa titak
ki refize tonbe
menm si yo ba l bonbon
fè jaden filalang
pou granmoun ka plenyien
fè goutyè filalang
pou timoun pa benyien

grenn pa grenn
pòtoprens konte mò
pòtre makòn zonbi
sou bitasyon grandon

grenn pa grenn
fè yon bann
yon bann moun pran lari
pa gen bann ni rara
yon bann moun pran danse
oun dennyè kout tanbou
oun rabòday fyèl bèf
pak pitak pitak
pak pitak pitak
pak pitak pitak

grenn pa grenn
se pa youn
grenn pa grenn
se yon dal
yon dal kò
anba dal
fè kè tout latè grenn
de pye bwatchèn nan chenn
chemen dèdal anba dal
dal beton kòlòwòch
dal beton koule rèd
pi rèd pase dlo chèch
nan je vil pòtoprens

titak pa titak
lavi pòtoprens prale
titak pa titak
figi l kole pyese
bade mak sifilis
pòtre nanm jenn gason
chagren damou fennen
cheri si n te renmen
ala bèl nou ta bèl

nou ta bèl tout koulè
ta fleri kou bèlè
lò sezon posesyon
kou kandelam dèlma
zanmann ak kayimit
nan memwa san kanson
nou ta tire lobe
nan dlo ravin pentad
vlope ak zèl lavyon
fè laviwondede

titak pa titak
lavi ti nèg prale
si nou te konn konte
nou ta gen tan byen lwen
cheri mwen pa ta lwen
nou ta gen milyon ven
men lavi jeretyen
paske n pa konn konte

titak pa titak
lavi pòtoprens prale
titak pa titak
se pa dat n ap woule
se pa dat n ap debat
se pa dat nou dèwò
ap dòmi anba pay
ap dòmi san soupe
pou n jwenn peny lasirèn
men se atò nou lèd
lannuyit lan lou
pas on sak sèl

cheri vin nou damou
pou nou bèl tout koulè
pou m renmen w tankou yè
takou bouzen sou ray
bonda w te mèt fobop
m a fèmen je m reve
epi m a wè w pi bèl
n a gouye san rete
epi wa va leve
epi wa vin pi bèl
pase larèn solèy

titak pa titak
titak pa titak
titak pa titak
titak pa titak
titak pa titak
titak pa titak

Louis-Philippe DalembertLouis-Philippe Dalembert

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1962, Louis-Philippe Dalembert is among the most important Haitian writers of his generation. He is a poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist. His works, praised by critics in France and abroad, have also been translated into several languages.

photo: Daniel Mordzinski

Translated from Haitian CreoleHaitian Creole by Nadève MénardNadève Ménard

Nadève Ménard is professor of literature at the École Normale Supérieure of Université d’État d’Haïti. She has contributed to several journals and collective book projects including International Journal of Francophone Studies, Edwidge Danticat: A Reader’s Guide, Haiti Rising: Haitian History, Culture and the Earthquake of 2010, and Dictionnaire littéraire d’écrivains francophones classiques. Her first edited book, Écrits d’Haïti: perspectives sur la littérature haïtienne contemporaine (19862006) was published by Karthala in 2011. With Régine Michelle Jean-Charles, Nadève Ménard recently launched Tande, a trilingual blog on Haitian culture and literature. She is also currently working on an earthquake preparedness guide for children with several members of her family.