Today, I want to do something I haven’t done in awhile here. Shine a light on a poet.
Esther Belin is a Dine writer and multimedia artist based out of Colorado. She is the author of “From the Belly of my Beauty” and “Of Cartography: Poems.”
I chose “Night Travel” simply because of the way it connected me to memory especially here: “we’d be hungry for travel and for being almost home.”
I have been there. If you ever took a long car ride at night, Dad at the wheel, you’ve been there. Even if those are not your memories, Belin invites you to be a passenger in her daddy’s truck, reliving the darkness and the road with her.
I. I like to travel to L.A. by myself My trips to the crowded smoggy polluted by brown indigenous and immigrant haze are healing. I travel from one pollution to another. Being urban I return to where I came from My mother survives in L.A. Now for over forty years.
I drive to L.A. in the darkness of the day on the road before CHP one with the dark driving my black truck invisible on my journey home.
The dark roads take me back to my childhood riding in the camper of daddy’s truck headed home. My brother, sister and I would be put to sleep in the camper and sometime in the darkness of the day daddy would clime into the cab with mom carrying a thermos full of coffee and some Pendleton blankets And they would pray before daddy started the truck for journey mercies.
Often I’d rise from my lullaby sleep and stare into the darkness of the road the long darkness empty of cars Glowy from daddy’s headlights and lonesome from Hank Williams’ deep and twangy voice singing of cold nights and cheatin’ hearts.
About an hour from Flagstaff the sun would greet us and the harsh light would break the darkness and we’d be hungry from travel and for being almost home.
II. I know the darkness of the roads endless into the glowy path before me lit by the moon high above and the heat rising from my truck’s engine. The humming from tires whisper mile after mile endless alongside roadside of fields shadowy from glow.
I know the darkness of the roads It swims through my veins dark like my skin and silenced like a battered wife. I know the darkness of the roads It floods my liver pollutes my breath yet I still witness the white dawning.
The final spotlight for Haitian Heritage Month is on Michele Voltaire Marcelin. She is a poet, painter and writer. Her work has been published in French, English, Spanish and Kreyol. She also writes in three languages. Her artwork has been exhibited at the Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States in D.C., the Cork Gallery at Lincoln Center and at the National Museum in Haiti. I saved her for last because Hubby and I chose her poetry to be featured at our wedding reception in 2012.
Here is one of our favorites:
what magic names of places
shall i whisper in the dark
while you hold me
so we travel at least through the night
what sweet syllables of cities
ancient or new
what bird-laden trees
in what gardens
shall i offer you
so that at last i see the world with you
walk with me
through streets i have loved
in buenos aires, aix, lisbon, jacmel
keep your steps aligned with mine
walk with me
there is an alleyway called paradiso i want you to kiss me there
a church of holy wisdom
where we will on the altar light candles
there is somewhere in port-au-prince
a crumbling wall fired with hibiscus
where blossoms wait to be chosen by you
to flower my hair
or shall we go off on a barge
floating on the seine
when the city darkens and the bridges spread
across the silent river
will we be drunk with each other
or will it be the boat dancing on the water
there is a stretch of sand i remember
crusted with salt from the waves
we will leave our footprints there
drink pisco in a secluded bar in santiago
sit in pelhourino square in salvador
later i will giggle as you carry me
on the stairs to the capri grotto
somewhere there is a bed unmade
in a new york hotel
where we’ll return at dawn to make love
as sleepwalkers do
after seeing the ghosts of jazz musicians
at the blue note
somewhere someday we’ll go away
but tonight let’s recite as we would poems
names of places
that await our pleasure
hold my hands my beloved
look in my eyes
tonight let’s travel in our dreams
while we remain immobile in the dark
I hope featuring Haitian poets this month has opened you up to writers that you may have never had the pleasure of discovering on your own. I know choosing to celebrate my heritage this way has been a wonderful and educational experience for me.