a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Kristina Moriconi


From Here to Gressier

1

 

She walks among the living for miles,

days, breaks down,

 

carries on,

 

makes her way to a clinic in Christianville,

 

her pain, swelling,too much to bear.

 

Along dirt roads, past mass graves

 

and piles of debris,past heads bowed

 

in prayer, bodies bent over

lifting the dead,

 

heaving bodies,

 

past goats rummaging through plastic bags

and emptied bottles,

 

rotted foodand waste,

 

she dreams her son in her arms,

the warmth of him,

 

the weight,

 

speaks as though he can take in, latch on

to every word.

 

2

 

In this country, the ocean is a mirror,

its surface

 

divides the worldof the living

 

from the world of the dead.

 

Spirits linger, take part in the communion

 

everlastingon earth

 

but nothing is left here for them now,

nowhere to go.

 

She once believed it had been a blessing

that no one really dies in Haiti,

 

since it had always been such a violent,

bloody place,

 

but perhaps now to depart, to fall

 

through the sacred pooland keep falling

 

might be the only way to find peace.

 

3

 

The doctor is American, on a mission trip

with Forward Edge,

 

there in hope of helpingand healing himself.

 

That he is at the clinic when she arrives

is fate:sò, destine

 

that will twistand swerve,

 

bend and break, turn

 

and translateinto their story.


Biopsy

What he takes from her is small—

a dense sample—and he smuggles it back

 

to the States in an empty bottle,

wraps it in a sock, buries it in his suitcase.

 

There is no other way to know,

though he has suspicions,

 

sends it off to a lab in his city

to be stained, magnified,

 

examined between glass slides

beneath a microscope.

 

The word pathology

derives from the Greek

 

for the study of pain and suffering.

This desire to help others

 

is a kind of knowledge—

translational here, it moves

 

between the work of research

and the practice of medicine.

 

Clinical nature and site noted:

Left posterior mandible.

 

Eleven slides: cell nuclei stained

blue, cytoplasmic parts pink.

 

The body, rendered in contrast,

abstract art. Peripheral cells

 

cuboid to columnar, tumor islands

exhibiting hyper-cellularity,

 

depicting mitotic figures

and sequestrum (dead bone).


A Universal Language

On the night before surgery, the doctor cooks dinner for her,

for the two translators who help him to communicate

 

in French and Creole. Everything he makes is fresh,

like in her country, from the earth, unspoiled, yielding.

 

With a long knife, he slices, sweeps aside nine heads

of red snapper, inserts the steel tip of the blade

 

between skin and flesh, on the dorsal side of the body,

separates soft fillet from the small bones of spine.

 

Pink and gray guts left splayed on wooden planks,

the stink of entrails as he drags his finger end to end.

 

On another countertop, he cuts inch-long stems

from black mushrooms, flips their caps into a cast-iron pot

 

on the stove, water rolling to a boil. The kitchen, larger

than the tent she left behind, smells like her homeland.

 

Minced shallot and garlic, bay leaves, sprigs of parsley

and thyme, cloves ground with mortar and pestle,

 

chile pepper, a trace of citrus in the air. White rice

simmers in water darkened by mushrooms, turns black.

 

Next, his hands push a smaller knife through to the stone

of mango, again and again, pieces tumbling into a clay bowl,

 

sticky with juice, strings of pulp clinging to the rim,

to the spaces in between his fingers. His salsa recipe

 

calls for dicing, for several jalapenos finely chopped.

Finally, as he shreds the spooled leaves of coriander,

 

they all gather around the island, raise their glasses

in a toast to tomorrow, demen, and to no pain, san doulè.

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Kristina Moriconi is a poet, essayist, and visual artist whose work has appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines including Sonora Review, Brevity, Cobalt Review, Lumina, as well as many others. She is the winner of Terrain.org’s 11th Annual Nonfiction Contest, her winning essay forthcoming in early 2021. Moriconi’s work has been included in the anthology Flash Nonfiction Food (Woodhall Press 2020), and her lyric narrative In the Cloakroom of Proper Musings was published by Atmosphere Press in August 2020.


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