Manman Who Bore Me
"My mother and I speak the same tongue
Bows and dresses at the edge of our beds
Letters carefully juxtaposed sentences
That become the lines we hide behind
My mother and I grow from the same soil
And it doesn’t often rain on our land
Because God does not cry at our sorrows
Since light says it doesn’t borrow from darkness in the night
Eager to water the next with the life we do not have.
Leaving bows, dresses, letters at the edge of their beds
Hoping our silence pierces the love we repress to their heads
The head of our lovers
The head of our children.
As if to say “I’m sorry about my thorns, but I love you anyway”
Men dlo an wi manman
Padon si galon an sal
Fenwa pa bo isit fe ma labou tounen basen pou nou plonje
Jouk kilè map byen wè figiw manman
"Rivyè" dim si bo isit te klere,mtap fe konesans avek mwen menm Mte ka salye lonbraj
Se mak matinèt
Nan rèl do
Se konsa yo rele l
Tout timoun konnen
Pa kite Janmari Zobop kontre w
Ou ap souse dwèt?
Ou pa vle manje?
Men mwen menm
De ki lakyèl mwen de Janmari
Li pa ka fè kè m bat fò
M pa kouri lè m tande l ouvri pòt
M pa kriye mande pou kisa l te fè m
Ni m pa mande l pou ki l pa janm di m li renmen m
De ki lakyèl mwen de Janmari Zobop
Des couronnes et des fleurs
Apportez des couronnes
Non pas celles des régents de royaume
Ni celle des grands monarques habitant nos rêves
Apportez des fleurs
Non pas celles qu'on livre en courrier express à son amante
Ni celles des jardins fleuries des grands palais
Des couronnes pour marquer l'élévation d'un être cher
Et des fleurs, des fleurs du mal pour estomper la douleur d'une veuve eplorée enterrant son fils le jour de ses noces.
A widowed mother swims
Watching the daughter
- Mami Chula –
A widowed mother swims
Watching the daughter
I don’t blame my mother for any of it
I just look at her with sulky eyes and shut my mouth
blame it on the god who told her goodness would come out of suffering
i haven’t found the goodness
and she’s convinced herself that she has
so when little pieces of herself fall from her body
she says it’s for the better
that it’s His will
the almighty and powerful
what he left for my mother
I will teach you how to tie your shoes,
show you how pens are used
I will teach you how to bake
How the have your bed properly made.
Kick and scream I'll be there,
tantrums, hissy fits I still care!
Jane of arc, queen Esther, or Godiva,
matriarch from the old arena.
Aretha, Taylor or Gaga...
all different kinds of mothers in this Era
I who love you unconditionally,
I who teach you to only thyself be!
I only know 3 things about my mom
She gave birth to me
She died when I was 3
She was involved with pop sexually
I wanna know 2 things about my mom
Would she ever accepted me
As of now where she really be
I'll let you know 1 thing about my mom
She died 35 days after she turned 28, that was '93
18 days after my favorite group dropped 19 naughty 3
Ever since I relied on Hip Hop for guidance
The street raised me the best she can, I know violence
And that's all I need to know, that's mother nature’s language
Mother of us all, killer of us all
J’ai reçu des fleurs aujourd’hui
Growing up, I remember our dinner table was always cleaned. With my grandmother’s favorite drape that week, whether it was empty or not, she always insisted that it stayed clean. From time to time, in the afternoon when I’d wander in the house, bored, I’d see my mother, seated on the table, resting her head on her hands, pensive. It was always a strange sight, in that it shriveled my heart a bit, but disgusted me because somehow somewhere I’d been taught to hate her vulnerability. I’d register it as weakness, and I vowed to never be like this. As intense as her apparent despair was, she looked inanimate; dead. She felt cold, and was as still as a porcelain doll just placed there as eye candy. Staring into the soul of a man who was no longer there, or hers to scold. Her glare pierced through this moment, entering whatever memory of pain she replayed in her mind. As it’s intensity closed in on her, pushing against her heart, weighting on her chest, and purging water out of her eyes, - the air grew thicker, and her sight more striking to me. The way the afternoon sun snuck in, barely illuminating the dark room, amplified it’s morbidity.
She’s here but I think she’s dead.
Thinking back on this moment today, I can confirm that is around the time my mother died. I have watched her pick up the pieces of our lives, and hold the family together the best way she knew how, years after, but I realize now that table, those drapes and the fragile doll on the table were her funeral. She rested her body there immobile, as the daylight made its bed on the horizon.
My memories of this scenery come in flashes in the moments where I am in darkness myself. In the moments where I lay still on my bed, almost paralyzed by overwhelming sadness, and filled with unfulfilled desires. I feel consumed by what’s missing - as darkness is the absence of light, sadness that of happiness, and that memory the absence of my mother’s soul. I feel one with her, as if I too have died and I am with her in the afterlife watching her funeral.
As a narration in my mind plays a commercial that would play every day on the Haitian radio. Usually in the afternoon, in between hot takes about the day’s news; discussions, forums of lengths varying from 45 minutes to an hour, - it was the recording of a woman, who’d been abused by her husband. She kept repeating “J’ai reçu des fleurs aujourd’hui.”
I’d learn later that it was a poem.
I found it recently and read it in full;
“J'ai reçu des fleurs aujourd'hui. Ce n'était pas mon anniversaire ni un autre jour spécial. Nous avons eu notre première dispute hier dans la nuit et il m'a dit beaucoup de choses cruelles qui m'ont vraiment blessée. Je sais qu'il est désolé et qu'il n'a pas voulu dire les choses qu'il a dites parce qu'il m'a envoyé des fleurs aujourd'hui
J'ai reçu des fleurs aujourd'hui. Aujourd'hui c'était un jour très spécial, c'était le jour de mes funérailles. Hier dans la nuit, il m'a finalement tuée. Il m'a battue à mort. Si seulement j'avais trouvé assez de courage pour le quitter, je n'aurais pas reçu de fleurs aujourd'hui..........”.
I never put together why it always stuck with me. It was in fact my favorite commercial at one point. I’d be driven home from school in the afternoon, and I would repeat it, word for word. It was only after years that the sense of it registered. The woman in the poem was dead, and that is why she’d received flowers. The way she’d repeat it marked that it wasn’t a common occurrence, and that it was only after her death, that she was being honored with flowers.
It’s all synthesized today in my mind, why this poem narrated that specific memory. My mother was herself dead. Not physically, but she’d been emotionally killed in her marriage too. So she’d rest her body on that empty table. Still like that woman’s body, like me today as I write about my mother’s death.
I chuckle at the thought that I’d escape our resemblance. The way children believe themselves deciders of fate, is almost comical, when we realize that there is very little difference between our past, the present and our future. I say this because every moment that I looked at my mother, and ran away from her, I was running closer to rewriting her story, through living a life I thought was my own.
We’ve all, - as women, black women at least - since this is the only experience and knowledge I can speak of - been there before, whether we recall it or not. Through each and everyone of our ancestors we have lived these struggles, and felt these pains. It is all an imprint, so deep in us that there is no running away from it. Each step we make, we make it with this imprint, - it is, if anything the map that’s already decided our destination.