Sunday, November 6, 2011

Go There

A few days ago, I finished reading Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry, edited by Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman.  I've been working through this book in the early mornings before work over the course of the last couple of months.  Reading this anthology has been part cultural study, part vocabulary acquisition, and part sheer delight.  The voices of dozens of Haitian poets call out in their mother tongue, expertly translated into English on the opposite page.  Some of the poems are the mournful utterances of loss.  Others are raging cries of militants rallying their forces.  Others still are tender whispers between lovers.

The poem below is one of my favorites from the collection.  It speaks of the quest into the hard places of life, the love and light that we can bring there, and the need that we all have for the transformation that comes through friendship.  Enjoy, either in English or Creole.

Go There
By Tontongi

Go there where you see your heart
Leading you keeping you from changing
Into a dry desert of sorrow
worse than the skin of a drum.
Go there even when you're discouraged
When you end up as salt meat
In banquets for bigwigs.
You have to go there, my brothers and sisters,
Where the people suffering
Never hear "Good Morning"
Where there's no light
To enliven a day with hope. 
Go there and bring the warmth of your love along
To make the people's heart happy
To defy injustice and evil
Endured by the wretched of the earth
As if they had no right to be there,
There in the morning splendor of being alive.
You have to go there, live there, join us
If only with the little smiles of your mouths
O my sisters and brothers, we have to be there
Where together, without any dirty tricks,
We can grow corn, oranges and friendship
For all of us on earth so in need of transformation.


Ale La

Ale la, kote ou wè kè ou
Ap mennen-w pou l'pa tounen
Yon dezè ki seche ak lapenn
Pi mal pase yon po tanbou.
Ale la, menmlè ou dekouraje,
Menmlè ou fin tounen yon ti sale
Nan yon festen grannèg;
Fòk ou ale la, chè frè m’yo ak sè m’yo,
Kote moun k’ap soufwi
Pa t’janm tande bonjou,
Kote k’pa gen limyè
Pou klere jou lespwa.
Ale la, pou w-bay chalè lanmou,
Pou fè kè moun kontan nan lavi,
Pou w-defye lenjistis ak lemal
Y’ap fè pòv malere sou latè sibi
Kòmkwa yo pa t’gendwa pou yo la,
La nan zafè bonè esplandè lavi.
Fòk ou ale la, rete la, vin jwenn nou
Sèlman pou yon ti souri bouch ou;
Fòk nou la, O sè m’yo ak frè m’yo!
Kote nou ka ansanm san okenn malfezans
Pou nou plante mayi zonranj ak lamitye
Pou nou tout sou latè ki bezwen w-alemye.

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