Match Girl

The year before the plane finally nosed into the frigid winter sky

Was the slow grating scrape of a wooden match along the cold cement,

Until I burst into a bright circle of flame; all else recedes in the Haitian heat;

Tiny stuttering flames of Kreyol a flicking tongue against the landscape;

(rutted and rock-strewn roads an Aesop’s fable,

impeccably dressed schoolchildren in uniforms and hair ribbons defiant fists

against the shadow of the Spanish, the French, the earthquake,

women balance baskets of wares on their heads like grief they will not spill,

men carry machetes and cell phones, the gates of their faces drawn shut and locked.)

I am the match, I turn scenes to words, I burn it all up and leave smoke,

My kindling the mangled oppressive French words I learned so long ago,

The definite article smashed into the noun in Port au Prince traffic

and rendered phonetic, (lekol, zanmi, lopital, lanmou)

another article tacked on the back bumper for good measure

I watch the easy Kreyol drop from the dark lips of our interpreter,

I take them up again and devour them, I am a dragon with toasted mice;

I exhale Kreyol words in smoke and fill the rest in with French, English, slowly, (“dousman”),

a sentence gestating in my belly every few minutes and then I give a burst of phrase,

a small circle of light, and then he says “Backwards. Good, but… backwards.”

My tent set up on the flat stucco roof; a full moon paints the banana leaves with a thin coat of daylight;

Through the screened roof I watch the moonlit clouds drift high among faint stars,

remains of some other day washed and bleached like cotton in the sun and finally let go,

Now caught in Orion’s Belt, now in the faint glacial Milky Way current,

now released to the sea.

But tonight music prowls down the gravel road from the village, keeping to the mooncast shadows:

Drums and chanting; dogs quarrel, babies cry; a shriek of loss, or anger;

roosters protest against the moon, again, again, again,

until the sun comes up like a traffic light between the mountain and the sea to stop the noise;

the cooks will tell me in the morning when I ask about the carrying on until dawn:

“Ki moun mouri.” But, e vre, I think, someone is always dying, non?

I descend the ladder, I walk into the day, burning.

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