Published: 
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
By Margit Longbrake, senior editor

In Civil War–era New Orleans, Afro-Creole newspapers run by free people of color published conversations hidden in French-language poems. Poets wrote back and forth to each other about civil rights, current events, friendship, and love. 

In 2020, The Historic New Orleans Collection published Afro-Creole Poetry in French from Louisiana's Radical Civil War–Era Newspapers: A Bilingual Edition to bring these conversations back to life, in the original French, and in English translations by Clint Bruce. New Orleans poets were invited to choose one of these 19th-century poems and write their own 21st-century responses. 

Below, three videos explore the original poems and responses of three contemporary poets. If you're reading on a mobile device, turn your phone sideways for a better reading experience.


KELLY HARRIS-DeBERRY 

“We Are the Holy Ones,” written in response to “The Triumph of the Oppressed” (1864), by an anonymous author. 

 

“The Triumph of the Oppressed”  

Why do they come to trouble our blessed land?
Wherefore this concern for the Negro, a race condemned
Who merely serves to fertilize our fields?
To us, to our children belong his labor’s yields;
“As long as an animal receives its feed,
Has not the law of nature been satisfied?”
              Such are their wicked appeals. 

But a more humane voice by the oppressors is heard,
Crippling both the whip and the chain with this word:
“These black Africans whom you have cursed,
These slaves subdued and condemned by you to the worst,
Are they not also God’s wondrous works of art
And men — your equals — endowed with noble heart?
              Brothers were ye at first!” 

And when they finally heard that sacred voice,
The sons of the downtrodden race did make the choice
To answer the call as cheerful volunteers
To vanquish their oppressors or die as soldiers:
Their battalions, numerous and eager for glory
That lay ahead, rushed toward victory,
              Discarding all mortal fears. 

Holy liberty, that right so dear
To man, that right whose name rings bright and clear,
Shall be the sacred prize secured by your deeds,
The bequest that forever will meet your children’s needs.
Should you be struck down on the road to glory,
Should you sell your life to purchase the victory,
Their blessings will be the proceeds. 

Having paid the price of blood, of bitter tears
Over the cherished remembrance of husbands and brothers,
Indeed, you’ll have won the right to equity
And your proper rank among humanity.
Neither chain nor auction, shattered by your swords,
Shall ever return to attempt to crush your innards,
              Ye sons of liberty. 


 

“Le triomphe des opprimés” 

Pourquoi vouloir troubler notre terre bénie ?
Pourquoi tant d’intérêt à la race avilie
Du nègre qui, pour nous, fertilise nos champs ?
Lui seul doit travailler pour nous, pour nos enfants ;
« Tandis qu’à l’animal on donne sa pâture,
N’a-t-on pas satisfait à la loi de nature ? » 
              Nous disent les méchants. 

Mais à ces oppresseurs une voix plus humaine,
Une voix qui flétrit et le fouet et la chaîne
Dit : « Ces noirs Africains qu’ici vous maudissez,
Ces esclaves soumis que vous avilissez,
Ne sont-ils pas aussi de Dieu l’œuvre sublime,
Des hommes, vos égaux, qu’un noble cœur anime ?
              Tous frères vous naissez. » 

Et quand sonna l’appel de cette voix sacrée,
Les enfants courageux de la race outragée
Se levèrent gaiement pour voler aux combats,
Vaincre leurs oppresseurs ou mourir en soldats :
Leurs bataillons nombreux et ardents à la gloire
Devant eux et toujours portèrent la victoire
              Sans craindre le trépas. 

La sainte liberté, ce droit si cher à l’homme,
Ce droit qu’avec envie en tous lieux on renomme
Sera le prix sacr. que vos travaux auront,
Le bien que vos enfants de vous hériteront :
Si vous tombez frapp.s au chemin de la gloire
Et si vous succombez en cherchant la victoire,
Tous ils vous béniront.

Pour prix du sang versé, pour ces larmes amères
À la mémoire aimée et d’époux et de frères,
Oui, vous aurez conquis des droits à l’équité ;
Vous aurez votre rang parmi l’humanité.
La chaîne ni l’encan, broyés par vos batailles,
Ne viendront plus, hideux, déchirer vos entrailles,
              Fils de la liberté. 

“We Are the Holy Ones” 

We are the holy ones —
baptized in a sea 
of last breaths and bones. 
The ocean is a lover,
but men strike like thunder
casting nets over the living.
   They come wicked —
traveling like snakes;
we know the venom,
the sound of hiss chasing our flesh. 
   Our backs bent 
like rainbows over indigo —
chopping sugar cane
chained to evil imaginations.
   We are the holy ones —
tending to Earth
a brutal harvest, we are 
the stripes of blood
of glorious flags 
paraded for slaughter
in old fields and new plantations.  
   Don’t you hear the weeping
pulling back history’s skin?
We have no remedy in this land
   what is the color of free?
   what is the color of human?
We are the holy ones —
weeping at the altar of our dead,
turning over children like soil.
   how far must our moans float
down river;
when will death bring good news
and eat the master’s soul? 
We want the afterlife —
and all the seats of heaven.
   We are the holy ones
flowers returned as fire, 
the impossible gold 
conjured back from 
our ancient home
bodies.
   We are the holy ones —
sweet darkness gathering,
a lightning rod 
on evil’s head;
don’t you smell the ashes 
of freedom rising?
Rising. 

© Kelly Harris-DeBerry, 2021


KALAMU YA SALAAM 

“The War and Our Future,” written in response to “The War and the Future” (1862), by an anonymous author who signed as “L. de P.” 

 

“The War and the Future”  

Dialogue between an American and a Foreigner 

The Foreigner 

Having spent twenty years in the African land,
Again I lay my eyes on America’s strand.
But what’s happening here? Why, in all places,
So many worried brows and saddened faces?
The skies seem heavy with lightning and thunder’s roar.
Why are there everywhere machines of war?
Why all these trenches, these mortars, these cannonballs,
And these noises of drums, and bugles’ and trumpets’ calls?
Why these officers with war in their eyes?
Why all these soldiers where the flag of freedom flies?
These boats with guns that bristle along their flanks
And these fearsome vessels armored with iron planks?
And you, Southern Queen, once dazzling and light of heart
When a forest of masts danced blithely in your port,
Where now are the ships that brought the stores
Of art and commerce unto the river’s shores?
And these Leviathans with mouths aflame
That bellow and belch their smoke by the column
Through their flared nostrils: why do they not call on
The plantation in order to feast on cotton? 

The American 

You see, upon the stage where bustles this crowd,
For more than a year, a drama has played out.
The sky plays the role of ceiling in this theater,
The actors are soldiers, and the sun its chandelier.
It has the fields of a dozen states as a stage,
Where a million men have already begun to engage
In this giant arena; new combatants still
Arrive in steady stream, their ranks to fill.
What a frightening shock when, in a raging crash,
These terrible armies come together to clash. 

The Foreigner

My God! This is the country that once grew strong
In peace and enjoyed freedom’s fruits for so long,
Which I left behind, prosperous and great,
And which this war threatens to desolate.
Must we, alas, watch against each other fight
Those whom a powerful bond did once unite:
They, soldiers’ sons who, dear to Victory,
Together fought to cover themselves in glory
At Trenton, Bunker Hill, Germantown, Lexington,
At Princeton, Yorktown, guided by Washington.
I like to remember those crucial times bygone.
We saw then, ready to brave the British lion, 
This country revolt, and her children, of one mind, 
Impromptu soldiers, leave their fields behind 
And take up arms to rid of tyrants their land. 
These noble fighters, with heroes’ valor in hand, 
Soon caused to tremble that powerful foe. 
The Old World observed this impressive show, 
Surprised by the boldness, brash in a sense, 
Of this people defying the islanders’ arrogance. 
Ancient Gaul did see its stalwart sons 
Offer the oppressed the generous aid of its guns. 
Thrown onto the scale, the saber of France, 
In the colonists’ favor finally tipped the balance. 
The haughty lion, exhausted by the fight, 
Was at last laid low despite its might, 
Then muzzled and thrust behind the bars of its cage 
All while gnashing its teeth and roaring in rage. 
This free people could finally embrace 
Legitimate hope for a future full of promise. 
Ah! Baptized, in its manly infancy, 
In a bath of blood, glory, and adversity, 
What degree of power and prosperity 
At ease in the shelter of peace and liberty, 
Did it not reach? Oh! In times of yore, 
What republics, what kingdom, or what empire 
Were ever known to have ascended higher?
Nevertheless this country would grow yet more; 
We used to rest beneath the shade of a tree, 
Its head upraised, its foliage green and balmy, 
— A tree planted eighty years prior,
And which, in all its majesty and splendor, 
O’er kings and tyrants towered like a specter 
Ready to rip away their crown and scepter. 
How pleased we were to see beneath its shade 
Common folk from distant shores seek aid, 
Weary of wearing humiliation’s chains 
Or enduring laws that humanity disdains; 
To these oppressed afflicted with wounded hearts 
This land gave welcome shelter behind its ramparts, 
But grief often follows joyful feasts: 
Indeed, the sunny sky soon filled with tempests. 
What! Have you provoked heaven’s wrath? 
Have great misfortunes fallen upon your path? 
Why would providence, merely annoyed 
By minor offenses, thrust into the void 
This people whose judicious institutions 
Attracted the admiration of all the nations? 

The American 

Ah! This country a model republic would be 
If only it had upheld faithfully 
The rights proclaimed with such solemnity, 
And if, all while applauding liberty, 
It hadn’t sought to render it powerless. 

The Foreigner 

And what did it do to infringe upon it thus? 

The American 

What! You ask, yet you know it turned a blind eye 
To the hideous wound that grew upon its body. 

The Foreigner 

Ah! You wish to speak of the African race 
That groans beneath the weight of its chains’ disgrace, 
And whom abuse and the whip of the overseer, 
Unceasingly compel to the hardest of labor — 
Of these beings deprived of all the rights of man, 
Who, set at the level of our beasts of burden, 
Can only drink from the bitter cup of sorrows, 
Whose sweat, as they plow, waters the field’s furrows, 
Who possess in this world nothing to call their own, 
Not even the parcel of land whose soil they’ve sown. 

The American 

Ah! I’m starting to see that we share one goal 
By our aspirations and stirrings of the soul; 
Your reason exclaims to you that slavery 
And freedom make for shocking company. 
But now you can open your mind to the hope unspoken 
Of soon seeing the black man’s fetters broken; 
Indeed, by destruction of all servitude 
Must such a vicious struggle as this conclude. 
God won’t permit a great iniquity 
To smother progress and the spirit of liberty 
That will at last demolish despotism, 
Racial prejudice, and gutless egotism. 
Let’s not look to the future with troubled eyes: 
Soon o’er our dark horizon the sun will rise. 
Even if, through these trials, my country, abused, 
Must writhe and wriggle, bloody and battered and bruised, 
In the end we’ll live to see this turmoil abate, 
As well as all these rifts that agitate; 
We’ll see the return of peace and harmony: 
When this great nation restores its unity. 
And when from its folds we shall have erased 
The stain that wounded the eyes within its past, 
Our noble banner, from all blemish secure, 
Will wave on high, glorious and pure. 

“La guerre et l’avenir” 

Dialogue entre un Américain et un Étranger 

L’Étranger 

Après vingt ans passés sur la terre africaine, 
Je revois donc encor la rive américaine. 
Mais que s’est-il passé ? Pourquoi, de tous côtés, 
Tant de fronts soucieux, de regards attristés ! 
Ce ciel paraît chargé d’éclairs et de tonnerre. 
Pourquoi voit-on partout ces appareils de guerre ! 
Pourquoi tous ces fossés, ces mortiers, ces canons, 
Et ces bruits de tambours, de cornets, de clairons ? 
Pourquoi ces officiers à la mine guerrière ? 
Pourquoi tous ces soldats sur une libre terre ; 
Tous ces vaisseaux aux flancs de canons hérissés, 
Et ces fauves bateaux de fer tout cuirassés ? 
Et toi, Reine du Sud, si gaie et si brillante, 
Quand dansait dans ton port une forêt flottante, 
Où sont-ils ces vaisseaux par qui tous ces trésors, 
Des arts et du commerce arrivaient sur tes bords ? 
Et ces Léviathans à la gueule enflammée 
Mugissants et jetant des torrens de fumée 
Par leurs naseaux dressés ; sur les plantations, 
Pourquoi ne vont-ils plus se gorger de cotons ? 

L’Américain 

C’est que, sur un théâtre où s’agite la foule, 
Un grand drame depuis plus d’un an se déroule. 
Et ce vaste théâtre a pour voûte le ciel, 
Pour acteurs des soldats, pour lustre le soleil, 
Il a les champs de dix ou douze États pour scène, 
D’hommes un million dans cette immense arène 
Sont descendus déjà ; de nouveaux combattants 
Viennent pourtant toujours grossir encor leurs rangs. 
Quel effroyable choc, quand de rage enflammées 
Viennent à se heurter ces terribles armées. 

L’Étranger 

Mon Dieu ! c’est ce pays qui goûta de la paix 
Et de la liberté si longtemps les bienfaits, 
Lui que j’avais laissé si grand et si prospère, 
Que désole aujourd’hui cette effroyable guerre. 
Faut-il, hélas ! les voir se déchirer le sein, 
Ceux que semblait unir un si puissant lien.  
Eux, les fils des soldats qui, chers à la Victoire, 
Ensemble ont combattu pour se couvrir de gloire 
À Trenton, Bunker’s Hill, Germantown, Lexington, 
À Princeton, Yorktown, guidés par Washington. 
J’aime à me rappeler cette époque critique. 
Alors on vit, bravant le lion britannique, 
Ce pays se dresser soudain, et ses enfants, 
Soldats improvisés, abandonner leurs champs, 
Et s’armer pour chasser leur oppresseur inique. 
Puis, ces nobles lutteurs au courage héroïque 
Firent trembler bientôt cet ennemi puissant. 
Le vieux monde observait ce spectacle imposant, 
S’étonnant de l’audace, à ses yeux téméraire, 
De ce peuple bravant l’arrogance insulaire. 
La vieille Gaule alors vit ses fils valeureux 
Offrir aux opprimés leur appui généreux. 
Jeté dans le plateau, le sabre de la France 
En faveur des colons fit pencher la balance. 
Le superbe lion par la lutte épuisé, 
En dépit de sa force, enfin fut terrassé, 
Se laissa museler et rentra dans sa cage 
Tout en grinçant les dents et rugissant de rage 
Ce peuple libre enfin dès lors put concevoir, 
Du plus riche avenir le légitime espoir. 
Ah ! depuis qu’il reçut, dans sa virile enfance, 
Ce baptême de sang, de gloire et de souffrance, 
Quel degré de puissance et de prospérité, 
À l’ombre de la paix et de la liberté, 
N’avait-il pas atteint ? Oh ! dans les temps antiques 
Quel empire ou royaume ou quelles républiques, 
Vit-on prendre jamais un si rapide essor ! 
Et pourtant ce pays devait grandir encor ; 
C’est qu’on s’y reposait sous l’arbre au doux ombrage, 
À la tête superbe, au frais et vert feuillage, 
Sous cet arbre depuis quatre-vingts ans planté, 
Et qui, dans sa splendeur et dans sa majesté, 
Devant rois et tyrans se dressait comme un spectre, 
Prêt à leur arracher leur couronne et leur sceptre. 
Qu’il était beau de voir des rivages lointains 
Sous son ombre accourir tous ces fiers plébéiens 
Fatigués de porter d’humiliantes chaînes, 
Ou d’avoir à courber sous des lois inhumaines ; 
Car à ces opprimés au cœur endolori 
Cette terre toujours offrait un doux abri, 
Mais le deuil suit souvent les plus joyeuses fêtes. 
Voilà votre ciel pur troublé par les tempêtes.  
Avez-vous attiré le céleste courroux ? 
Quoi ! de si grands maux ont-ils fondu sur vous ? 
Pourquoi le ciel, pour lui faire expier quelques crimes, 
L’aurait-il donc plongé dans ces profonds abîmes, 
Ce peuple dont partout les autres nations 
Ne pouvaient qu’admirer les institutions ?  

L’Américain 

Ah ! ce pays serait république modèle, 
S’il avait en tous points voulu rester fidèle 
À ces droits proclamés avec solennité, 
Et si, tout en vantant si fort la liberté. 
Il n’eût pas malgré tout voulu la voir restreinte. 

L’Étranger  

Et comment a-t-il donc pu lui porter atteinte ? 

L’Américain 

Quoi ! vous le demandez, pourtant vous savez bien 
Quelle hideuse plaie il nourrit dans son sein. 

L’Étranger 

Ah ! vous voulez parler de la race africaine 
Qui gémit sous le poids de sa cruelle chaîne, 
Et que les châtiments, le fouet des commandeurs 
Contraignent sans relâche aux plus rudes labeurs. 
De ces êtres privés de tous les droits de l’homme, 
Qui, placés au niveau de nos bêtes de somme, 
Ne boivent qu’à la coupe amère des douleurs, 
Qui, labourant ces champs qu’arrosent leurs sueurs 
Ne peuvent cependant rien posséder au monde. 
Pas même un coin du sol que leur travail féconde. 

L'Américain 

Ah ! je commence à voir que nous nous rencontrons 
Par les élans du cœur, les aspirations ; 
Votre raison vous crie aussi que l’esclavage 
Et la liberté font un choquant assemblage. 
Mais vous pouvez ouvrir votre âme au doux espoir 
De voir bientôt briser les fers cruels du noir ; 
Car la destruction de toute servitude 
Doit être au moins le prix d’une lutte aussi rude. 
Dieu ne laissera pas la grande iniquité 
Étouffer le progrès, l’esprit de liberté 
Qui vont anéantir enfin le despotisme, 
Les préjugés de race, et le lâche égoïsme. 
Ne fixons pas des yeux troublés sur l’avenir : 
Notre sombre horizon doit bientôt s’éclaircir. 
Si dans ces temps d’épreuve il faut que ma patrie 
Se torde et se débatte, et saignante et meurtrie, 
Nous verrons se calmer ces agitations, 
Tous ces déchirements et ces convulsions ; 
Nous verrons revenir la paix et l’harmonie :
La grande nation doit être encore unie. 
Et lorsque de ses plis nous aurons effacé 
La tache qui blessait les yeux dans son passé, 
Notre noble bannière, exempte de souillure, 
Flottera dans les airs et glorieuse et pure. 

“The War and Our Future” 

MEN. 

Always seeking to conquer
as though life is to be dominated, alphas
over everyone else. Especially males
over females, as though patriarchy were natural.  

New Orleans is where we toil,
even though this is not where we were originally borne,
this is where we were forced to reside—were we were brutally taught
an other tongue, given new name—nevertheless, no matter how
many centuries gone, New Orleans is not
where any of us are really from.    

Be we Choctaw, French, Spanish, or more likely a mixture
of all curled in with the dominant African that makes us all
such a rarity of purity. All of us have a little of everyone of us
balled within the heritage of each of us.    

Beyond birth spot, New Orleans is a metropole we make,
not a city that makes us. And who is us?    

For so many years we have been led to believe
that men created humanity, and hence were in charge of life,
meaning especially in charge of women.  

The folly was not simply the false beliefs, but indeed
the illusions accepted as truth, the official
edicts telling the world that males made New Orleans.    

WE WOMEN 

The distaff half of humanity is what saves
the whole of society, even though those without
a vagina think we women have no tongues that matter,
have no thoughts worthy of reflection.    

Where does love come from?
Not from a band of brothers who revel in adventures
away from home. And when the brotherhood returns
who has tended the fruit and flower gardens, who
has taught the children to play, to sing, to work,
to honor labor and embrace each other?    

Who knows how to put sweet mint in dry water?
We women are the creative sunshine
in the midst of midnight darkness.    

We are the soft ones strong enough to withstand
the brutality of masculine blows from men ignoring
the need to be tender with each other, as though
there was something weak about an offered kiss.    

MEN.  

Kisses are ok, but there is work to be done.
The trouble with women is their limited ability
to exist beyond the hearth, beyond the bed.    

WE WOMEN  

Is the desire for union really a problem?
Or is the rejection of togetherness the true trouble?     

MEN. 

We are the ones who braved the unknowns, who
for king and kind, sailed uncharted seas, braved
contact with savages, spent years traversing
lands no one had yet mapped, and in so doing
became the names of legend.  

WE WOMEN 

No, it was not so much what you did, for we
did it too, did all that you do and much, much
more. You may have been fathers, but you never
gave birth to children. The flat expanses of your chests
never succored civilization. Our breasts provided
the milk that made survival possible.    

When you write your little books
do not ever forget it was the ink of our tears
that washed away the grime and gore of harsh existence.
Not just you, us. It was us that made the grade, created
the way, us, who are too often forgotten, overlooked.  

MEN. 

We do not forget you. Indeed, we celebrate you, give
your name to places and positions that previously
had no way to identify themselves.    

WE WOMEN 

Thankfully, there is no future as sad
as our long past, as ignoble as what we have done
to each other. Thankfully, we are not only who you say
we are. We are not solely your helpmates, we are not
mere bodies who stoically bear you progeny.    

We are what the bulk of you have failed to recognize.
If there is actually a god—not to mention a goddess—
then we are the other half. No better. No worse.    

Regardless of the weather, we are the future.
Fight all you want, war is not the ending.
Regardless of what you have done to us, we survive.    

Why?  

Because we women have the fortitude, the ability
to give of ourselves while men constantly attempt to take.  

We women, although unwritten in most of your histories,
we women have rounded the corners of the world
you men claim to have conquered fair and square.  

But there is no future in looking backward.
Every tomorrow is what we make when we escape
the chains of our yesterdays.    

You men live to give name to the past.
We women are not afraid of the future.
We allow you to make us pregnant.
Who do you think invented abortion?    

Whether we make babies or terminate them,
the deeper truth is that women’s bodies
are the portal through which all of humanity
must pass if there is ever to be a tomorrow
more important than whatever has come before.    

War may ever be part of this world’s tomorrow,
but as long as we women are here, there will be
a chance, a means to create a world of peace. 

© Kalamu ya Salaam, 2021


MONA LISA SALOY 

“Erase Tyranny of Today,” written in response to “Tyrants before the Judgment of History” (1862), by an anonymous author. 

 

“Tyrants before the Judgment of History” 

— When history shows that merit is oppressed,
While crime is honored, and virtue is suppressed,
At such misdeeds, such crimes, we take offense;
We’d prefer to be buried in a chasm of ignorance.
A foolish wish! For memories of vice
Give memories of good a higher price;
The soul, on virtues weighed against sin’s pains
With greater interest pauses, then remains . . .
No, evil cannot by remorse be set right,
Nor be absolved and hid in death’s dark night.
There is an avenger whose unrelenting hand
Shatters the tomb and makes the guilty stand,
Saddened by the shame of truth’s harsh light,
Before the judgment of the reader’s spite:
Our voice denounces both his life and his crimes;
We curse his ashes on behalf of his many victims;
We forgive heaven, whose knowing justice gave
Unto the wicked life beyond the grave,
And, forging punishment from former delights,
Shows him, in worldly triumphs, hellish sights
Which, torturing his nights, poisoning his days,
Like a sword o’erhanging, threaten him always.
May all the oppressed take heart in this idea! 

“Les tyrans au tribunal de l’histoire” 

— Quand l’histoire fait voir le mérite opprimé,
Et la vertu proscrite, et le crime honoré,
On rougit de savoir tant de maux, tant de crimes ;
On voudrait que l’oubli pût rouvrir ses abîmes.
Vœux imprudents ! du mal le souvenir affreux
Au souvenir du bien donne un prix plus heureux ;
L’âme, sur les vertus qu’aux forfaits elle oppose,
Avec plus d’intérêt s’arrête et se repose…
Non, le crime ne peut, même après le remord,
S’absoudre et se cacher dans la nuit de la mort ;
Il existe un vengeur, dont la main implacable
De sa tombe ébranlée arrache le coupable,
Et le traîne, honteux de sa triste clarté,
Devant le tribunal du lecteur irrité :
Notre voix lui reproche et sa vie et ses crimes ;
Nous aimons sur sa cendre à venger ses victimes,
Nous pardonnons aux cieux, puisque leur équité,
Créa pour les pervers une immortalité ;
Et de ce châtiment terrible, inévitable,
Lui montre en ses succès l’image épouvantable
Qui, tourmentant ses nuits, empoisonnant ses jours,
Comme un fer suspendu, le menace toujours ;
Ô! que les opprimés embrassent cette idée ! 

“Erase Tyranny of Today” 

Yesterday cries ancestral blood
Dripping from chains or lynchings
Black culture denied, 
Sisters torn from Mother, Father, Brother
Centuries without Mother tongue or faith or
Knowledge of kingdoms
Too vast to name in Our MotherFatherLand 

Our Ancestors stolen, landing forced into the New World 
Their tales sewn into brown skins 
Sorrow Songs echo with each heartbeat &  
Eye blinking in time, in tune to memories fading but resurrected in each souls’ food,
Glad ways with each other. A New World now laced with a rainbow of colors, cultures, made again. Even time & torture did not dim hope often buried by the Promise of Politics, ideals of fairness, justice, for all, built on lies & broken ideals urging freedom, while formed on backs of brown skin ripped bloody, on stolen lands of Indigenous ancient Peoples devalued, dismissed, destroyed by force of church & law. Family, language seizure, forbidden home customs, yet America born of hope in something better, a simple “We” for all the people; instead, bred men drunk on politics, not for the people but power. His story every year, each decade, and century pledges justice for all, paying forward for a few only, birthing systems of arrest & suffocation for anyone not white, the stepping-stones of progress, wealth paid. 

Truth matters
Principles matter
Our democratic ideal matters 

Oppose Lies
Lies repeated again & again
Can not replace truth. Lies
Do not erase truth 

Half an angry nation
Riled by a lying 
Losing outgoing President
Losing reelection
Losing 50 failed court appeals to
Overturn a fair, solid election
Lying again and again
Fostering fake news
Inciting angry what-aboutism on
More lies & more lies
Now Impeached again 

Anger addicts
Hysterical want-to-be patriots
Promote vandalism
Promote violence 

Kissed by thieves,
We count our teeth. 
Kissed by thieves,
We count our teeth. 

Tell the truth
Vote the truth
Convict the guilty
Punish insurrection
Insurrection is treason 

Let the Eagle vow to
Fan wings of freedom
Fly on the faith of 
We the People”
Heal this nation
The people now
Fueled with Faith & hope

© Mona Lisa Saloy, 2021


For more, explore The Historic New Orleans Collection's book Afro-Creole Poetry in French.