Denizé Lauture, The Cactus Legend (selections)

Denizé Lauture reads selections from The Cactus Legend

00:00 – Mother, I Remember
03:23 – from « Song of Two Lands »
05:56 – A Unifying Light ;
06:43 – Limyè Egalego a
07:28 – The Poem
08:50 – I Snatch the Zombi of a Great Poem
10:34 – Volè zonbi bèl powèm
11:45 – Nèg ak fanm powèt nou
13:27 – The Haitian Poet

Mother, I Remember

Mother, I remember
When you were sewing my clothes
With your one-thread-sewing-machine.
I remember when you were patching them
With your expert fingers.
I remember when you were washing them,
Ironing them carefully.
I remember when you were getting up
At four o’clock every morning
To prepare my lunches for school.
Often I made you angry then fled.
I remember you running after me
And I would be forgiven
Only if I were back with firewood
For the kitchen
Or a bundle of good grass
For the pigs.

Oh, maternal remembrances !
Pure, charmful remembrances !
Of the only one who cares
With her entire heart.
Of the only one who loves
With no hidden motive
In the back of her head.
Mother, I remember you much !

Oh, there were such strange feelings !
I remember me waving good-bye to you,
And telling you
That I was going to a country
Kote nèg gen lavi.
I remember the tears in your eyes.
I remember your face twisted
By misery and sadness,
Your loving voice instructing me
On how to behave in a country
Whose name you even ignored.
I left. You let me go.
Mother, my departure to a rich land
Did not make you happy.
Your maternal feelings
Knew very well
The your son, the first born
Of your thirteen children (five are dead)
Was heading to the unknown.


from « Song of Two Lands »

Then, Africa, oh motherland !
Into your mysterious forests,
On the burning sands of your deserts.
Life was never a dark night !

Oh your moonlit nights !
The tam-tam thundered !
The bodies and hearts
Of your daughters and sons bounced
And bounced around the bearded elders.
The ebony breasts were milked tenderly
By black lovers !

They stepped upon your virgin face.
They grew their exterminating weeds.
The long nightmare !
The odious trade !
Your children hunted, chained, dragged !
The dreaded ships !
The hungry ocean’s waves !

Eyes are still wet, still with tears bouncing down.
Still afraid of those nights with no moon,
Of those nights with no moon at all,
Nights when men were cattle.

Upon the dreaded ships drifting on the stormy ocean,
Your children went from their continent
To other continents.
They went to unknown shores, unknown climates
To that island whose extinguished folks called AYITI.


A Unifying Light

I am neither god
Nor angel
Neither human
Nor animal
Neither man
Nor woman
Neither adult
Nor child
Neither oak-tree
Nor firestone
I am a simple entity
Chasing a unifying light
Deep in the belly
Of mother universe


Limyè Egalego a

Mwen pa Papabondye
Ni zany
Mwan pa moun
Ni bèt
Mwen pa gason
Ni fanm
Mwen pa granmoun
Ni timoun
Mwen pa bwadchenn
Ni wòchapyè
Mwen se yon ti sonbi toupiti
Kap kouri dèyè
Yon ti limyè egalego
Nan mitan vant
Manman linivè


The Poem

The poem was on a table
A poem in black ink
On green paper
I was humming and old tune
A tune my old folks used to hum
The poem turned into a body
A wondrous body full of life
And the tune I was humming
Became a veil
A golden veil covering
The living poem
Two patriarchs arrived
Each one with a stethoscope
One auscultated my heart
The other the poem’s heart
The poem’s heart and my heart
Had the same rhythm


I Snatch the Zombi of a Great Poem

I’m buried
Standing up
In a cemetery
Of folks with beautiful souls.

The zombie of a great poem
Which lost its way
Wanders in the cemetery
Like a spellbound butterfly.

It goes from
Skull to skull
Till it enters

I snatch the zombie of the poem
And close it in my heart’s holy vessel
That’s why my soul’s
Forever strolling
In the most beautiful garden of poetry.


Volè zonbi bèl powèm

Yo antere m
Drèt doubout
Nan youn simityè
Nèg bèl lespri.

Zonbi youn bèl powèm
Ki pèdi plas li
Ap pronmennen nan simityè a
Tankou oun papiyon madichon.

Li sòti nan tèt mò
Li antre nan youn lòt tèt mò
Jis li vin antre
Nan tèt pa mwen.

Mwen pran zonbi powèm nan
Mwen femen l nan govi kè mwen.
Se sa k fè toutan
Nanm mwen ap pronmennen
Nan pi bèl jaden powezi.


Nèg ak fanm powèt nou

Yon powèt
Se yon manbo
Se yon oungan
Ki fè pawòl
Bay son lanbi
Ki fè pawòl
Bay son lanbi
Ki fè pawòl
Bay son vaksin
Ki fè pawòl
Bay bèl kout tanbou –

Se yon boko ki fèmen
Tout pi bèl son lèt alfabè
Anndan ason li
Yon bòkò ki konn jwe
Jon bèl pawòl
Ki konn boula
Sou tèt lang manman li
Jous li fè tout ounsi
Tout nanm tonbe LWA –

Yon powèt
Se yon Mèt Minwi Limyè
Ki trase VÈVÈ li
Nan mitan kafou konesans
Ak pousyè kò
Tout lòt bon powèt ki mouri.


The Haitian Poet

Our poet is
A vodou priest or priestess
Who makes words
Sound like conch-shells
Makes words
Sound like bamboo trumpets
And turns words
Into beautiful Rada drumbeats –

Our poet is a wizard
Who juggles
Wondrous literary sounds
Inside a magic jar
A wizard who knows how to twirl
The most beautiful words
Knows how to jam
The small drum of heavenly sounds
And how to sing the blues
On the tip of his mother tongue
Until all priestesses, all angels
And all souls become LOA-possessed –

Our men and women poets
Are shining masters of midnight
Who draw magic symbols
At the crossroads of knowledge
With the sacred dust
Of all past master poets !


Denizé Lauture

I am a poem
Write me
And I will be
Your poem

I am a song
Sing me
And I will be
Your song

Denizé LautureThese poems by Denizé Lauture are part of his series, The Cactus Legend. « Song of Two Lands » was first published in The Black Warrior, and Other Poems. New York: SubPress, 2006.

The other poems are published for the first time with Île en île with the author’s permission.

© 2013 Denizé Lauture All Rights Reserved.



mis en ligne : 3 mai 2013 ; mis à jour : 26 octobre 2020