Hallowe’en: a-haunting in the ‘hood / El día de la Víspera de Todos los Santos: appariciones en el barrio


Macumba Words: Aimé Césaire

ZP_Aimé Césaire dans les années 1930ZP_Aimé Césaire dans les années 1930



A word can be father to a saint,

words are the mothers of saints,

with a word that both chases and caresses one can

cross a river peopled by caïmans.

Sometimes I sketch a word on the sun,

with a cool, fresh word one spans a desert

in a day.

There are life-buoy words that ward off squalls,

there are iguana-words,

there are delicate words  –  phantom stick-insect words.

And those shadow-words

when one awakes in a rage of flying sparks.

There are Shango words.

And sometimes I swim slyly – playfully –

upon the back of a dolphin-word.

.     .     .



Macumba  –  an African (Bantu) word generally meaning “magic”


caïmans  –  a species of crocodile found in the Caribbean, Central and

South America;  hunts along riverbanks


Shango  –  god of fire, thunder and lightning, from West-African religion

– mainly Yoruba;   survived “The Middle Passage”, and is venerated in

Haitian vodou (voodoo) and Brazilian candomblé.


dolphin  –  perhaps a reference to two ‘dolphins’:

‘dauphin’ as in ‘Dauphin’, the old heir-apparent to France’s throne +

the notion of “correct” French;

also the Boto (Amazon River dolphin) of Afro-Brazilian religion

.     .     .     .     .



Le mot est père des saints

le mot est mère des saints

avec le mot couresse on peut traverser un fleuve

peuplé de caïmans

Il m’arrive de dessiner un mot sur le sol

avec un mot frais on peut traverser le désert

d’une journée

Il y a des mots bâton-de-nage pour écarter les squales

il y a des mots iguanes

il y a des mots subtils ce sont des mots phasmes

il y a des mots d’ombre avec des réveils en colère


Il y a des mots Shango

Il m’arrive de nager de ruse sur le dos d’un mot dauphin.

.     .     .

Aimé Césaire (1913-2008) was born and died in Martinique,

yet he was a man of the world.  In his poetry and plays, both

full of hope and strength, he promoted decolonization

throughout the island-countries of the Caribbean.  From

the geography and customs of those same islands he

drew much of his imagery  –  as in the poem featured above.

English translation:  Alexander Best.


Aimé Césaire (1913-2008) était un Martiniquais, aussi

un homme du monde.  Dans sa poésie et son théâtre, et avec

de l’espérance et puissance, il a promis la décolonisation des

pays caraïbes.  Ses paroles sont fondées sur la géographie et

les coutumes de ces mêmes îles.  Par exemple: le poème ici…

Traduction en anglais:  Alexander Best

Kettly Mars: Defiance of Oblivion

ZP_Kettly Mars_2011ZP_Kettly Mars_2011

Behind the door


Sweet sentinel, you keep watch

over the shadows of my room.

This evening my dreams depart

for the north.  Toward the sea.

Gentle candle, gentle

flame, under your tears of light

wood, stone, copper and glass

cloaked in golden silence

bathed in the same mystery.


.     .     .


Derrière la porte


Douce sentinelle, tu veilles

sur les ombres de la chambre.

Ce soir mes rêves partent

vers le nord.  Vers la mer.

Douce bougie, douce

flamme, sous tes larmes de lumière

bois, pierre, cuivre et verre

enveloppés d’or silencieux

baignent dans le même mystère.


.     .     .


My hand and the stone


My hand and the stone,

sage rebellion of noble particles

gripped in my palm.

I’ve made my own her reality:

grey, heavy, oval.

Millenial stone

whose cry

lays claim to nothing other than a

defiance of oblivion.


.     .     .


Ma main et la pierre


Ma main et la pierre,

sage rébellion de particules

tenant dans ma paume.

J’ai fait mienne sa réalité

grise, lourde et ovale.

Pierre millénaire

jusqu’en son cri

elle ne se prétend autre chose

qu’un défi à l’oubli.



.     .     .     .    .

Kettly Mars est née en 1958.

Un romancier à le proue de la littérature haïtienne,

elle est aussi un poète.  Les poèmes ici viennent de

son recueil de 2011, Feulements et sanglots.

Traductions:  Alexander Best


Kettly Mars, born in 1958, is a novelist

at the forefront of Haitian literature.

She is a poet as well, and these poems

are from her 2011 collection, Growls and Sobs.

Translations into English:  Alexander Best

Haitian Creole: Five Poets

Eff Yeah Vodou

Alexander Akao   (Aleksann Akao)

Zombies Arise

Since I was a kid they’ve been choking me

They grab me, they stuff me into a barrel

Too small for me

They stuff me into a dart-gun

They squash me like a mango

They squash me like a banana

They refuse to let me open my mouth

To speak my mind

“You got nothing to say, you’re a kid !”

But when I’m walking I’m looking around

I see everyone at my side

Is in the same fix as me

They’re burying us all alive

They’re stuffing us in the earth

Like slaves locked up in a canefield

When it’s not a horsewhip, papa,

Making us walk a straight line

It’s a tonton macoute* gun

That gestapoes or SDs ** us

But this morning I wake up

With salt on my tongue

Nothing’s gonna stop me from speaking out !


tonton macoute  –  paramilitary force,

including Duvalier bodyguards, involved in

organized crime;  terrorized the Haitian

people, committing many human-rights abuses

**  SD – Service d’Information:

Haiti president/dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s secret police


Zonbi Leve

Depi m’piti y’ape toufe mwen

Yo pran-m, yo foure-m nan yon barik

Ki twò piti pou mwen

Yo foure-m nan sabakann

Yo toufe-m tankou mango

Yo toufe-m tankou bannann

Yo refize kite-m ouvri bouch mwen

Pou m’eksprime sa mwen panse

“Ou pa gen lapawòl, se timoun ou ye”

Men lè m’mache m’al gade

Mwen wè se tout moun ki sou kote-m

Ki nan menm eta sa-a avè-m

Yo antere-n tou vivan

Yo toufe-n nan tè-a

Tankou esklav te fèmen nan jaden kann

Lè se pa rigwaz papa

Pou fè-m mache SS

Se fizi tonton makout

K’ap gestapo, k’ap SD nou

Men maten-an mwen leve

Ak sèl sou lang mwen

Pa gen anyen ki ka anpeche-m pale !


ZP_Wilson Bigaud_ZonbiZP_Wilson Bigaud_”Zonbi”

Suze Baron  (Siz Bawon)

They say

They say

human blood

enriches the soil

If it were so

if it were so

my friends

rice millet and corn

would be plenty

in Haiti.


Yo di


Yo di

san kretyen



Si sete vre

Si sete vre


ala diri


ak mayi

ki ta genyen

lan peyi

d’ Ayiti.


Georges Castera (Jòj Kastra), born 1936


Let’s go see blood flow,


For once in a lifetime,

it’s not people’s blood spilling,

for once in the street

it’s not animal’s blood flowing,

let’s go see blood flow,


the sun is setting.



An n’al gade san koule,


pou yon fwa nan lavi,

se pa san moun k’ap koule,

pou yon fwa nan lari

se pa san bèt k’ap koule,

an n’al gade san koule,


se solèy ki pral kouche.


Felix Morisseau-Leroy  (Feliks Moriso-Lewa), 1913-1998


When I die, make me a beautiful wake

I’m going neither to paradise nor to hell

Don’t let a priest speak Latin to my head

When I die, bury me in the yard

Gather all my friends, make a big feast

Don’t go past the church with my corpse

When I die, everyone should really get happy

Laugh, sing, dance, tell jokes

Don’t bawl, yell into my ear

I won’t be completely done when I’m dead

All the places where there were great bashes,

Where people are free – they’ll remember me.


Lè m’mouri, fè bèl vèy pou mwen

M’pa pral ni nan paradi ni nan lanfè

Pinga pè pale laten nan tèt mwen.

Lè m’mouri, antere mwen nan lakou-a

Rasanble tout zanmi-m fè bèl fèt

Pinga pase legliz ak kadav mwen

Lè m’mouri, se pou tout moun byen ge

Ri, chante, danse, bay blag

Pinga kriye, rele nan zòrèy mwen

Lè m’mouri, m’pa p’fin ale nèt

tout kote k’ganyen bèl banbòch

Kote nèg lib, fò yo nonmen non mwen.


Nounous  (Lenous Surprice), born 1976

If you want

Every time I see you

You always have something

That tickles the crotch of my pants…

If it’s not your breasts

Making  “sparks fly”

Before my eyes

It’s your gilded pout

Sticking its tongue out to tease me…

If you want

One day

I can take my time

And sing a mass

Into your daybreak

Every time I cross your path

It seems you purposely

Get my  “sleeping cat”,

My  “wild horse”,  stirred up…

When your hip-swing

Isn’t calling out:  “sweets are coming”

To my tray of goodies

It’s your blesséd bonbons

Making my mouth of rainbows


One day

If you want

I’ll display the musical score

Of my body

On the naked piano of yours.

ZP_Wilson Bigaud_Femmes aux fleurs jaunesZP_Wilson Bigaud_”Femmes aux fleurs jaunes”


Si W-Vle

Chak fwa mwen wè-w

Toujou gen youn bagay

Ki pou ap satiyèt gason kanson-m…

Lè se pa tet-w

K’ap fè  “tidifevole”

Douvan je-m

Se dyòl dore-w

K’ap fè jwisans mwen filalang…

Si w-vle

Youn jou

M’ka pran tan-m

Pou m’chante lamès

Nan douvanjou-w.

Chak fwa m’kwaze-w

Ou ta di w-fè espre

Pou w-reveye “lechakidò”

Chwal bosal mwen…

Lè se pa deranchman-w

K’ap rele “ladouskivyen”

Pou machann kenèp mwen

Se bonbon beni-w

K’ap fè bouch lakansyèl mwen

Kouri dlo…

Youn jou

Si w-vle

M’a layite nòt mizik

Kò pa-m

Sou pyano toutouni kò pa-w.


Reprinted from:

Open Gate:  an Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry,

edited by Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman, 2001.

Translations:  Jack Hirschman and Boadiba