quaking conversation

i want to talk about haiti.
how the earth had to break
the island’s spine to wake
the world up to her screaming.
 .
how this post-earthquake crisis
is not natural
or supernatural.
i want to talk about disasters.
 .
how men make them
with embargoes, exploitation,
stigma, sabotage, scalding
debt and cold shoulders.
 .
talk centuries
of political corruption
so commonplace
it’s lukewarm, tap.
 .
talk january 1, 1804
and how it shed life.
talk 1937
and how it bled death.
 .
talk 1964.  1986.  1991.  2004.  2008.
how history is the word
that makes today
uneven, possible.
 .
talk new orleans,
palestine, sri lanka,
the bronx and other points
or connection.
 .
talk resilience and miracles.
how haitian elders sing in time
to their grumbling bellies
and stubborn hearts.
 .
how after weeks under the rubble,
a baby is pulled out,
awake, dehydrated, adorable, telling
stories with old-soul eyes.
 .
how many more are still
buried, breathing, praying and waiting?
intact despite the veil of fear and dust
coating their bruised faces?
 .
i want to talk about our irreversible dead.
the artists, the activists, the spiritual leaders,
the family members, the friends, the merchants
the outcasts, the cons.
 .
all of them, my newest ancestors,
all of them, hovering now,
watching our collective response,
keeping score, making bets.
 .
i want to talk about money.
how one man’s recession might be
another man’s unachievable reality.
how unfair that is.
 .
how i see a haitian woman’s face
every time i look down at a hot meal,
slip into my bed, take a sip of water,
show mercy to a mirror.
 .
how if my parents had made different
decisions three decades ago,
it could have been my arm
sticking out of a mass grave
 .
i want to talk about gratitude.
i want to talk about compassion.
i want to talk about respect.
how even the desperate deserve it.
 .
how haitians sometimes greet each other
with the two words “honor”
and “respect.”
how we all should follow suit.
 .
try every time you hear the word “victim,”
you think “honor.”
try every time you hear the tag “john doe,”
you shout “respect!”
 .
because my people have names.
because my people have nerve.
because my people are
your people in disguise
 .
i want to talk about haiti.
i always talk about haiti.
my mouth quaking with her love,
complexity, honor and respect.
 .
come sit, come stand, come
cry with me. talk.
there’s much to say.
walk. much more to do.
.
.
Lenelle Moïse, “quaking conversation” from Haiti Glass. Copyright © 2014 by Lenelle Moïse. City Lights Books
.
photo taken in stone town, tanzania
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