Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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2537 words
SHJ Issue 1
Spring 2010

Sex, Haiti & Pure Writing

Lennox Raphael

We made love standing in the blue Caribbean Haitian sea — she came to bed in the dark and, for hours, we heard morning birds singing love will come early if you tried to jump ship in the harbor of desire — as one tried one’s best to execute the game plan — but easier said than done — and one could not understand how a simple teardrop could take up its bed and walk thru a dream.

That other time I had been to Haiti with someone — she was visiting B — they were friends — we had all lived on a farm on another island, another country — M & B too — before they moved to Port-au-Prince. Of course, this is not the entire package of feelings.

My companion had to return to her island home & I stayed behind. I wanted to go across country: and we saw her off at the airport and, late that afternoon, in a swimming pool, I felt B tugging at my heartstrings — and went dancing to ‘mini jazz’, and M would meet us there; and, as night fell in step with music from the skies, become alarming — and I was beginning to regret I had not left on the afternoon flight to Puerto Rico— then M came to us on the dance floor and said he was going home & wanted some francs for the taxi — and left, and, hours later, having danced the night away, B & yours truly, in the back seat of a car kissing touching as though romance was our style & Erzuli Freda, voodoo Goddess of Love, could be satisfied by language that could not pull itself out of the rubble, even as one removes slabs of understanding & correctness from this essay against itself — but true lies make it even more difficult to remember flying over Port-au-Prince with Erzuli, image of the Virgin Mary, there being at least a double to everything in the Caribbean Americas, & flapping one’s wings as though witnesshood would come up with better reasons for soaring over the city and making it possible to leave the larger of one’s soul at home & allow this small other to use pure writing as keys to cities of feelings chilling out under blankets of dream snow; but what could have possessed us in the first place when, as one would from a jar of dreams, walk out of the bottomless pit — pure — and turn magic to useful mysteries as a mammoth indigo blue beast rose from the artichoke mountainous forest of Kenscoff & blocked our way with its spear tongue only to have that little angel of my soul exchange wings with Erzuli — causing the great beast to vanish.

And we flew on — but the beast of Nature was still hungry — and that second night of the earthquake one was back in Haiti flying over the snow and listening to falling teardrops, drum sounds of the heart celebrating innocence as Erzuli holds one’s hands even tighter than before & knows pure writing starts at describing loss: constant bereavement; grief: losing & re/losing; touch; the touching, de-barreling of emotions; dusting, filling, gluing, numbering, polishing: only to find nothing helps — no cure for love — no writing after having written meaning into nothing, text of no fixed abode; pure dust; and life: where once a tree planted by time and innocence, now a carnival of skeletons crawling out of the rubble of life as literature & being old-fashioned as time, crossless, uncrucified, no forgiveness necessary: no tears, a valley of despair: the first wave not necessarily the largest helping of Nature falling to its devices as we absorb losses & move on through stories of human conditioning, our histories.

Unable to stop Nature from writing speaking boldly freely saying never fret over a dream or how, afterwards, we describe something happening to us at the very moment it is happening to others in this garden of the human estate where culture is language and feelings & I was hating myself & loving her & thinking not a thing of literature, or of travel essays I wished to write — and, as the car pulled into the yard of the house, at that ungodly hour of the morning, M came out with the child, and the child was screaming, and M said, Maestro, I have a present for you — What present? I went to my room — and, on my bed, fast asleep, naked, Mona Lisa exhausted — and one was never so disappointed — and, without a word, went into the living room, shut the door, turned off the lights, and forced myself to sleep: and then felt B crawling into the sofa beside me —and — O, my God! — she said it’s okay, M said if she let him sleep with Mona Lisa in my bed she could come to me.

Seems he left the dance, picked up the anonymous beauty — took her home — but, lo, when he got there — the child was up — and upset — and he let the housekeeper have a rest & tried to put the child to bed — but, easier said than done — and B & I showed up before that could happen — and he would say then he had an unwrapped present for me, in my bed.

The first thing I said to him when I got up was I am leaving right now for a hotel — and that was when he said, No, I want you to stay here — here? — yes, if you go to the hotel, B would follow you, and, whenever you should leave she will not come back to me — so it’s better if I move out — you stay here — I will return when you leave Port-au-Prince — and B will still be here — it’s ok! — I know what I am doing — she’s in love with you, but she lives here — Look, I am really asking you to do me a favor.

All right, one remembers saying, quite astonished by the violence of this rather brazen innocence between this & that and beheaded metaphors left to rot in jars of history as we touched retouched embraced every last trace of mocked mirror images of heaven in flames and an inner Emperor turning water to blood and stealing rain so as to deny pain its prize: this longing, kisses on hot coals, history: scars everlasting, toys, shadows, winter of God, winter of devils, winter of man, talking swords: those unknown steps to the second dream seeing all around, voices pleading, death & destruction: chance/luck: love between sheets of concrete irony and pride.

Nothing worse than kisses we curse — lost embraces leaving traces of honey sand & the loveliness of desire bled of shadows — every man/woman — Nature eager to unveil misery as cloaks for the just — watching our memories burning brightly on funeral pyres hired out to the lowest bidders — we are deeply upset by our dreams — eyes shudder — there is no defense, only cries of Love — the world we see, this world in us — glory, pity, broken kisses, wounded hearts awaiting invitations from memories whose ends are ashes on our fingertips & whips & rain, tears of snakes, fatal embraces of concrete and timber: and being pushed into the bottomless pit where one could be entranced by lies aged into truth burnt at the edges become history turned over, lost in kissing blue sky green without pity or scorn or candy floss knowing life is the lightness of being ready to be digested by time as one escapes prisons of memory; as: one remembers nothing, leftovers of agony.

So — All right, I said; and he left; and that weekend, alone with B and her child, I listened to drums boiling up from the lip of the forest and tried language, to see whether, in pure writing, I could discover answers that had been denied me: but nothing worked — only ecstasy of being in sex, as Time, hovering in shadows, emptied itself of every memory, every shard of regret & pity; and I could excuse myself, could believe I was doing a friend a favor — which was loving someone he loved — and that same night he left — and I stayed with B and their child & the housekeeping couple — and 3 nights later we were in Peitonville at a party thrown by someone from the National Palace, since destroyed by January’s earthquake, and M was there — and the etiquette was perfect — and, at the end, some were going with LW to a voodoo show at a hotel — but B, well, one was only too happy to follow her to our house of love on the hill —

It’s M, she said, and he’s breaking all the dishes! — yes — one winced at that sound against the walls and felt one’s own life was hanging by shredded thread. “!M!” B screamed, wanting to stop him, — “you’re going to wake up the child!” — and rushed in after him — I felt disgusted, particularly with myself — I couldn’t find a metaphor to describe my own blindness that Saturday before dawn — I might as well have been thinking why Dostoevsky didn’t live to see the fall of the Berlin wall — why? — but true literature, divorced from knowledge & power, neither answers questions nor seeks answers.

Put your hand on your ear, she said, as we entered the lobby of the hotel Privacy, — they might take you for a girl! — which I did, covering the gold dot? And she was fast asleep sometime later as I tiptoed out, returning to the house for my suitcase — saying I was going to a hotel in the city and would leave for Jacmel in a few days; and B — no, I am jumping myself — I went from one hotel to the next and fell into a dream. I had written a book that stood before me on a mountain, pages jutting out as white steps, as, in eveningwear & top hat, I climbed over silvered coffins & snakes to the chamber of Voodoo Goddess Erzuli Freda, only to have a voice out of the clouds saying After love & loneliness, nothing!

With Erzuli — one’s crazed feeling of aloneness, loneliness+reality, in Port-au-Prince+the sound of breaking dishes clashing in one’s head, Thor at war, and the thought: that, moved by jealousy+curiosity, and why not?, he had broken the agreement & come home — found them curled up, asleep, ..... he could have ....... — it would have been understandable, as crimes of passion are, but there he was, the writing being him, exploring poetic injustice instead; dishes as minced veal words — pure writing from disinnocence, that gap, and what, after all, is one’s essay but an excavation of shadows, those that never die, never fade away, digs of time assaying gold in gaps between thinking & doing: when spontaneity is either fruit-bearing tree or semantic misery, an odyssey lost in itself & wandering blindly through labyrinths of ghost words space between horizon & depth.

And love too; and one could not believe one was waking from a dream, the world spinning into a control one could not bear to decipher — love would have been an obstacle to progress fastening itself to the thorns that pulls us out of wounds — & every woman is one — for nine nights, she lay in the rubble thinking the snow was all aglow when I slipped on my heart and fell into the gap between desire & fear — cross I bear is the loss I now celebrate as Fate; but Destiny is a lame excuse for having refused to listen to the inner child screaming in the wilderness of romantic bitterness.

I am tired of having my kisses spurned by Peter Pans & charlatans — my only weapon of survival is laughter, and I must first laugh at myself — and know, at last, there is no cure for love, no envelope to be pushed over the edge, no embrace that will not leave its trace of disgrace, would not dog my footsteps as I slip further & further into the prison of hope from which the only escape is to veil my face with widow’s lace.

I am dead to the world. the frankness of this darkness overwhelms me. Look how far I have reached, what hand i reap in the sweepstakes of LIFE, my only crime has been to believe that love could set me free from myself. i never bargained for the pain that lurked in the shadows & shot its rusty arrows at my heart.

Dye mon, gen mon, Haitians would say — beyond the mountain is another mountain — and, yes, beyond writing, too, the self unexplored, a diamond in coal: for the sake of pure writing, pleasure looks askance at scorn & any attempt to judge outside of context — where rules of pleasure have no originator — where embraces, as masks, are triple souls, and all the gods & goddesses, loas & migrant spirits & history forgive & escape and are reborn — with Nature & man being one as costumed characters in a Carnival band called EARTHQUAKE, when Haitians in years to come would dance to the picture of Nature parading & human beings fighting back & crying & emerging victorious: for how does one write an essay about death.

It is not a simple thing as writing about love. Love is a common, unforgettable experience. Death, like pure writing, even without the help of spirits that ride us, resists interference — and no wonder I wrenched myself from the dream then, showered, and began the journey to my dear friends, getting out on the Carrefour and walking up the gravel trace to the house atop the hill — memory playing tricks here, leaping from Venus to Jupiter, then back to Mars — and, as my feet touched the yard, I felt the gloom in the thirsty aloes dusk — saw B near the eucalyptus tree and imagined the perfume as one that would put me to sleep.

I felt the gloom deepen as my insides sped into depths of un/ir/reality; and a cucumber could not have been cooler — as I made out M in the farthest corner of the room — he looked so different — and such a strange, quiet feeling, as tho, long before the existence of writing, the whole world had congealed on one spot — !M, I said, what’s wrong? — you’ve cut your hair!?!? — Yes, he said, I went out today and bought a straight razor — I was going to slit your throat — I was so jealous — then I started thinking about it — about the whole f-ing world, and how things happen — just like in literature — and I realized none of it had anything to do with you — that’s right — and I felt terrible after that — I felt rotten — I felt like a beast — you’re such a great writer — such a good person — how could I have ever thought of harming you — I felt wretched — and tried to think then of what I loved most about myself — it was my hair — my long hair — so I cut that off! — I’m so sorry, I said, I feel so bad about all of this — It’s not your fault, he said, C’est la vie today.

I didn’t know what to say.

Well, what do you think?

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury