Weekly Poem: ‘Ports of Sorrow’


By Patrick Sylvain

Early January afternoon, I stand in my own port of pain
Intertwined with my wife as we moan death-like an incision
To the core. Barbed notes in a soprano’s throat.

Port-au-Prince has become an archipelago of open tombs
Consumed slowly by the sun and forming an ever lasting covenant.
This unrelenting port is a cup of their blood. May the sins
Of the prince be forgiven and forgive those who have trespassed
Against “the wretched of this earth.”

The port of prince is a mausoleum of dirt-embroidered bodies,
A quarry of dried tongues begging for holy water and bread.
No bread was ever broken and the disciples feared the masses.

Port-au-Prince has neither port nor prince,
But satellites beam our misery as we line up,
Wounded, broken, seeking shelter anywhere but home.
There is no anchor for anger, and no anchor for despair.
The prince departed centuries ago with our coffer, leaving
Broken chariots and cobwebbed treasuries.

The port of prince is a mausoleum of dirt-embroidered bodies,
I wake at night shuddering and intertwined with my wife
In our own port of pain. The clock does not stop at our will,
And how I wish to turn the hand of time, changing the prince’s
Morbid cloak, but our ill-constructed port mimicked our timid steps
And breath. The departed last gulp of air is its breath, the relay of life.

Port-au-Prince has neither port nor prince,
As tempests incessantly sweep through,
1804’s bright filament becomes faint and sad,
Dimming like a dying firefly. Life mocks us
With sadistic laughter. I feel burdened by death,
Losses and corpses swarming in my chest.
I need a stronger port to anchor their souls.


Patrick SylvainPatrick Sylvain is a Haitian-American writer, essayist and poet, and instructor of Haitian language and culture at Brown University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He has been published in several anthologies, magazines and reviews, including African American Review, Agni, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Haitian Times and Ploughshares. His latest book, “Love, Lust & Loss/ Lanmou, anvi ak pedans,” was published by Memoire d’Encrier in October 2005.