RIP

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

in water.

***

 

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