In the Haitian vodou tradition, it is believed by some that the souls of the newly dead slip into rivers and streams and remain there, under the water, for a year and a day. Then, lured by ritual prayer and song, the souls emerge from the water and the spirits are reborn. These reincarnated spirits go on to occupy trees, and, if you listen closely, you may hear their hushed whispers in the wind.
–Edwidge Danticat, “A Year and A Day”
people know the way things go around here
like vapor, heavy, hard to see. they will extract
their bodies, count from one to three
deduce the incident from the speedometer
and brake. they will not correct the mistakes
the newspaper makes, or off-road—next to
Little River—tape the coroner’s report to a stake
with flowers. for three hours, her body bathes
she’d lost her way back. in the passenger’s seat,
the child bobbed, a crushed doll, while the metal
clanks cooled in the flank. here—bodies will find her.
some hear them call. the car seat came down,
undone, after all, turned her right side up, out
of the water. they’ll linger here—touch. remove
the daughters. tire the car’s casing, the parts
made visible by the floodlight, as it drags
the river’s mouth.
to find them, follow the cricket’s sticky click.
in the humid, thick Mississippi red earth, roof
crumples like crepe paper. people know the way
things go around here, and there will be none
of that. after three hundred days, count
sixty-five more. take deep, slipping breaths.
salt water rips one awake. some figure angels
await. another figures every day you die, every
day you’d wake.
*previous version of this poem published in Unlikely Stories