Saturday, March 12, 2016

Out in the Open- #Sol 16 Day 12

Out in the Open- Sol16 Day 12

I was born and raised in hustling and bustling, New York City. Most summers, I either stayed cooped up at home while some summers, I had the opportunity to  spend summers in my parents’ native country, Haiti.

I still remember the nights traveling back from my parents’ rural province to the city. I would beg my mother to sit in the back open-aired space of the pick-up truck with my older siblings.   The dark blue sky was actually filled with silver stars. I, a city girl, could only imagine such a sky or see one in picture books.  The cool breeze of the moving car just swept through my entire body.  I fought the lullabying movement of the corn stalks swaying in the night as if waving goodbye. I wanted to stay up with the bigger ones. Like a fast moving painting, images of leaning houses with flickering candles stroked along the canvas of my vision.

The best part of the ride was driving through the countryside. Once we hit the first neighborhood in the city, the stars became less, the noise louder, the people more numerous. As we approached our home, the night air became quiet again.  Instead of fields, a panorama of closed gates led us back to our summer beds.

Today's outdoor movie theatres are more family friendly.

On some summer days,  my mother would even allow us to go to the drive-through theater.  We would buy buckets of fried chicken and rice and beans (Kentucky Fried Chicken Haitian Style). We would sit in the back of the pick up. It was a white pick up. I think Datsun. I do not even remember the movies we saw. I just remember siblings and cousins laughing in the back in the midst of the cool sea summer air.  The voices of the actors “singing” in the open air! Sometimes, we followed the movie. Sometimes, we just joked around in the back, teasing each other. Forgetting the movie, I would just lie flat and look at the blue velvet sky.

For a New York girl who did not feel at rest, until the metal clucks of the locks were turned, Haiti, at the time represented a heaven. Back in the days in Haiti, doors were left open all day in our house. People came and left. Sitting in the yard under the mango tree was the best part of the day. Soon as a "bimp" was heard, every cousin ran towards the mango tree to catch the fallen coveted fruit.  Wow! Summers in Haiti were enchanting: foods falling from branches, cool breezes without fans, merchant women coming to our home with their sales for the day: fruit, roasted nuts, bread...

I never wanted to leave Haiti...Never….
In New York, we lived behind locked doors.
In New York, we could not speak to strangers.
In New York, the Television kept us company.

In Haiti, the night air still belonged to us.
In Haiti, strangers felt like family.

Yet in Haiti, I had to remember not
To criticize the long-standing
The minute we arrived in
the New York airport (J.F. Kennedy)
even though we were on U.S.A. soil
We knew not to repeat
any news heard on her staticky

I knew my family’s political thoughts
Needed to be left at home
Stuffed in that radio my
Mother listened to every
Waiting for news of change
Our T.V. Shows such as Gilligan’s
Island played against the static
News of Haiti

Summers of Freedom
In a country where people
Were not free to vote
Were not free to question
the political leadership

Summer of Freedom
when I got a taste of
but also repression
on a daily level


  1. Wow this is a pretty powerful slice. The comparison of feeling so free and yet not. Food for thought and what an experience for you.

  2. This is amazing. I love the contrasts. I love the memories you shared. I think how heart-wrenching some of the news from Haiti must be...

  3. You've done it again. Another slice that has me going back to read and reread some more. The juxtaposition of Haiti and NYC pulls this piece together... You're a structural wizard, Natasha! As well, I can't get enough of the lyrical details...the cluck of the locks in NY, the bimp of the mangoes in Haiti, the white Datsan pick up, the KFC Haitian style, cool night air. The twist at the end as you turn into poetic form is so poignant. Haiti is such a magical place, and yet there is the political repression. You have to submit your work for publication!

  4. Like Michelle, I love when you move from prose to poetry, but I always feel that poetry powering your prose. It's the music as much as the imagery--which is why I love the phrase "a panorama of closed gates led us back to our summer beds," which so rhythmically presents to me that long view. So glad you're writing your memories and sharing your perceptions of them.