mud mothers

the children of haiti
are not mythological
we are starving
or eating salty cakes
made of clay
 
because in 1804 we felled
our former slave captors
the graceless losers sunk
vindictive yellow
teeth into our forests
 
 
what was green is now
dust and everyone knows
trees unleash oxygen
(another humble word
for life)
 
they took off
with our torn branches
beheaded our future
stuck our breath up on pikes
for all the world to see
 
we are a living dead example
of what happens to warriors who
in lieu of fighting for white men's countries
dare to fight
for their own lives
 
during carnival
we could care less
about our bloated empty bellies
where there are voices
we are dancing
 
where there is vodou
we are horses
where there are drums
we are possessed
with joy and stubborn jamboree
 
but when the makeshift
trumpet player
runs out of rhythmic breath
the only sound left is
guts grumbling
 
and we sigh
to remember
that food
and freedom
are not free
 
is haiti really free
if our babies die starving?
if we cannot write our names
read our rights keep
our leaders in their seats?
 
can we be free? really?
if our mothers are mud? if dead
columbus keeps cursing us
and nothing changes
when we curse back
 
we are a proud resilient people
though we return to dust daily
salt gray clay with hot black tears
savor snot cakes
over suicide
 
we are hungry
creative people
sip bits of laughter
when we are thirsty
dance despite
 
this asthma
called debt
congesting
legendarily liberated
lungs

Lenelle Moïse, "mud mothers" from Haiti Glass. Copyright © 2014 by Lenelle Moïse.  Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books, www.citylights.com.
Source: Haiti Glass (City Lights Books, 2014)
More Poems by Lenelle Moïse