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Rose Darline

BPR 51 | 2024

Things I’d Forgotten

I’d forgotten that we used to piss
in a chamber pot
(night guarding
the stench of the latrine)

that we used to sleep
on palm leaves and old rags
those thieves
plucked Manman Fifi’s last breath

I’d forgotten that we washed
our clothes with a batwèl
beating dirt with that paddle of teak
and I’d forgotten the river’s edge
with its rocky hems
making boom boom sounds as the batwèl strikes

but I remember the riverbank’s women lying in their laughter
with long skirts pulled over their flopping breasts
and the infants strapped on their backs
sometimes sucking their hardened nipples

and I remember the wood fires and pots
burbling and spitting bullets of hot saliva
dotting our skins with burns

I’d forgotten what home was—
two rooms with mud flooring
that made our bowels fertile with the earth

I’d forgotten kerosene lamps
with glass covers

oh, I remember screams
and shouts of yo bay kouran
and I forget the magnetism of electricity
and I remember the street vendors chanting
and forget the heaviness in their steps
under the heat

I remember thinking we are the Eiffel Tower
because the agility of our tongues
swaying to the rhythm of our colonizers

and I remember children beating the river to make music

and I remember being whipped with a matinèt for not learning

and I remember geography lessons
multiplication tables

once too many times
my ancestors in clanging metal were whipped
for passing goat-knuckled bones
from brown hands to brown hands
realizing freedom
was the ocean floating in their blood

I’d forgotten the faces
staring back at me on the street
between my mother’s legs

I’d forgotten the story
of my birth and I’d forgotten that we used to go
by the name of our grandmothers

our mothers
but never our own

through the dry season I wanted
to be called canari

in the rainy season I wanted to be
called indoor plumbing

veritab, labapin, batwèl, matinèt


mango seed

sometimes I sign my name Ayiti
in the books that stole
my ancestors’ right to try their tongues

I’d forgotten my manman’s manman’s manman
breastfeeding her captors’ children

while hers drank dirty water and cow’s milk