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

Jerrice J. Baptiste


River’s Wish

 

River loves peacock feathers. She wants to wear one in her long braid down her back. The elder women tell her “It’s a bird of gratitude. Its feathers remind us to say thank you for all the beauty that surrounds us.” Each time River strolls the path to the monastery she wishes to find a feather. One day, while admiring the blueness of sky, her sandal steps over a feather. She picks it up and knows the blue and green plumage belongs to a peacock.

The elders will be disappointed if she parades the feather. River thought she’d be happy to have one, instead she was sad. Walking to the monastery with her head down, an elder sees her and asks “Why do you look so sad my little one?” River sobs in the arms of the elder woman as they sit on the grass. She hands over the beautiful feather. The elder woman wipes her tears with her lavender silk scarf and says “How did this happen?” River tells the elder “I was looking up at the sky and thought how beautiful it is today then, I stepped on the feather.”

The elder woman kisses River’s moist cheeks. She says “River this is excellent news. You’ve done well by admiring our exquisite sky. You are the most grateful.” They both get up from the grass and continue on the path to the monastery. River is overjoyed by the news and welcome of the elders.

She tells the story and they envelop her in a big warm hug. Her village has come to know her as the most grateful girl. She wears her peacock feather humbly as she admires all that surrounds her.


Fruit Bearers

 

Papayas, mangos, cherimoyas, passion fruits are arranged in woven baskets. Lima’s sweat glistens in the corner of her eyes. A headscarf protects her scalp from where the basket sits, and her left hand holds the rim. The sweet aroma of fruits bombards the air, as Lima follows the long line of women in front of her heading to the street market from their village in the mountains.

Grace, the first woman leads the line with a call and response song. She also watches where she places her feet, avoiding small stones and rocks, and all of the women follow her body’s motion. The women cross a stream bare feet, Lima holds her sandals in her free hand. She’s the youngest fruit bearer learning to balance a wide purple and white basket on her head, and singing along. Bellies growl with hunger. They take rest under tall coconut trees.

After some time of eating young fleshy coconuts, they wipe their faces with a handkerchief, sit their baskets on their headscarves and continue on their journey. Lima is pleased she has arrived to the street market with her basket full of fruits. The women are happy that their journey went well. They sprinkle some seeds of gratitude on the ground.


Goodness in the Mountains

 

At one hundred-three years old, Monsieur Bonté hikes the mountains with his walking stick. He likes how banana leaves brush against his arms. Snakes curled up cooling off on flat rocks don’t hiss at Monsieur Bonté. All of the animals, insects and plants allow him to greet them with a stroke of his index finger. They soften their eyes and body with his touch.

Once, while walking on his daily path, he picked up a bird with a broken wing. Monsieur Bonté stroked his silky blue plumage in his palm for half a day sitting by a mountain stream. By noon, the bird flew into the trees. His vibrant whistle filled the whole land and Monsieur Bonté’s heart.

The villagers named him Monsieur Bonté because his goodness radiates to all. He hasn’t spoken in forty-three years. His silence shocked his village. He decided to stop speaking and pay all of his attention to the fervent land. As he walks his path each day through the mountains with his tall stick, all the villagers enjoy catching a glimpse of his healing presence.

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Jerrice J. Baptiste is a native of Haiti, and has published eight books. Her poetry has been published and is forthcoming in The Yale Review; Mantis; Lolwe; Kosmos Journal; Shambhala Times; The Caribbean Writer; Rigorous; West Trestle Review; The Minetta Review; Penumbra Literary & Art Journal; Claw & Blossom; and So Spoke The Earth: Anthology of Women Writers of Haitian Descent. Jerrice was the recipient of a residency for The Women’s Leadership Program at The Omega Institute in NY, 2019.


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