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From: Max Blanchet <maxblanchet@worldnet.att.net>

Syto Cave is a well-known artist: poet, song writer, playwright.

What follows is his poetic view of Haiti's current situation.

The translation is mine.

Max Blanchet

Letter from Haiti
Syto Cavé

No. 36.186
Wednesday, 25 avril 2001

Translated by Max Blanchet

It is two o'clock in the morning. Silence in the country, silence in the
home. A silence heavy with all the ills of the day. We die quickly here. A
sort of routine has taken hold of the streets: to kill. And, from seeing so
many die, nobody is surprised any longer. It has become almost nothing. We
carry our coffins under our arms. Thus, we leave our homes and once we
return, we bless the heavens for being back home. We conclude that today is
not our turn, but the turn of another, someone we might or might not know.
And funerals after funerals take place. And the wakes become shorter.
Before, funerals and wakes were social affairs, the occasion for great shows
of words about the departed, then we drank, sang, and thought about death,
awakened death piecemeal. Now, silence. With each step, silence. With each
corpse, silence. Gun fire. Blackout. Silence. Stores and public markets open
when possible, long enough to stock on goods in preparation for gloomy days,
gloomier days. The gourde, our local currency, is in a free fall in
reference to the dollar. We import a great deal but export little.
Nonetheless, banks multiply. Gas stations as well. We cannot quite
understand. We know. But, we remain silent.

Nobody really believes in life. Nobody is really betting on life. In spite
of it, people get married and have children. Undoubtedly, out of routine. It
is the only way to show others and prove to themselves they are still alive.
Or to make believe that they are married, have children, are having fun.
But, there is no genuine laughter, no heart for fun. Very quickly, a corpse
chills the ambiance, the body of a friend or someone else. Then, everything
becomes austere. One becomes sad, heavy and serious. One thinks of loved
ones. One thinks of those one hates. Then, silence. A country of silence.

It is five o'clock in the morning. Coffee keeps me awake. How to move from
this silence to the act of writing? To come and to go. To write. It seems to
me that there are things, blind things that move me to tell, that compel me
to transport them so that they may form their own island of words, or maybe
a monster on the seaboard. I submit to the turmoil they create in me.

I remember an aunt whom I loved very much. A few of her letters are still in
my possession. Through a strange phenomenon, I find in the calligraphy of
her sentences, not only the unity and coherence of her mental posture, but
also the attributes of her appearance and gait, this unique way of moving
from one room to the next, the muffled sound of her steps in the hallway to
her room. She was 83. She was stabbed in the back by a zenglendo, this new
breed of criminals who roam the streets here. Rereading her, I tell myself
that death has turned her into an interrupted sentence, this long sentence
in gestation to tell us about life. There was a time when old age was
sacred. We venerated old age. We listened when she told her stories or sang
in a low voice the old tunes. She was weaving bridges between the

Today, everything is collapsing. This country known as Haiti-Thoma is sick.
I love her nonetheless. I love her streets, her wounded mountains, her old
houses, her rainy mornings and her vulgar midday, houses and streets of my
steps, of my body, faded books of my life, and the old lampposts, hidden
somewhere in my now mythical home town. I gather often with the syllables of
my youth, the sound, the broken voices of old women mixed with the clamor of
the waves, the nearby words of far away streets, in human dawn. And I tell
myself that this is also my homeland, my first, affective homeland, the
homeland of youth and heart so dear to many writers. There is also the other
homeland, the real one that lays before my eyes. I cling to her, desperately
seeking what I know not. I quote to myself this verse that my friend Richard
Laforest wrote one winter morning in Montreal, ". and I meander in Haiti's
streets to rub out my exile."

I, too, meander Haiti's streets looking for a "fellow-creature," a "brother"
, a heart close to me. It must be nearby, in our culture, our history, in
the sweetness of the landscape, the motion of the wind in the sumptuous
bamboo that lines the road from Camp-Perrin to Jérémie in the South, the
proud gait of vendors of legumes who go on foot from Furcy to Port-au-Prince
with their baskets of carrots, cabbage, and beets as if to say that the
rapport to the land is kept safe here through the dignity of work well done.

It must be in the eyes of the beggar who awaits God's intervention along the
path, in front of the church, through the humble gesture of charity. Perhaps
I detected it in the eyes of a young girl on a way to school in the Rue
Saint-Honoré. I remain convinced deep in my heart that this country is near,
possible. It owes it to its memory, our memory, just as we owe it the
urgency of a rebirth.