Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Poem of Haiti, By Todd Saddler

Todd Saddler is married to Laurie Konwinski, whose advice about donating to Haiti we recently posted. Todd and Laurie met while working in Haiti.

Last week at a community meeting Todd read a poem he wrote in Haiti in 1991, when he left Haiti after his first stay. We asked him if we could post it. It is titled "Voodoo Ceremony".


Carrying a pot out to the rear of the shrine,
I was silent.
When the women and children congregated for the cooking of the yams,
I was there.
I held little Sadya on my knees while Florence gathered mango twigs and coconut husks
for the fire.
Lwisna was sent to find a burning coal.

Flo squatted by the yams and began to peel them with an old broken blade.
She said I was happy to be leaving them in Haiti.
No; I am hidden on a mountain of sorrow.

The fire licked the scorched pot full of water which sat on three large stones.
"A white person licking a Haitian's ass," Flo said.
"Fire under a pot," I answered.
Verline grinned at the riddle and threw salt into the water.

The flame became the focus of our group
as the night thickened around us.
For almost the last time I enjoyed the deep color
of the skin stretched over their elegant frames.
The yams went into the pot.

Polson pulled out a burning twig and traced fire snakes in the air.
I wanted to speak but it was too big; words wouldn't go around it.
They still won't go around it today.
Can you see it in my eyes?

At any rate, the yams got done.
Poor Verline whimpered as she lifted the pot off the fire with the heels of her hands
and set it aside.
The children laughed and slapped their thighs:
"Did you burn yourslf, Verline?
Look, she's crying!"

I accepted the yams they gave me.
I accepted my hiding place.
I swallowed my yams.

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