A little more than 500 years ago, the Portuguese brought Africans as slaves to the island that is now Haiti. For the last ten years, the second Saturday in June (which was yesterday) has been marked around the world to remember those who died (possibly as many as thirty million) on slaveships from Africa to the Western Hemisphere over the centuries that followed. Since the first leg of the trip was always from Europe to Africa and the last leg was from the "New World" back to Europe (loaded down with money and products, such as tobacco, coffee, sugar, and cotton), the voyage across the Atlantic was called "The Middle Passage."
I know I'm a day late, but I've decided to participate anyway by posting a poem I wrote some years ago to honor a Haitian woman revolutionary I once knew. I am thinking today of those who were stolen from their families and those who died crossing the Atlantic and those in Haiti and elsewhere who suffer still because the godless practice of slavery was ever implemented in the Western Hemisphere in the first place.
~~A Woman of Haiti~~
A woman of Haiti: black and beautiful as the night, enshadowed as only night can be, slipping through bushes against a house that is all houses, sliding across dark water to tease the eyelids of restless sleepers.
A woman of Haiti: of pain and empty stomachs, of ancient religiousity, of refusal to give in to despair, even in the face of a thoughtless and laughing universe.
A woman of Haiti: music coming out of ears and nostrils, hips and legs dancing, dancing, dancing from planet to planet while old men hunger and young men weep.
A woman of Haiti: singing in Creole, laughing to music, dancing in bright skirts into a future made of glass.
A woman of Haiti: learning, growing, demanding, knowing, asking, yearning, grabbing, pushing away, expanding her mind to meet her potential without knowing where her potential leads.
A woman of Haiti: making revolution with her body, shooting poem bullets and lobbing pen-and-ink grenades to blow up lies and ugliness, to waken death and make it run away.
A woman of Haiti: standing on legs like pillars, legs made of sea salt, legs like a statue, legs like trees, growing out of the earth of Haiti and reaching deep into her soil, deep into her hidden recesses, deep into the secret places of her history.
A woman of Haiti: screaming in the marketplace that her man is dead and she has no children.
A woman of Haiti: with feet scattering flames before her, leaving bloodprints on the ground of a continent that doesn't speak any of her languages.
A woman of Haiti: whose body passed over from Africa in ship bellies, but whose soul sneaked across on the ocean floor carrying an old knife with which to set her people free.