my aunt’s 2nd wedding.
an august festival for some.
an all day marathon for those who know her.
a common cocktail for a haitian wedding.
and speaking of the motherland and thirst,
my mother asks me to get her a cola lacaye,
an old haitian soda.
going to the kitchen, it is empty, despite the aluminum mountain of pikliz,
plantain piled onto plates, a sea of rice and souspa on the back stove,
pots of golden griot but behind the crates of cola lacaye in the corner,
there lay a woman.
barefoot, sobbing, and with a slice of lime in her hand,
in a mix of broken english and broken spirit,
she explains to whoever’s on the phone
that her uncle in haiti just died
she was about to be deported in exactly 150 days,
because temporary protected status was set to end next january,
there was nowhere else for her to go.
she will be lost in a land that will never be home.
i think about how i’ve always wanted to
name something, like a daughter, january,
think now of how this will be the cruelest winter.
how 150 days can melt an island.
how haitian bodies have known ICE like this before but
the island hasn’t prepared for such a snowstorm,
something so white and violent that forecasts scream 32 degrees KKK.
& maybe august could serve as a better name
as we are still frozen—but in celebration.
are we still waiting for this refugee sunshine
or did someone leave the refrigerator door open?
and speaking of the motherland, a refrigerator, and patience,
i hear my father call me from the distance
asking what’s taking so long to get my mother a drink
and by the time i look up, that woman is gone
i grab my mother’s cola lacaye,
and try not to drop the glass bottle with shaking hands.
she asks if i knew what cola lacaye means
explains that it translates to “soda of the home”
and takes a sip.
the frost in my throat gives.
chins and thighs.
the first time a man ever looked at my body as food,
with fire in his eyes and persuasion on his lips,
i was 19 years old and a virgin.
when i was younger than that, i was fat and dark.
the dark, fat shell protected me from male attraction,
precious in more ways than one but
sparing me was the key.
i just didn’t know it was for the backdoor.
we didn’t go to the same school but even the boy next door was lightskin.
first crush: my neighbor, featured middle child to his 4 siblings as I had 1 little sister so he really couldn’t
see me even if i was right next to me.
despite how much bigger i was than him, the backyard and other dreams were always so much bigger.
since everybody at school was white though, i knew all i was ever gonna be was a small flavor.
chocolate sauce dripping around some vanilla ice cream, except, maybe not on sundaes.
everybody in my church was haitian,
and the women commented on how smart I was, but dark + big like they weren’t themselves.
I was the big dark kettle with the tiny tea sister cup with a chip in it (you know, from the Beauty
and the Beast movie) getting called black by the pots of the congregation
with the same chins and thighs and rolls, baby fat but grown.
the first boy who ever told me they liked me did it as a bet…and Jesus laughed.
a joke in the middle of the church. it is in front of god and my ancestors when i realize heaven
and hell might be the exact same place and i am the exact opposite of a dream girl. a growing
nightmare of a woman, shadowy and big, seen only in the backyard. dream girl is taller, still
small, and light like the dolls with blue eyes or brown hair that doesn’t coil maybe, with nice,
creamy, skin. flesh that would glow if you buffed it
and I could never be that tall, pale or transparent.
The boy who laughed at me that sunday, I could never make him feel more comfortable with his own
blackness with mine.
I could never be the Saran Wrap if I was the burnt food. my mom was just as sad for me.
for months after that, all I could think about was what I couldn’t do and I prayed about how I
was covered with damage and how sugar has softened my skin too many summers before and
some days in July, I am so dark that my thoughts become my own colonizer, I drain and plunder myself
the first time a man ever looked at my body as food, with fire in his eyes and persuasion on his
lips, i was 19 years old and a virgin.
when i was younger than that, i was fat.
and i was still cursed with chins and thighs + to be the darkest girl I always knew in the room,
let alone saw being supported, even in college.
love was polarizing and it paralyzed me
the realization that becoming an adult won’t change anything.
inner child is still convinced that the pale girls, the skinny ones
will always be who deserves love, mercy, and grace.
even after high school and weight loss and re-education,
i’m still afraid of love as quiet as it is kept.
haiti is a song one often forgets.
two islands, one whole.
attune to a frequency
native only to the colonies of bees underneath
the window as she crouched to her knees
at the sight of the tanks up ahead,
the pollen lay at the feet of the hive
hoping this will not be a bloodbath of honey
dominican soldier opens the door.
there is a branch of parsley.
he asks for spanish.
& there is a second where she almost sees him consider it.
where haitian and dominican mean very little
at that moment and they are faced with mortality
but before soldier has a chance to surrender mercy
she meets grief.
swan song of a life remaining still
within the drumming of bees
& speaking of bad memories,
our ancestors have yet to learn how to forget
rising from the bottom of the sea, they ask
do you still wear the parsley necklace.
or is it wrapped around brass knuckles
spread beyond seas to encapsulate
such a shithole of a country.
a country that knows a witchhunt when they see it.
only this time its caught in the teeth of men on tv.
after “The Avocado” by Terrence Hayes
“In Haiti 2020, full on the sweet, sweet juice of revolution,
a walking mountain of us marched into the president’s office with a list
of demands,” the black man tells us at the June luncheon,
and i sit idly, pretending i haven’t heard this one before as i eye
golden griot on a white and gold plate beside a big green bowl
of pikliz made from the whipped, battered remains
of several harmless former vegetables. peeled by hand, crafted, and dressed.
beside it, thin, crispy, salty, wide plantains on a red plate.
behind it, plump, glazed, and sweet plantains with cream & peaches
that go well with the wine and the going on about the drowning of a nation that stood shoulders with
giants and laughed at the bullet holes in their outfits, staring down the sword.
“Demand 11: We wanted more boulevards named for the Toussaint L’ouverture. An airport named
for Princess Anacoana.” he draws on and i continue to ponder
the animal behind the meat, the goat, the glory, affirming that
it’s not too crazy to imagine the goat as a symbol of revolt on the liberation’s flag.
but mine would be a pot of griot, golden,
enough gold to fill each womb, enough to nurse the warriors
waiting to enter this world with bright fists, screaming:
the man says, but I’m thinking
of the dirt colored flesh of the meat, high in its oil content,
second only to plantain and cream, shades much lighter
but not nearly as fulfilling or satisfying and
I dare you to find a lovelier black woman than from the golden pot of the island,
where the North touches the South with mountaintop gentleness.
after all, we are all one kind of abolitionist or another, no doubt
there’s liberation in being softer than one would expect.
and we are like the griot on the table,
beholden to the shocking odds of being available here and now,
better for being bitten + fighting to make it to the plate
with its inedible gumminess and elasticity.
many Haitians have kept goats as companions for as long as they could hold on to fortune.
brother man is weeping now, a walking wet tissue to the trash can
and saying, “Harriet Tubman was a walking shadow,” or, “Harriet Tubman
walked in shadows,” or, “To many, Harriet Tubman was a shadow
to walk in,” and the meaning is glistening meat, mashed vegetables pureed flesh with lime juice,
minced garlic, and dust; or is it salt, or the ghost pepper that
Harriet Tubman tossed over her shoulder to trouble the bloodhounds as bad as her sleep.
“Goddamn, ain’t you hungry?” the man who lives in my phone texts,
putting a digital finger to my lips to distract me,
saying, “baby, wasn’t that you waking me up last night?
I had a dream where we were in the mountains.”
crisp air, cool and still thick, under the eye of predators,
with nothing but wit and dumb luck from the weather
and Mother’s moods were becoming mercurial,
storming with new, dumbfounded and raw neglect.
“We weren’t going to be Black, we weren’t going to be Negro. Wasn’t that you, baby?”
someone’s belly is growling
“somewhere where america doesn’t mean anything”
his contact name whispered to me
& it was completely without hesitation
about who was food then.