May Belongs to Haiti

Dream Haiti: Acrylic on Canvas by Jean Claude M.When rain falls like a song on the roof, and ocean breezes caress the curtains until sunrise, sleep is sweetest.

This morning, the bedroom window proffered an invitation to behold nature and take from Her all I required: rest, renewal, and inspiration galore. If it’s a happy heart you need, the rain said, I have one for you. Look at the flowering trees. See how their branches are heavy with promise. The rain-washed leaves shone like precious stones.

IMAG2583I awoke with the expectation that every seed I planted will germinate: corn, eggplant, tomato, onions. In two or three months, we will harvest enough fresh vegetables to feed several families. We will share with the neighbors, in accordance with our elders’ teaching: Those who never eat alone never go hungry.

I awoke with mist in my eyes too, knowing how the sky covering Haiti can be tightfisted and the clouds stingy. Sometimes rain stays away so long that farms become like the Sahara.

May 1st, Agriculture and Labor Day, is just the beginning of why this month is particularly portentous to Haiti and Haitians. Let the celebration of our rich culture begin.


Li Teks la an Kreyòl




2 Months Later: Remembering David Bowie

David-Bowie-and-daughter-AlexandriaWasn’t it just the other day we went around wishing one another Happy New Year? I hope your year has been happy, so far.

As with all things, happiness comes with its evil twin. Recently, my father said to me: “Out of my group of friends, there are only two left. And I am one of them.”   That’s tough for a guy in his late seventies who had more good friends than he could count. “What a ride it’s been!” my father said.  Yes, it saddens him that most of his friends are no longer living, but he is grateful for having known them. He is clear about the fact that his life would not have been as enjoyable without them.

This is not supposed to be a sad post, but today marks 2 months since one of my favorite-favorite singers passed away. I recall singing songs by David Bowie long before I knew what the lyrics meant. The man was a consummate artist. He was strangely beautiful. He had his own brand of magic. Boys and girls loved him. From his first to last album, Blackstar, he genius never wavered.

iman quoteMy heart goes out to Iman, his wife–not ready to use that other “W” word for women whose husbands have “transitioned.”

She was utterly silent for weeks after we heard the news. And then she began to fill social media with positive messages. David’s fans flocked to her Facebook page, to post uplifting comments and show their affection for the singer.  The strength Iman shows is bewildering.  She comforts the millions who mourn the loss of the singer-side of her husband. I hope she receives a hundred times more comfort than she gives.

My tribute to Bowie was published on Akashicbooks.com. If you’re a Bowie fan, check it out. If you’re not a Bowie fan, I won’t hold it against you. Take a look at Lazarus, Bowie’s final video. What’s not to love?


Celebrating International Women’s Day

Sisters in deed and in factThere’s nothing like genuine sisterhood to bring out the best in a woman. I am fortunate to know a few ladies for whom I would do anything and go anywhere. These girlfriends and I look forward to growing old together, laughing at all the dumb things we did when we thought we had youth to spare.

We guard one another’s secrets, and will carry them to the afterworld. We trust, love, and are fiercely loyal. We stand with one another, eat, pray, and fight—when necessary—together.

With each passing year, we learn more about one another and grow closer. One of my friends who knows how shy I am, accompanies me when I have to stand in front of crowds to give a reading. I catch myself holding her hand, the way sisters might when one is scared. She’ll sit in the audience, holding me up with her protective gaze. When she cannot be there, I imagine her sitting in the front row, smiling and telling me “You’ve got this!”

A few years ago, one of my friends went through an insane separation from her partner. Children were involved. This guy was abusive, and an all-around jerk.  When she told me about it, I despised him instantly. I told my friend we would fix the situation. We devised a little scheme.

katia in Fort JacquesNow, I don’t know much about Vodou, but certain people will swear that being Haitian automatically makes me a witch. My girlfriend’s guy had always thought I knew a lot more about magic than I said. That was one time when stereotype worked in my favor.

I went to the backyard, scraped up a handful of dirt. I dug into the bottom of my purse, got three of the ugliest pennies I owned. I went to the grocery store to buy a few chicken feet. I put the items in a brown paper bag, and made sure the guy received them. Somehow we let him know the backyard dirt really came from a cemetery. The three penies were the price of his soul. And the chicken feet…well, who wants to receive chicken feet? He panicked.

The guy thought my precious gift would make his life very difficult, indeed.  He despised me now as much as I despised him. My girlfriend left him soon afterwards. He didn’t stop being a jerk, but the little voice in the back of his tiny brain made him think twice about his actions. Mister man is still a jerk and still a coward who trembles at the sight of chicken feet. I suppose this is one of the incidents my girlfriend and I will laugh about, when we’re speeding on the Verrazano Bridge fifty years from now. Ha!

KarineThere’s nothing like a good sister-friend to make life beautiful. And, based on the way things are going today, we need to band together more than ever—to prevent spermatogenesis from annihilating what is left of civilization.

Still shot of Anaika Saint Louis from CNN video.

“Tell Them I’m Still Here” – Maxo Simeon

Tell Them I'm Still Here“Tell them I’m still here. Tell my sisters, my cousins, their children–I’ve never met any of their children. But tell them anyway.  Tell them Maxo Simeon said he is still alive. Di yo m’fout la toujou.” Jean-Max Simeon

“I was taking my daughter to school.  She was getting out of the car, when the ground started to shake. I yelled at her to get back in. We drove fast. You see me here.  Ask me why I’m alive. I can’t tell you what I don’t know.” Frank Simeon

SAM_0287“You realize your big house is useless. The furniture is nothing. You are afraid of your big house. The bigger it is, the faster it  kills you.” – Lucienne

“The walls stretched. They shook you. One minute I was here. Next minute I was upside down. The house was elastic. It was a miracle that we survived. ” – Nadia Simeon

large family tent“When you’re inside the tent, you feel like somebody set your skin on fire. You don’t move. You wait. You know if you live to see the next day, maybe you’ll see the one after it.” -Barbara Simeon

“After 49 years of back-breaking work in the United States, I was supposed to spend my remaining years in my own country.  Now they tell me my house collapsed.  I don’t want to hear that my life in America was for nothing.” -MyrtaSAM_0288

“I didn’t know what was happening. How was I supposed to know? I held my baby, and ran. I didn’t know where we would stop. I just ran.” Nicole

“There are so many ways it is described, this ‘Thing’ that manifested itself that January afternoon, leaving Haitians in such fear that even those whose houses are undamaged will not sleep inside. ” -Actress and poet Michele Voltaire Marcelin — from “The Thing”

“Caribbean Market fell. People were screaming.  The market kept falling. The roof. The walls. The air turned to dust.” -Stanley Simeon

“People in America knew more than we did. We didn’t have televisions to watch the news. We didn’t have a radio. People guessed. People repeated what they’d heard. We believed everything. We believed nothing.” – Hans Simeon

“I was sitting in my taptap, when it hit. Dozens of people tried to fit in the cab. They piled on the hood. They jumped on the roof. They wanted me to drive them away from the problem. But the problem was everywhere.” –Rodley Simeon

“Children asked what it was. We couldn’t tell them what it was. The children called it by the sound it made: Goudougoudou (goodoogoodoo.)  ‘Goudougoudou eats people,’ the children said. Every time the ground shook, the children cried out, ‘Goudougoudou is going to eat us too.’ ” Jenny

Mango - Papa Yiyi - February 2010

VoicesfromHaiti photo – February, 2010

“People came from everywhere. You didn’t know who they were. They had lost families and homes. They were hungry.  They asked if they could eat the green mangoes on our tree. We told them they could. We sat together and ate. Papa Yiyi planted the mango tree seven years ago. He died shortly afterwards. He would be pleased to know how many people the tree feeds now.” – Barbara Simeon

Still shot of Anaika Saint Louis from CNN video.

Still shot of Anaika Saint Louis from CNN video.

“Anaika Saint Louis was just 11 years old. She wanted to live. But the world flew too far away for her arms to reach. She ran in her sleep.  Six years ago today, Anaika Saint Louis started her journey to Paradise. Every tear her innocent eyes shed was a waterfall to me. Even though Anaika and I never met, I feel as if I knew her. I remember her voice. I can still her screaming. Rest in Paradise, little angel.” – Rachelle Coriolan

We are Beautiful and We Are Here