The Rejection Letter

And so it comes,
A dying sun behind island canopies,
Men smelling of fish calling it a day.
Heads appearing from the waterfront asking if I had a good day.
What do you think?
I wrote all day you fools.
They shake heads,
And I say, dare you ask me this same question tomorrow,
I have your response here,
right here in my fists.
They walk on,
smelling of fish,
And steel bottom rum.

My very first one came this afternoon from Oracabessa,
The mail boy with mouth sores and flies
Put 25 gourdes and some old bread in his pocket for running all the way.
It came in a nice brown manila,
not a single wrinkle.
My first rejection letter.

Right with the love letter from the insurance man,
trying to put me unto this new gig for renters,
You will die first before I pay in blood,
Mr. Insurance man.

I pull a stool to the poor window light,
With the smell of rain,
wafts blowing papers around,
The lights go out,
and the general moan raise from tiny white houses,
The Island sits dark, but not quite,
And the wind takes the cricket voices of Bush island children,
We live in the navel of the island,
Small tiny houses depressed and rubbing shoulders.

Fati pulls clothes from the lines,
Her large buttocks,
A thing of open pride.
Old Sergeant Run-Run
hunts his old lady cat
and bangs a door to get me,
And the yard vibrates,
Errant Island bastard kids undress,
They plan for a festival in the rain,
Fati drops off a load of clothes on the table,
Kicks over my old work boots on her way out
– I’ve been warned.

Her white nurse cap leaves her head
and tails the wind to the green puddle,
Oh yes baby,
the gods are nice.

She empties her voodoo curses
as she moves behind my head,
another load in her hands.
See if I will turn into a red hen this time you witch.
I think to myself, looking over my shoulders.
Did you keep something there? Behind my head? I ask.
She moves on, reciting some deep creole garbage.

Sometimes I think there is a calabash with my name
and a sea turtle and some black yams in it under the bed,
she makes good on her threats every now and again.
Her grave promises
to kick me out or make me run mad never come up if I behave,
But I am cancerous,
And I write powerful stories,
And would die shortly,
with very little vanity left,
from her cabbage Pikliz soup,
Her Nana’s Haitian recipe will not go to waste,
It is her final offense,
And I am just here to be a good lover.

The full-of-fat fried pork
and banan peze track down the sides of the small tin tray,
it is a small feast of love that steams in the middle of the room.
The slap of thunder hits twice,
I imagine Little Timo struck once again
on his way from the drug store,
Or perhaps this Fati herself,
right there in the mouth as she pulls clothes.
The perfect quiet that will come after,
Oh yes baby, the gods are nice,
They leave me hopeful.

The petrichor goes to the head.
The island is its most striking,
seconds before the downpour,
white sparks fly between the heaven and the ocean,
rent the sky into cobwebs,
fall all over our heads for once,
oh sweet god of the rain and thunder,
bring it on, you fools.

I crack my knuckles,
stub out a cigarette on the ledge,
Inspect the stamp,
it’s all in fancy French.
These special things happen once in an honest life,
A bad letter from Paris,
A good one from China,
An empty one from Nigeria,
Monsieur: it says,
and then my government name in cursives.

That had better be something really good,
Fati screams from above her bubbling Pikliz,
Notes of Piment leave her kitchen pot, into her hair.
Better be something good — chien sal,
Some creole life-force leaves her mouth.
Yes, yes, more salt, she says.

Dear Monsieur Kamara,
Thank you for your query.
We absolutely reject you.
Oh, and my name is Monsieur Marcellus Black II,
Managing editor of This and That Jackass magazine.

I already know them,
Because they open the same way,
With that special kind of vacancy you find in flightless
and with some fast urgency,
As if any minute now the flying will happen.
Men long without soul or liquor or a blazing Haitian woman.

We used to be something in ‘99, he writes.
Where were you when we owned the lecterns?
And the reading halls in Glasgow?
And made a god of Francoise Babineaux?
Back when we opened doors for up-comers like you.
Thank you for trying,
But your work is not for us.
We wish you all the best,
Happy writing.

The only thing is,
I never submit a poem,
I write it up,
and wipe my ass with it,
It does me much good as a result.

That I will send a copy of my soul to Paris,
Is unbeknownst to me.
Do you know that word Mr. Black the II?
I bet you see mad men on your way to work
And in your corridors Mr. Black,
Trying to sell you the perfect plot,
Using useless words like this.

Fati crushes a rain bug with her heels
and eats without me.

Woman, how dare you?
How dare me what?
How dare you send my work of genius to those French dogs?
Chien sal, she starts.

(Chien sal means dirty dog, by the way)

Must not have been any good if they rejected you.
Did they reject you?
Maybe the others will bring good luck.
What others?
Only-edition copies of my soul out there in the wind,
Woman, you are killing me.

She shoves plantain in her mouth.
These things you do are unbeknownst to me, Woman.
I know she would never understand a lick of this terrific word,
This gladdens me,
And I plan to use it randomly, forever.

The only thing missing is a perfect storm,
And a good woman to rub my tired feet
And tell me writing is for fools,
While we smoke some cigarettes,
drink some sugarcane rhum,
and watch naked island children drown in the green pond.
I plan a trip to the Allende Wahti store.

This one letter I have got to frame.