Arrowheads by Patrick Sylvain13 Oct 2017, Posted by Poetry in
You asked me, my poet friend, why my lines
Are arrowheads. Well, I’m from the tropics
Where the Tainos left their skulls filled
With maggots at the entrances of mines.
Their arrows were poems written in the battlefields
Of selfhood—their arrows were archeological notes
To the Sene-Ghambians: the Yoruba and the Ashanti
Whose blood fertilized the new world.
The autochthons went up like smoke into history,
Their arrow sticks were burned by gunpowder and treachery.
These are coded messages for the propertied bodies
That paradise is a European panacea, a poem of fantasy,
Panache for the conquering loyalties who spread smallpox
Like sunflower seeds. What grew was not desirable. My poet
Friend, I was born in the season of tropical depression,
When thunder and lightning accompany screams
Of plantation workers. The blustery winds have been as unforgiving
As the crowns of thorns on sugar cane leaves incising black skins.
Sugar has a strange way of bonding! When freedom is hijacked,
Hunger becomes an arrowhead in the stomach.
My poet friend, on the island of my birth, rage like volcanic
Lava spills over the land and consumes French gourmandize.
The desolate land from heat condensation
Melts popsicles before they enter my mouth.
I must contend with trade and prevailing winds
That have created instability in the region.
My lines must be arrowheads, projectiles
To combat the constant cyclones of gluttony.
About the author:
Patrick Sylvain is a poet, writer, social critic, and photographer. Published in several scholarly and creative anthologies, journals and reviews, including: African American Review, Agni, Allegro Poetry Magazine, American Poetry Review, Anchor Magazine, Callaloo, Caribbean Writers, Transition, The Savannah Review, Dirty Chai, Ploughshares, SX Salon, Vallum Contemporary Poetry, Haiti Noir, International Journal of Language and Literature, Human Architecture, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. Sylvain’s academic essays are anthologized in several edited collections, including: “The Idea of Haiti: Rethinking Crisis and Development,” edited by Millery Polyné; “Politics and Power in Haiti,” edited by Paul Sutton and Kate Quinn; and “Haiti Noir” edited by Edwidge Danticat. Sylvain received his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, in Political Science and Social-Psychology, and earned his Ed.M. as a Conant Fellow from Harvard University Graduate School of Education; and was also a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow at Boston University Creative Writing Department where he earned his MFA. He has taught at several universities, including Brown (where is affiliated with Africana Studies), Mass/Boston (Anthropology) and Harvard (AAAS). Sylvain is pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Brandeis University where he is the Shirle Dorothy Robbins Creative Writing Prize Fellow.
Art: Painting by Olivier Fonteau, @olivierfonteau.art