Three Poems by Mark Fitzpatrick

Brazil, 1840

Minha in the field,
color wrapped around her like one of my vases,
she moves, sultry, like the curtains
blowing in the bedroom
though there is little wind
on this humid day so close to Natal.

Minha’s dark skin,
irradiant as night.
Minha, sultry like the wind,
moves from plant to plant
like an obsidian butterfly in my garden;
and when her forearm raises,
sturdy as a crossbeam to hang a man,
as she wipes sweat from her brow,
standing like an archaic, black rune in my garden,
she gazes up,

gazes up at me on the portico
and she smiles
a smile as lovely as snow
though I have never seen snow,
but I have seen Minha’s smile
and it is a smile meant especially for me.

And I on the portico,
I who named her “Minha,”
I with the power to sell her or whip her,
I tremble,
tremble under that gaze and smile
realizing that from places unknown,
from places unseen,

one’s downfall so suddenly comes.



after Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno”

With my clear eyes focused, a stern stare
toward that unwilling actor, señor Captain,
there upon your Mount Agony
in the habit of the monks there —
Do prayer and fasting exorcise my Shadow from your soul?
(Ah, me udder ma’sa, I sees you die!)
Stare across the Plaza to that other, by-gone figurehead
buried in his vault as he was buried in his
(Ole ma’sa, I sees you got you ole white bones today!).

The ship San Dominick named after the saint
whom a white virgin handed a chain of beads, instructing
“With these roses bind men to the Church and Its Deeds!”
Out of Chile with a host of bound beings,
each bead a coin, each coin a link on the irons,
the jeweled necklace around your neck, Ole ma’sa,
the office of your magnitude (our misery).

You honed us in your hostels
and kept us squiggling on the hook,
fed on the bread of your Catholicism.
You thought us all one hulk,
spineless and unwilling;
carried us in your thoughts as cargo,
little lambs, numb and dumb to your slaughter.

Hah! What darkness to you, our individuality, our energy.
Each of us fired in our brain and our blood.
Each of us united in an almost single will
‘gainst you, Ole ma’sa!
So we manned the revolt. Staged the drama.

Oh, Senegal! St Nicholas!
How I would have tasted you like bread and beer upon my tongue!
How I would have leaped upon your shores, a happy child!

Yet still how deeply I defy!
Even in death, I defy!
I stare down death and those who die!

Now, my silence and my stare are my last sword stroke,
one last slash to slice apart your meanings.
And in this end, now that I am ash and head,
I shall glare at these hallowed places —
vaults and crypts and cells
where the almighty ones pray and lie

Their muteness drowned in the loudness of my silence.



I was exotic
Funny accent, almost British –exotic
Mispronouncing words, wrong inflection – exotic
My talk of baboons and goats in the street – exotic
And a woman never showing her hair
And a whole country geared around prayer times
Exotic! Exotic! Exotic!

Oh, high school sweeties!
I had more of your boyfriends
Talking to me, flirting and fluttering about
And posing
Even with my hijab –
I, diaspora kitty, star of every jock’s wet dream,
Every American golden boy pumping his totem god
Imagining his goddess
I rode a wave of popularity
(on my essentialism, you may say)
My time to sparkle and gleam,
Diaspora kitty, center stage

Now, my Adidas tread these dirt roads
Among the tin shacks of my clan,
Roads ridged like cruellers,
Trash everywhere, blue plastic bags
Caught and rippling in trees
Fighting to catch the wind to elsewhere
My hijab flutters
But it’s not a flag of independence
For all the hijabs flutter

No longer standing out in a crowd,
Diaspora kitty, my novelty opened so many doors
Back there back then
What might have been

But my parents found the notes in the drawer
Love notes passed in class,
The many proposals of a white, Christian boy

That signaled the end




Mark Fitzpatrick has travelled, lived, worked, and/or written about/in Brazil, Haiti, Somaliland, Honduras, Cuba, Chicago. His rapacious interest in multi/inter-cultural issues, spirituality, poetry, languages, music, dance, art, and food makes him a fat and intriguing poet. His days are sent teaching ELS in whatever country he finds himself. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and a few short stories made it into some as well.