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Lenelle Moïse


haiti glass
star in my mouth

beautiful burning
spiky light

wish so hard
scrapes my soft palette

tongue a shadow
of swollen loss

language of shards
flicker stutter

pronouncing the distance
rays bruise gums



when you come to dig up
a daughter deemed corpse, when you see
the smashed arm peek out of her
humiliated house, try to know

the bloated skeleton was
a woman once famous
for honey strut, machete
nerve & catching fire laugh

you did not get to her in time.
arrive eventually & know
her remains wear her
very best dress.

silky as prayers, this dress.
a dried blood red. pressed
and tearless before
the torrent of cement.

study the sun-blanched photos she kept
in a polished crushed chest bestowed
by a new yorker, her favorite aunt
deemed distant mourner.

hold the dusty gold
around her decomposing neck.
a courting gift from the lover
who hates to survive her.

that lover there, weeping circles
right beside you, will never pardon
this taking earth
for shaking.

you are too late but come to salvage
the shattered remnants of this altar
she took her time to clutter with bottles
of amber rum, perfume, florida water.

these things
sacred, spilled now,
evaporated. hints & relics
of her want & breath.




a rotting smell
where the school once stood
a hungry shrill
where the guava tree grew
last night before the earth
ate port-au-prince
a bleeding orphan was
somebody's baby

& that somebody
was pretty or plain
& that somebody
was saucy or shrinking
& that somebody
made love, made mistakes
& that somebody
ate mosquitoes, chewed cane

& léogâne
served the lwa, praised the lord
& jacmel
danced well, clapped instead
& carrefour
had a temper, had a gift
& that somebody atop
a mass grave

knew marie, dieudonne, tantee
knew yves-pierre, jean-jean, timarc
who will christen
those who named us
with intention?
a poet also
in the earthquake.




your dread lock crown
your square teeth of america
oh grimace of port-au-prince
oh tags on helmet

you found
you objet d’art
barefoot in bum-rushed studio
so bebop boxer brave
so basquiat

a canvas on corruption
an ancient eshu magic
you mocked van gogh for breakfast
skipped lunch to piss with warhol
kicked for screamers

kinged the sons of slaves
you black you fight
you gray played
clarinet you could not play
clear as cassius clay

disheveled crown
you punk rock auction block
mishap dandy rap
art world spit

you prophet by design
free for fee
so radical
oh feeler
oh sensitive pensive ghoul

you uptight bass
upright animal
minimalism middle-fingered
namer of same old shit
oh million dollar it boy

your flippant brush
your brush with death
you rode
his old white

golden crown
majestic mona lisa scribble
you charlie chaplin/ parker
park bench/ avenue

new wave
new dare
new devil
divine in details
you colored show

museum bust
you rust
you anxious bite
obnoxious liberal knocked
you let them in

exed them out
lived off exes
sucked their collars
como chicken
then heroine for dinner

then island eyes
then grief for sale
a war subliminal
a subway token
oh broken crown

oh high art fears
oh hunter’s tears
oh cursing clown
lo urban game
colonial woe

cristobal colonoscopy exhibit
you fury of puerto rico
you fort
your art for soup
you set that on fire

paint-splattered armani suit
you exposed root
bleeding family tree
brilliant fallen leaf
you left us

high on glyphs
chest exhumed
you vehicular treasure
exhausted heart on walls
oh winged

oh worn
oh hiccuped warning
oh earthling trophy
knife woe life

woe error
yo hero
so overdose
so clever man
a dozen in a zillion

you flag stuck in knees
you juice for joints of jumpers
we leap because you leapt
i weep
we never met