Skip to content
Give readers a window on the world. Click to donate.
from the January 2013 issue

Season of Grief

Goudougoudougoudougoudou . . .
When the malicious brouhaha
finally dozed off at dusk’s feet
when in the magic of darkness
ribbons of promise turned into sadness
with desperation deep in our eyes
we held our hands out to dust
a drizzle of confetti like fine salt 
above our heads
Claws of desolation
planted in each neighborhood’s entrails
from one alley to the next
God have mercy on the town of Jacmel
muted words in deaf ears
smoke scattered in the woods
before it disappeared behind Hospital Mountain
Spurs of pain strike passing time
How long would life have to be
for us to forget three hundred thousand voices
knocking at eternity’s door?
If time has time
they will stop
cursing and casting evil spells
on an exhausted people 
waiting for dawn
to stand 
Goudougoudougoudougoudou . . . 
Tremor calls to tremor
Léogane is bedridden
epilepsy seizes the earth 
neighbors hold their hands to the sky
calling out to Jesus
Our clock’s hands have stopped
on five minus a few
nature’s guitar strings are out of  tune
our legs have the shakes
konpa becomes samba
at a dance with no musicians  
Near Juvénat electric wires hang
giving nightmares a boost
the carousel of life runs half-heartedly 
then collapses in the middle of Lazarus Hill
Perplexed children and grownups 
awake side-by-side in a circle of throbbing pain
tops spinning like mad dogs
sketch an arabesque against the voice of 
Cesaria Evora
Families dressed in gray 
like a pack of zombies cut loose
run up and down
like cars with no steering rod
Entwined concrete houses 
perform pirouettes on both sides of the street
turning and twisting 
in an infernal circle
around the fountain of our sadness
a season of despair wearing shiny shoes 
night invades us in broad daylight
overturning our bowl of dreams
Goudougoudou . . . goudougoudou . . . 
One by one
with small steps
like babies
learning to walk
we take to the streets
a bunch of silly idiots
playing a senseless game
Port-au-Prince has no arms 
wide enough to collect her children
Nazon Alley
Delmas 33
headless bodies
under white sheets
Lasenjan butterflies 
that overslept
Shoddy leaders
are conniving
with invisible cohorts
defenseless blind men
get even
by chanting swordlike praises
Buzzard wings are like 
a sheet over my country
chameleons proclaim mourning season
settling down the field of recklessness
buzzing insects carpet the tarmac
of Mayi Gate airport
pickets are planted
a thousand tents erected 
Flags raised
Waves of yanvalou shroud petro drums
Fire smolders under the ashes of resistance
Goudougoudou . . . goudougoudou
Look how she walks
a tiny, crippled life 
that sees no hope anywhere
she drags her bony buttocks
eyes cloaked in dignity
a tiny, pitiful life
that carries a country on her back
I see that tiny life
fighting day after day
she makes eyes at death
as she struggles 
for dawn
to replace night 
That life
an earthquake knocked her down
but she’s like a bewitched horse
that can’t stop prancing
in our Desolate Savanna
Tuesday,  January 12
accursed Tuesday
left our hands tied
in a mystical lakou
turned us into potato peels
a horde of living dead
with no spirit
dogs scrounging 
at the foot of a rich man’s table
insignificant nobodies
in the pages of history
Goudougoudougoudou . . .
Master of the night hatches in the shadow of stars 
prophets of doom sprout like mushrooms
ranting endlessly in the fields of ignorance
as if we were paying our forefathers debts
The machete of our conscience is sharpened
on Bois Caïman plantation
our invaders remember Crête-à-Pierrot 
what do we have left to pay?
our empty pockets turned inside out
yet, our heads reach above the clouds
We made history at Napoleon’s expense 
declared freedom for all of humanity
signed our name in Savannah
stood in solidarity with Simon Bolivar
history can’t forget us
even when a ferocious bird
tries to keep us at bay
Don’t measure the distance that separates us
from the shores of Africa
we know where
our umbilical cord is tied
heirs of Carib Indians in the heart of America
we wear our pride on our foreheads
we learn to dodge the blows
our knees will never touch the ground
“Sezon malè” © 2012 by Guy-Gérald Ménard. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2013 by Chantal Kenol. All rights reserved.
Read more from the January 2013 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.