Poetry by Marie Lily Cerat


These five (5) pieces by Marie Lily Cerat were created at various times. They address issues of “racial justice”, “human rights”, and “gender-based violence and discrimination”. In sum, the pieces holler about how heavy it is to be black and immigrant in America. The Haitian Creole piece is most recent and done in memoriam of the departed in the Haitian community in New York in the time of the Corona virus.


If I could one day meet the sun
I’d lay at its feet all the world’s bad blood and heartache
And we’d no longer need to run

Nor would we need to hide from the gun
There’d be no pain, sorrow and ache
if I could one day meet the sun

We’d hear the gay tam-tam of the dun dun
We’d all in the victory-dance partake,
And we’d no longer need to run

We’d sing songs of freedom that are homespun
And filled with passions. For our own sake!
If I could one day meet the sun

I’d lay love and liberty in the shade of that palmetto’s frond
Set a red hibiscus wreath on the shore to subdue the earth’s quake
And we’d no longer need to run

Moonlight would crown our daughters and sons
Nothing and no one would ever be at stake
If I could one day meet the sun
And we’d no longer need to run.

Please show me the way

The tick of her quick steps, and
The tock of her soft cough
Are sufficient
To help me look for the new day
Just like before in the life she didn’t know
Yet, I still need my body to be
Illuminated by the sun’s spectacled eye
To regain enough strength to pretend
And execute the minute fragments of living
That still remain inside
Me, the displaced, uprooted and battered
To float and rise

I go on this illusory land
Of the free
With no windows to look out from
With light and perfumed soap
That soaked life and smell of being
And I think and cry
Stepping outside
Seeing me clipped wings
Enclosed forever
In this life

In these rooms, behind those doors
Straddling and swallowing
The bitter-sugary pill
In the windowless life. No exit.
Victim of the blinding lights in that cell

I escape in a daydream where I run
Barefoot into the arms of my lost love.

But the sea of sameness with no sun
Keeps the cuffs and chains, can you see?

Reflect from the Texan Sky

There, his feet and face
Laid away, apart from his body, himself
And they were draped in a starless sky.

Curtis! It was Curtis.
There, he sat. Bent like an old man
Commissioned to exist in pictures, still, lifeless.

Then he was marching headless, parading the truth with no mouth.
Truths after truths, no half-truths, you know.
He was neighbor to heroes, evangelists, rabbis, fishers of wo/men,
Prostitutes and nuns.

Ukraine! He screeched like a sacred and scared black bird in the night
Emptor. Empty, emptiness.
No one answered on the other side.
Ominously the echo vibrated
Blurring the borders.

Accounts of life past
And life to come
A life totally bathed in pools of corruption.

Crystal clear

Seeing: My land
Brown, un-asphalted
And breathing.
Clear, pure. Crisp air
Of crystal that rings
and crackles under the rain
of exploding silver bullets
that shake and shackle.

Seeing: My home
Emptied, ruined
Swallowing children, women and men
From sea to sea, you see!
Feeding on them in the quiet darkness.

Seeing: My childhood
Running from the familiar to the unknown
That will become known.
Bliss turned to sadness.
The pain of an empty stomach pangs like childbirth
Broken child
Childhood broken
Crystal clear
Drifting forever at the bottom of the sea, you see?

Seeing: You
Land, home, childhood
Broken crystal pieces
As the wind sweeps it all away.

Lapriyè Gede

The last poem “Lapriyè Gede” was originally written in Haitian Creole. The English translation is simply to provide access to readers.

Marie Lily Cerat is a co-founder of the Brooklyn-based organization Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, (HWHR) created in 1992 to respond to the needs of Haitians fleeing persecution. Cerat continues to serve on the HWHR Advisory Board and facilitate an ongoing support group for survivors of domestic/intimate partner violence like herself.

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