Ketsia Theodore-Pharel: 3 Poems


The words
like mother’s milk
drip into my mind’s mouth
to comfort, to nurture

At first simple—even tasteless
with a sweet fattiness
made for me

Returning each time
blow after blow
to where it all started

Underneath the warmth of
words, the world
is new again



In the way we cry,
Oceans tear from shores pebbles;
Never to the same place returning.
Heat rises, leaving my feet
I cannot follow
Your grave place to see
Two hearts carried as one.

In the way we pry,
Sadness opens at intersections;
We ascend the place of
Virginity cursed.
Rounded, metal, girth
Carrying water
Bucket 1 or bucket 10
The world no notice makes.

In the way we try,
Hiding the stars by crowding the sky;
This jaded jewelry-box affair
Unwrapping in the same
Quick way your fingers
Always tears through my white lace shirt.

I only wonder now, as
Cesaria sings, if you remember
Our love in St. Vincent.



The numbers rise against me
Like sand dunes, covering all paths to light:
1091 Blue Cross Blue Shields,
980 COBRA 897 Aetna, and 892 Cigna—
12 months pregnancy exclusion for all.

The numbers gnaw at my side
The way turkey buzzards feast on road kill:
19 times seven
10 – 23 expected date of delivery.

The numbers tie my legs
Anchoring me to the dark seas of “no”s:
one and then two centimeters dilated.
The ratios are all wrong–
Non-qualifying ratios.

The numbers mount me
Possessing me
I spiral into hormonal tear fests
Three, four, and twenty-five
Sobs rack my swollen abdomen.

The benefit coordinator sighs
offering me the now usurped box of tissue.
She pulls me aside to say,
“Off the record–do what everybody do:
Put yo house in you mama’s name
And yo car in yo sista’s name.”

The numbers condemn me
Bars of fear steel my body.
2 w-2’s showing 85.66 percent over
The poverty line.
“BA, MA–hm. I see all that on your application”
She states, unmoving.

The numbers pulverize me.
.06 millage rate, 15th percentile.
The benefits coordinator hands me
My flunking marks, but puts in a kind suggestion,
“Well, there’s the last resort–cross the border
And have yo baby in Canada.”


Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Marie Ketsia Theodore-Pharel is the author of the novel Rope, part of the Grace Donner Trilogy. She earned a Bachelor’s from Tufts University and a Master’s in English from UMass Boston.  Her most recent publications include “Kako Blood” in The Caribbean Writer, 2011; “Mercy at the Gate” in the acclaimed anthology Haiti Noir, edited by Edwidge Danticat in 2011; “Haiti: a Cigarette Burning at Both Ends” published in Butterfly Ways: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, edited by Edwidge Danticat.  Her children’s books include Beauty Walks in Nature (2010), Songs from a Tower (2009), Keeper of the Sky (2007), One More Daughter, America (2006), Daughter of the House (2005), A Fish Called Tanga (2003), and I’ll Fly Away (1999).  Her short stories published in magazines include “The Mango Tree” in Compost magazine (1994); “Light Chocolate Child” in Onyx (1995), and “Soup Joumou: Diary of a Mad Woman,” in African Home Front magazine (1996). Théodore-Pharel currently lives in Homestead, Florida with her children and husband.


%d bloggers like this: