Areito for Winnie Tilin

Winnie Tilin


For the voice of Queen Anacaona, Haiti’s ancestral mother


Winnie Tilin, 18 months

Heroic Haitian Child

As proclaimed by your uncle Franz

Lone survivor

Of your line

Pearl of Hispaniola

Daughter of the daughters of Queen Anacaona

You now survey us serenely

With the regal glance

Of one who stands beyond good and evil.


Black rosebud blooming from the twisted entrails of the earth

For you the ancestral mothers have created

A coffer of precious air

Just like the one that hid the jewels

Stolen by the old time buccaneers

Of Bertrand D’Orgeon, the one whose

Tobacco plantations

Needed strong, black hands.


And now you observe us quietly and do not scream

While the white hands of an all-male

Australian television troupe

Act as midwife

And all the saints

Of Toussaint L’Overture

The Black Jacobin

Bow to you.


Rejoice in their presence

While the burials linger on

And slowly nocturnal chants rise among the evacuees

Descendants of black rebel slaves

Who bivouac with the souls of the Taino

Chasing away with their Creole freedom songs

Once broadcast on agronomist Jean Dominique’s radio

The demons of the West breathing out

Of airport runways

As in olden days they used to from caravels

Docked at Mole Saint Nicole

From which many centuries later

The wretched of the earth took sail

In make-do vessels

Just to be thrown back to the sharks by “maritime interdictions”

a.k.a.  in other countries with the imaginative term “push-backs”.


Sharks, tiburones, they too with strange names

Like Papa Doc and Baby Doc while a priest

Who beat the drum of justice

Elected by public acclaim

Was declared insane

By the nearby hegemonic power

And forced

He, the President of what had been

180 years before

The first black republic

To seek asylum in the last

Nation to free itself of apartheid.


Spit on that black water

The Blackwater

That now in the airport

Is put in plastic bottles

To be handed out as it was in Bazra

As it was handed out to all the saints of New Orleans

Who were taking shelter on rooftops with their music

It’s being handed out by the same old wolves

Dressed in sheeps’ clothing

Not even a Nobel Peace Prize

Nor donning a charity cloak

Can cleanse their soul.


While people are dying of thirst

Waiting for the right security conditions

While pillagers are laughing in their glass palaces

And journalists are crying out “Looter!”

If a starving wretch

Dares grab a piece of bread

Sticking out of the ruins of a supermarket.


May the bright white rompers

And diaper

You were lovingly wrapped in by ta maman

Three days before she merged her spirit

With those of her ancestors

Shine a stunning light on the half disclosed plots

Of those who ply with ferocious mildness

The heinous trade

Of Rubble Banker.