To Ponder

Excerpts from the writings of Jacques Roumain, a Haitian poet and activist who lived in the early 1900s…

And Manuel embraced his mother and they laughed together: Délira’s laugh sounded surprisingly young; that was because she hadn’t really had the chance to make it heard; life was just not happy enough for that. No, she never had time to use it; she had kept it fresh as can be, like a birdsong in an old nest. 


Manuel showed her his open hand: “Look at this finger, how meager it seems, and this one even weaker, and this other one no stronger, and this one all by himself and on his own.” 
Then he made a fist: “But now, is it strong enough, big enough, solid enough? It seems so doesn’t it?” 


Being resigned is no good; it amounts to the same as being discouraged. It breaks your two arms, and you wait around for miracles and for Providence, holding your rosary, doing nothing. You pray for rain, you pray for the harvest, you do your litanies to the saints and to the loas. But, let me tell you, Providence is nothing but man’s will not to accept hardship, to tame, day to day, the earth’s bad will, to bend the water’s whims to fit his needs. Then the earth calls him ‘Dear Master’, and the water too calls him ‘Dear Master’, and there is no other Providence than his work as a serious peasant, no other miracle than the fruits of his hands. 


Misfortune is never invited. And it comes and sits at the table without permission and it eats, leaving nothing but bones. 


 We sing the funeral, as goes the custom, with the hymn of the Dead. But Manuel, he chose a hymn for the living: the song of the coumbite, the song of the earth, of the water, the plants, of fellowship between peasants because he wanted, as I now understand it, that his death for you be the renewal of life. 

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