Four Poems



after Aimé Césaire 

Step by step our shadows 
More mineral 
We are
Each step shrinks us
We withdraw
Into ourselves 
With each step


They return 
To their place of birth 
Always to silt 
Our words 
Against time 
Turning about: 
Our agitation 
And axis.

The hut where the moon stays

The poet, like the Indian, ear glued to the ground. He perceives what has happened—and resonates still—and what is coming. 

He comes, overwhelmed, from the fallow colors of the dry season.

He hears Creole coming from Creole throats (rare and moving). 

He notes the singular way in which we stare at one another. 

Geography’s an act of “indicating.” A figure. Like all writing, it’s first of all marking, an imprint made through walking. 

What is more catastrophic than writing and the earth? 


For us, the passage from Creole to French and vice versa is a subtle art, similar to footwork in soccer: to alternate between elegance, social decorum, and the pure pleasure of words, of speech in your mouth. The main art lies in the conjugation, to make sure it assuredly shimmers.

There are muffled places where your instinct would be to force your voice. In the Caribbean, due to the frequently chaotic topography (from hill to hill) and scattered geography (from island to island) we’re used to the leap. We’ve adopted the habit of calling out for each other.

This leaping topography and geography (from hill to hill, and from island to island) has its echo in Creole in the way forms are multiplied: di i di sa / mennen pou mennen-y alé / ralé menm i ka ralé-y. Heritage of the Caribs’ language.

The poet sees the islands (“yes, they are many, the islands, and beautiful”) like a text whose consonants would be but boulders on which to place his foot before springing into the open sky and sea, as in these Carib words:

bonambaé — kabonakati — amalaka.

“That he bursts in his leap through what cannot be imagined or named . . . ”


Eti jou ka kouri ouvè kon an wélélé.

The day arrives like a quarrel. Such a tangle of lovers that came together in the dream. Like the kingbirds you sometimes see collide mid-flight, in a great flutter of wings. And they part so forcefully that they leave a shimmer in our eyes, a piece of white sky.


The Caribbean could be considered a workshop for the modern world: with its deportations, its exterminations, and also its “wildly multiple” side, its “ubiquity of voices and sounds.” Its diphthong.

            “For sale . . . 
            reassembled voices … the only chance to free
            our senses!
            For sale priceless bodies ( . . . )
            For sale applications of computation and unimaginable
            leaps of harmony ( . . .)
            For sale bodies, voices . . .”


Full moon. The clouds make us remember our wanderings. Our escapes. Like the archipelago in its deployment: the poem.

Where is the Caribbean? What is its place?

            “This world of dew
            is a world of dew
            and yet, and yet . . .”

            “You must hurry.
            History will close.”

The hut where the moon stays opens the time of the day before. 

Multiple, multitude

Summa ratio est Deus


            “And a mixed multitude went up with them . . .”
Many bodies are ground up kneaded
                                                    soot and smoke mixed in earth
                                                                shoulder-shoulder away-toward death

Technikos and its radiant aura,
Era of glazing: modality in-oculus 
Servitude of mouth and heart
                        multitude over all the earth
                                                            (“their words to the end of the world”)
                                                            Slaves to symbols’ power
                        far-far long lonngone model figure
                                                                              forge iron foundry
                                                                                    hearth punch and bolster                    


Gypsum mask worn by Titans, god’s killers
                                                “their throat, a tomb”
and their rosaries 
and their repeateth 
and their beastients reek of
            Sludge inhaled scattered dis-
                        seminated smells of fried fat
                                                fantastic bouquet of benevolence
                        goodwill dispersed in the universe
                                                            roots and boughs heals-all
                                                                        high branches
                                                            healing angry erysipelas boils
                                                as a salvaging of man’s body and ’oul:
jumble-tumble scribes and parchies 
jumble-tumble bitches, sloths 
                                                            prelates and young boys (huh?)
Seems there be space fo’million angel
                                                            letters are brats
Chimeras with a white face
Shackled to each other with golden chains
Sons of Aleph pulled from nothing

Splendors traveling across the earth
Bold white trails, run
Flow, search
                        seize, subjugate
Move the millstone, North Wind
                                    sacred sphere, sweet cauldron.
Zagreus neutered, butchered,
                        Stuffed with donkey meat
            here is mankind, endlessly split. 

The Above, the Below

His disciples said to him: from above to below we know.
But from below to above we do not know.
He replied: is it not all one—below to above and above to below?


                                                                        Thus they went out
And the stars, legions and messengers without number
                                                            in the space of the sky
And the letter, in the mind,
                                    where beings are suspended
                                    this one that one face-to-face

And ever since This was unleashed
And the sea upended towards
                                    the sea, portent and conception,
                                    reunites and reconciles
                                    waters in the hand’s hollows
Figures and orders man’s face:
                                    traits sculpted after the signs
                                    etched in the tremors of time,
                                    examined by the four horizons

Presence in the Below beautifully adorned
                                    yes, she is beautiful, sparkling: the air flares

                                    in her image and resemblance

The Above, gate and opening of the world,
                                    joyous melodies that dance
                                    dancing cadence and rhythm that rise Without-end
                                                                        tempo, flickering fire

Two faces same,
Light / darkness ravishing each other
                                                Carrying each other
                                                in the thunderous song
                        The earth that harvests All and uses it as nourishment
                        that harvests and obscures

Thus from the place from which the sea and days emerge,
                                                day One
                                    clears the paths into the abyss
Pressing the waters half-half,
                                    The waters and the waters
Conceals and unveils in the secret of

                                    Two, the world’s House
                                    three rays over the abyss,
                                    interlace in each other water breath and fire, 
                                    a single word, an utterance
                                    a single letter
                                    between sky and earth

                                    The rain falls

And the curtain that separates
                                                Wisdom, discernment, and

                                        that grand illusion
                                                            beckoning from hidden nooks
                                                seeing without sight, whispers without voice
Mocking the home, region of birth, bone on bone,
                                    miniscule murmur
                                    enclosed words gleaming an enclosed radiance
                                    clarifying as they shed light
                                    through the darkness, from the gulf
                                                                                    the cavern,
                                    from the throat’s enclosure,
                                    voice against lips
                                    fine voice that spouts
                                    climbing waters and tombs once again
Speech that broods and shelters under its wings
                                                                        daughter of light
The joy nestled forgotten in the fertile earth’s folds
                                    breath in breath
                                    knot of life
                                    nothing, articulated
On which the world comes and goes
                                    and thus remains
            what dispenses names, in clarity
            births, colors, hymns
Eternal flame of pure gold the miracle
Speech one/all that unveils the body-there,
                                    the place of the world sky and earth,
                        let breath speak to listen hear
                        And Sentinel at Sunrise
                                                            leads to radiance.

translated from the French and Antillean Creole by Eric Fishman

Click here to read more poetry by Monchoachi from the Fall 2017 issue.