Story Publication logo December 13, 2010

Bebe's Wish


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Last January's earthquake destroyed Haiti's health care system, once at the forefront of the...

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Multiple Authors
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Image by Andre Lambertson,Haiti, 2010.

When you leave from here, head down
Canape Vert to your cooling hotel room,
to the breadfruit casserole and barbecue
chicken, to the closed in peace of your
life, say my name to Bon Dieu, say
the name Bebe—he is going to look
for me somewhere in Petion Ville
in the courtyard of L'ecole de la Republica
de Guatemala; behind the low white
wall, where a crowd of blue tarpaulin
huts, a home like a million homes
all over Port-au-Prince—he will find
me laughing, singing something by
Beyonce or maybe an old hymn
I have sung so often while pouring
water over my head in the piss-smelling
concrete alcove where we get clean;
he will see me earning my keep,
and from above, all there is to see
is the clumsy back of a man
hurrying to pour his waiting into
me, then the casual slip off, the
counting of gourdes, the talk
of family, the football score—
not tomorrow, maybe Thursday;
and he will hear me say something
tender, my voice trying to leave him
with just enough to look back
and see me as a girl, all new,
so he will come back, so it is
enough to see me as lovely, even
when he is confessing to the priest.
Bon Dieu will find me greasing
my hair, and he will know it is me,
Bebe, by my spirit; because it is all
I have now. Tell me, before you go,
what do you think I am worth, sir?
Tell me how much you would
pay for me, for just a piece of me
to take back with you, not
so much that your bags will be
too heavy on the flight, just enough
to slip in your pocket, like a talisman,
something that wherever you are,
you can take me out and sniff
me, remembering me—how much
for that part of me that must stay
lovely, sweet; that part that sees
in men's hands the promise of more—
how much would you pay? Today,
I charged fifty gourdes for the taxi man
to take me from behind, quick, short,
over in minutes, then he jumped
on the bike he parked inside my tent;
fifty gourdes. He had exact change,
then he said my name—Bebe, Bebe,
like you cheer a good football team—
was that enough?
Tonight, if I get a hundred
for a furtive transaction in the alley
beside the Digicel Building,
I will kiss him on the lips, give
him twenty gourdes back in change,
telling him to come back.
Is that enough? What will God
tell you to give me? Remember me,
Bebe with the full lips of Africa,
eyes the shape of almonds, Bebe
whose knows how to laugh
with sadness, Bebe, whose breasts
still stand tall, Bebe, queen of the
sugar walk, Bebe waving you goodbye.
Pray so that next time I see you I can say
to you that he did come by,
Bon Dieu, to see me, to tell me
how much I should ask for,
how much a man like you will pay
for this, for all of this right here.



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