Haitian Water Bearer

There she kneels

with her woman’s burden:

2 clay pots

4 dull-eyed children

1 wayward husband

and 100 different ways

to stretch a gourde at the market

without making it pop.

Ah, je suis si fatiguée…


Smooth brow

a plateau of inner peace,

flared nostrils

breathing her own musk and

cooking smells from Ville-Boheur

down the hill.

c’est bon d’être seule quelquefois.


Still-proud breasts

rise and fall

with measured breaths

from the long trek

from her village,

shoulders tightly swathed

in fading bruises and cigarette burns

and a red/blue shawl of

Toussaint-like strength…

La femme, elle dois d’être forte dans ce temps.


Back erect

rising on one knee

ebony toes

clench dirt,

in an hour or two

upon her arrival home,

the anticipation of

a threatening hurricane of blows,

by now hardly enough

to make her falter.

After all, it was Maman’s lot

and now hers too-

pointless to lose eye water over it.

Ce n’est pas le chose le plus important.


Setting sun and sweat

gild long limbs,

one hand clasping bodom beads

around her neck,

they sway left, now right,

as she murmurs an offering,

it ain’t easy but still,

her children-

free from restavek status with

hours too long

work too fierce

and food too short-

could have power,

could learn to read.

C’est la vie, hein?


She rises-

hips rippling

to a silent meringue

bearing sloshing vessels homeward,

a little water breaking the relief of dust on her feet-


how women seem

to grip the secret

of wring

the blue cloth

of sorrow dry

to make wine.


© 2004 Sandra Sealy


Sandra Sealy is Principal Consultant & Writer of Seawoman Creative Media & an award-winning literary artist from Barbados. Read her blog piece "Bold Enough To Celebrate Creativity: How I Spent International Women's Day