Mud Mothers, A Poem by Lenelle Moïse

Mud Mothers

the children of haiti
are not mythological
we are starving
or eating salty cakes
made of clay

because in 1804 we felled

Mud Mothers

the children of haiti
are not mythological
we are starving
or eating salty cakes
made of clay

because in 1804 we felled
our former slave captors
the graceless losers sunk
vindictive yellow
teeth into our forests

what was green is now
dust & everyone knows
trees unleash oxygen
(another humble word
for life)

they took off
with our torn branches
beheaded our future
stuck our breath up on pikes
for all the world to see

we are a living dead example
of what happens to warriors who―
in lieu of fighting for white men’s countries―
dare to fight
for their own lives

during carnival
we could care less
about our bloated empty bellies
where there are voices
we are dancing

where there is vodou
we are horses
where there are drums
we are possessed
with joy & stubborn jamboree

but when the makeshift
trumpet player
runs out of rhythmic breath
the only sound left is guts

& we sigh
to remember
that food
& freedom
are not free

is haiti really free
if our babies die starving?
if we cannot write our names
read our rights keep
our leaders in their seats?

can we be free
really? if our mothers are mud? if dead
columbus keeps cursing us
& nothing changes
when we curse back

we are a proud resilient people
though we return to dust daily
salt gray clay with hot black tears
savor snot cakes
over suicide

we are hungry
creative people
sip bits of laughter
when we are thirsty
dance despite

this asthma
called debt
legendarily liberated


Nearly 30 years ago, I was born in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital; in General Hospital, one of the many buildings this terrible earthquake has destroyed. Many Haitian friends are writing to me, calling for comfort and prayers. They cannot find or connect with their loved ones on the island. They are at wit’s end. My own grandparents live down the road from the partially collapsed National Palace. We have not heard from them. We wait, horrified. Thousands have died. Millions are displaced, injured, traumatized and wailing. Haiti needs our collective cri de coeur, our respect, our love, our magic and our energy. Haiti needs immediate international support.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to text YELE to 501501 to donate $5 to musician Wyclef Jean’s earthquake relief effort. Yele is an effective grassroots organization that brought fast, direct assistance to the people during Haiti’s recent hurricane/flooding crises.

For those who can give more, journalist Rachel Maddow has compiled a list of links

Medical professionals can call 212-697-9767 to volunteer.  

Details about the earthquake can be found here

Thank you for keeping Haiti and its descendants in your thoughts, status updates, conversations and hearts. You know, the Haitian flag reads, L’Union Fait La Force… 

Unity Makes Strength, 
Lenelle Moïse