The Rejection Letter

And so it comes,
Dying sun behind island canopies,
Fish-men smelling of fish, calling it a day.
Heads appearing from the waterfront asking if I had a good day.
Mumu, what do you think?
I wrote all day you fools.
They shake heads, shake nets,
And I say, dare you ask me this same question tomorrow,
I have your response right here,
right here in my closed fists.
Wanna see what’s in it?
They walk on,
smelling of fish,
And steel bottom sugarcane rhum.

My very first one came this afternoon from Oracabessa,
The mail boy with mouth full of sores and flies
Put one dollar 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 foreign letter.

Right under 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 laugh.
An empty balcony, no one laughs back.

I pull a stool to the poor window light,
The smell of rain is coming,
wafts blowing papers around,
The city 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 the island children,
Who 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 jumping,
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 out the door 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 a loc of my hair
and a hollowed 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 now I am cancerous,
And I write powerful stories till sunset,
And would die shortly,
with very little vanity left,
No more love for her cabbage Pikliz soup,
For her Nana’s Haitian recipe that will not go to waste,
It is her final sin,
But 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 of a dinner set,
A small feast of love that steams in the middle of the table.
The slap of thunder hits twice,
I imagine Little Timo struck once again
on his way from the drug store,
Or perhaps this time, 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 downpour,
white sparks fly between heaven and ocean,
rent the sky into cobwebs,
fall all over our heads for once,
oh, sweet god of the love and thunder,
bring it all down, you fools.

I crack my knuckles,
stub out cigarette on the ledge,
Inspect the stamp,
All in fancy French.
A special thing happens 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 above her bubbling pikliz pot,
Notes of Pimento leave her pot to hide in her hair.
Better be something good — chien sal,
Some creole life-force squeeze out her gap-tooth.
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 & That Jackass Magazine.

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

We used to be something in ‘99, he writes.
Where were you when we owned the lecterns or Patterson?
And the reading halls in Glasgow?
And made a god of Francoise Babineaux?
Back when we opened doors for up-comers like you.
Poor man, 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 poems,
I write it up,a thousand a night,
and wipe my ass with them,
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. Marcellus Black the II?
I bet you see mad men on your way to work
And in your corridors Mr. Marcellus Black,
Trying to sell you the perfect poison,
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 have killed me.

She shoves mashed plantain in her mouth.
These things you do are unbeknownst to me, Woman.
That 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.
A short list, a wooden frame, a hammer,
This one letter I have got to frame.