06/27/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Haiti: Trip to the Moon

by Peter Costantini ~ Seattle

When I was in Miami in 2004 to cover the elections, I had dinner in a Haitian restaurant in Miami Beach called Tap-Tap. I picked up a flier there that had a poem printed on it. It was by a Haitian poet, yet it captured the zeitgeist of the days just after the reelection of George W. Bush.

Later I learned that the poet, Félix Morisseau-Leroy (Feliks Moriso-Lewa), was the father of poetry in Kreyol, the lingua franca of all Haitians. (French is taught in the schools and widely spoken, but most poor Haitians don't have many years of education.) As a result of his efforts, the government recognized Kreyol as an official language.

Morisseau-Leroy was exiled by the dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier. He spent many years in France and Africa, teaching and promoting the development of national literature and theatre in Ghana and Senegal. Eventually, he settled in the Haitian community of Miami, where he continued to write and teach until his death in 1998.

Rereading my blog from that trip, I noticed that Tap-Tap was doing a benefit drive at the time for the victims of floods caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne. Two thousand four hundred Haitians died, one thousand were missing, and two hundred thousand were made homeless.

Trip to the Moon

I'm going to take a trip to the moon
I've had it with life down here
Everything's already been said
I'm on my way to the moon
On the moon there's neither bad nor good
Neither stupid nor wise
No people from cities or from the hills
All men are men on the moon
There they speak just one language
I'm finished with life down here
Civilization has spent my fuel
Also broken my soul
Everywhere I turn to look
Life turns in on itself
Civilzation has finished this race
So I'm going to live on the moon
It stopped being civil ages ago
I'm taking a trip to the moon
They tell me there's no king on the moon
No section chief
Or country judge
They tell me there's no overseer
And, no, not even a pope
I've got to go to the moon
Great, I tell, you, it's got to be great
The night is clearer than day
No time, no time for sleep at all
No time for work or play
At night I'll watch the earth's clear glow
Clearer than the sun
The stars are as close as fireflies on trees
And on the moon there is no heat
No cold
Or mud
Everyone there has forgotten war
Civilization, too
The old have even forgotten disease
I'm going to live on the moon
In the evening I'll tell stories to the kids
And if they ask what the earth is like
I'll tell them it always spins
Held up by a bogeywomen they call Civilization
Who crushes people like ants

- Félix Morisseau-Leroy
(Translation by Jeffrey Knapp)

Mèsi Papa Moriso.