Midnight in the Forgotten Country
ki kote yon lagè kòmanse?
Where does a war begin?
In the pits of dream-starved children?
The ones hungry to capture the promise of a ripe sunrise
in their longing mouths
and hold on to the taste of freedom for a while longer?
Yesterday we were all children
We split the earth with the force of our footsteps
We were baptized in the cool shadows beneath palm trees
and devoured fleshy mangos in celebration
Èske yon lagè kòmanse an silans?
Does a war begin in silence?
Silence like my grandmother in the first breaths of a new day,
as she wraps the coils of her hair into fake silks and plasters on a weathered smile?
Yon po chofe anvan li klou – A pot heats before it boils
she tells me. Beneath her clay surface is something like pain.
Oswa èske lagè etensèl nan BOOM nan yon peta?
Or does war spark in the BOOM of a firecracker?
In my sleep I hear the wailing of my forefathers
Despair has a voice louder than God’s
I imagine the revolutions woven into the tapestry of my lineage
My father drenches each syllable of our family name in pride
Pride. It runs deep and long, a river in my blood
We come alive to the beat of cow-skin drums
and sweat onto the hot pavement
We glisten gold in the midday sun
Lè yon lagè fini?
When does a war end?
My grandfather exhales the dust of rubble and gun powder and
our prayers mimic battle cries and we lean on each other like soldiers
We bring dlo nan je, tears, to the altar
I wonder ki jan nou konnen ki moun ki te genyen?
How do we know who has won?
We adapt to discomfort, honor sacrifice. Life is a bittersweet melody.
We are a chorus, singing anthems to the rhythm of our heart beats
Mothers give passed down lessons as peace offerings
Timoun, pa kite evaris kraze gratitid.
Child, do not let greed overpower gratitude.
We forget to care
We fill our hearts with fantasies instead
Nighttime is for hoping. For making wishes to shooting stars
and dreaming of the impossible
The coming of a new day brings fresh battles,
fresh wounds, fresh victories
For now we hold ourselves in the milky moonlight
and offer the air a silent declaration
Nou toujou isit la
We are still here
By Marissa Michel
Marissa Michel is a second generation American of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage. She served as the 2020 Prince George’s County Youth Poet Laureate. In 2020 she received multiple national gold medals for poetry in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, and an American Voice nomination. She was also the recipient of the 2020 Diaz-Mattison Poetry Prize. Her newest works can be found in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Online Gallery, Love Letters To the Mothers and Fathers of the African Diaspora, and the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival. More information about her can be found on www.marissamichel.com