From "A Rain of Stars" by Évelyne Trouillot, translated by Danielle Legros Georges

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June 18, 2024 
 

From “A Rain of Stars”

Évelyne Trouillot
translated from the Kreyòl by Danielle Legros Georges

In what language should I speak to you
when the words beneath our sheets
blow over my belly

life has me holding a grudge
pouring coffee on my recollections
not revealing where the moon finds its water

When children cry
and won’t stop
one after the other the words dry up
in the palm of my hand
not letting me baptize the dark

Believe me 
I don’t know what you are:
A navel that’s lost its cord in the midst of a poetry book?
A hibiscus flower with a sickly eye?
A bird with its wings pinned to its back?
I was surprised by you
I didn’t know who you were
Today your mouth’s upturned
This shout, louder than your pain

       ***

In what language should I speak to you
when prayer kneels before poverty
and our daughters fly kites 
by the cathedral
sick of washing their marbles
in the vestry

Believe me
I don’t know your name
when a ten-year-old beggar
undresses his hunger beneath the statue of Saint Anne
each grain of rice leaving a scar on our skin

       ***

The wind takes a break to make us drunk
we carry it on our backs
our way is rugged 
In what language should I speak to you
when the sun loses its way

Believe me
I don’t remember what hurts me most
I stand on tiptoe to gather stars
that capsize never to rise again
Love has lost its name 
continents don’t remain steady
one wild day, we’ll meet
without my knowing who you are

 


 

Plidetwal

 

Nan ki lang pou m pale avè w
Lè pawòl anba dra
Pase souf li sou vant mwen

lavi kenbe m nan kè
koule kafe nan memwa m
li pa di m kote lalin bwè dlo

Lè timoun ap kriye
san rete
youn apre lòt mo yo seche
nan pla men m
san yo pa ban m tan pou m batize fènwa

Kwè m si ou vle
mwen pa konn ki sa ou ye
Yon lonbrit ki pèdi kòd li nan mitan liv pwezi
Yon flè choublak ki gen malozye
Yon zwazo ak zèl li mare dèyè do l
Mwen pantan sou ou
san m pa t konnen kilès ou ye
Jodi a bouch ou tètanba
Rèl sa a pi gwo pase doulè w

       ***

Nan ki lang pou m pale avè w
lè lapriyè met ajenou devan lamizè
Pitit fi n ap monte kap
bò katedral
Yo bouke lave grenn mab
anndan sakristi

Kwè m si ou vle
M pa konn ki jan ou rele
lè yon ti pòv dizan
dezabiye grangou l nan pye Sentàn
chak grenn diri kite yon mak sou po n

       ***

Van an kabicha pou l fè nou sou
nou pote l sou do
chimen nou kalboso
nan ki lang pou m pale avè w
lè solèy la 
bliye wout li

Kwè m si ou vle
m pa sonje sa k fè m pi mal
m kanpe sou pwent pye pou m ranmase zetwal
yo chavire yo pa janm remonte
Lanmou pèdi papye l
kontinan pa ret anplas
yon jou sovaj na rankontre
san m pa mande ki moun ou ye

Copyright © 2024 by Évelyne Trouillot and Danielle Legros Georges. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 18, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

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“Évelyne Trouillot’s Plidetwal, published in Port-au-Prince by Presses Nationales d’Haïti in 2005, opens with the question, ‘In what language should I speak to you?’ Through this question, the book’s speaker engages a singular beloved, the other, as well as a beloved country in which night sits at the front door ‘even at sunrise.’ A desire for dialogue propels the poem, which asks us to consider our current relationships and tensions of great precarity and great love. Where do we place ourselves? In image-rich and deeply figurative language, Trouillot explores the possible limits of language—a challenge that translation attempts to mitigate.”
—Danielle Legros Georges

Évelyne Trouillot

Évelyne Trouillot is a writer, poet, and translator. She is the author of Il faut parfois chanter (Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2022) and the novel La mémoire aux bois (Éditions Hoëbeke, 2010). Trouillot, now retired, was an instructor in the French department at the Université d’État d’Haïti (State University of Haiti). She lives in Delmas, Haïti. 

Danielle Legros Georges

Danielle Legros Georges is a Haitian American and Black poet, translator, and editor. She is the author of Three Leaves, Three Roots: Poems on the Haiti-Congo Story (Beacon Press, 2025) and Blue Flare: Three Haitian Poets: Évelyne Trouillot, Marie-Célie Agnant, Maggy de Coster (Zephyr Press, 2024). A recipient of the 2023 American Antiquarian Society Fellowship, Legros Georges lives in Boston. 

Il faut parfois chanter
Il faut parfois chanter
(Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2022)

Three Leaves, Three Roots: Poems on the Haiti-Congo Story
Three Leaves, Three Roots: Poems on the Haiti-Congo Story
(Beacon Press, 2025)

Blue Flare: Three Haitian Poets: Évelyne Trouillot, Marie-Célie Agnant, Maggy de Coster
Blue Flare: Three Haitian Poets: Évelyne Trouillot, Marie-Célie Agnant, Maggy de Coster
(Zephyr Press, 2024)

“Ewako” by Tanya Lukin Linklater
read more

“pronunciation” by Leora Kava
read more

Thanks to Rosamond S. King, author of All the Rage (Nightboat, 2021), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about King’s curatorial approach and find out more about our Guest Editors for the year.
“Poem-a-Day is brilliant because it makes space in the everyday racket for something as meaningful as a poem.” —Tracy K. Smith

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