and for Fredy Villanueva
murdered in a park in Montreal North by the police
It was a sunny day.
Fredy was not even 20.
supporting role in your own existence
the tree lashed down to the earth’s womb
is freer than you
for a country i gave you a land
with a strange name
no language spoken by its men
could ever decline your dreams
I condemned you to the perpetual margins
your speech will join only the cry of birds
without a nest
your clamors will terrify only your own shadow
for a country I gave you
a land that curses each of your steps
the word fraternité, you know,
is just there for decoration
I don’t cry or doubt or despair
I simply open my eyes
to the paths you have to travel
I see trees freer than you are
my womb wails like a newborn
what I brought into the world is a galley slave
translated from the French by Corine Tachtiris
Marie-Célie Agnant was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and has lived in Montreal since 1970. She is the author of four novels, a collection of short stories, and two collections of poetry as well as various books for young readers. This poem comes from her collection Et puis parfois quelquefois… (2009). Her work has appeared in translation in English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Korean.
Corine Tachtiris specializes in the translation of contemporary women writers from the French Caribbean, Africa, and the Czech Republic. Her translations have appeared in The Stockholm Review, Small Axe’s sxsalon, Metamorphoses, Transference, and Legs et littérature. She is the recipient of a 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant.