Pina Piccolo



For the voice of Queen Anacaona, Haiti's ancestral mother

Winnie Tilin, 16 month old
Heroic Haitian Child
Proclaimed so  by your uncle Franz
Lone survivor
Of your line
Pearl of Hispaniola
Daughter of the daughters of Queen Anacaona
Serenely surveying us
With the regal glance
Of those who stand  beyond good and evil. 

Black rosebud blooming from the twisted entrails of the earth
For you ancestral mothers have created
A coffer of precious air
Just like the one that hid the jewels
Stolen by the old time buccaneers
Of Bertrand D'Orgeon, the one whose
Tobacco plantations
Were in need of  strong, black hands.

And now you observe us quietly and do not scream
While the white hands of an all-male 
Australian television troupe
Act as midwife
And all the saints
Of Toussaint L'Overture
The Black Jacobin 
Bow to you.

Rejoice in their presence
While the burials linger on
And slowly nocturnal chants rise among the evacuees
Descendants of black rebel slaves
Who bivouac with the souls of the Taino
Chasing away with their Creole freedom songs
Broadcasted once upon a time on agronomist Jean Dominique's radio 
The demons of the West breathing out 
Of airport runways
As in olden days they used to from caravels
Docked at Mole Saint Nicole
From which many centuries later
The wretched of the earth took sail 
In make-do vessels 
Just to be thrown back to the sharks by "maritime interdictions"
a.k.a.  in other countries with the imaginative term "push-backs".

Sharks, tiburones, they too with strange names
Like Papa Doc and Baby Doc while a priest
Who beat the drum of justice
Elected by public acclaim
Was declared insane
By the nearby hegemonic power
And forced
He, the President of what had been
180 years before
The first black republic
To seek asylum in the last 
Nation to free itself of apartheid.

Spit on that black water
The Blackwater
That now in the airport
Is put in plastic bottles
To be handed out as it was in Basra
As it was handed out to all the saints of New Orleans
Who were taking shelter upon rooftops with their music
It's being handed out by the same old wolves
Dressed in sheep's clothing
Neither winning a Nobel Peace Prize
Nor donning a charity cloak
Can make their soul fresh and  clean

While people are dying of thirst
Waiting for the right security conditions
While pillagers are laughing in their glass palaces
And journalists are crying out "Looter!"
If a starving wretch 
Dares grab a piece of bread
Sticking out of the ruins of a supermarket.

May the brightness of the  white rompers
You were lovingly wrapped in by ta maman
Three days before she merged her spirit
With those of her ancestors
Shine the light of Revelation  on the half disclosed plots
Of those who with ferocious mildness 
Ply their heinous trade
Of Rubble Banker.

"Un published poem, written in honor of the 16 month girl, Winnie Tilin, found alive under the rubble 63 hours after the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. "

For Mahmoud Darwish, whispering his soul over Gaza

You were taken by a merciful death, Mahmoud 
Lest phosphorous devour your heart 
A chorus of stones answered 
As the Strip lay awash in wrath 
And a swallow looked and wept 
As the bricks came unwrapped 
And the song of ages drowned 
The knocks of unmanned flight 
As a tribe of pigeons cooed a baby alone
sleeping through the night 
And the ghosts of the olive groves 
Bereft of poet 
Sang the Buraq back to life. 
January 2009
(published online in the Palestine Chronicle)


What makes your eyes 
Miriam Makeba,
This  last night
On the stage of your passing?

Great Merciful  Goddess
You restrained yourself from summoning
Your thread cutting Fates 
To walk her through
The great portal:
Not the death 
Of a puppet
You decreed fitting
For her
But that of 
A woman of integrity
Who sang of freedom 
In every corner of the world.

Freezing night, up there whipped by the wind
A semi-deserted square
Out in the sticks
Somewhere in the South
On a wheel chair
Arthritis roaring in your bones
Discouragement laying siege to your heart
After sixty years giving battle
You can't take it no more
People asking you for
That silly Pata Pata
Yet your eyes shine
Like those of a baby.

Zenzile Miriam Makeba
In your lap between your hands
Visible only to the eyes of the righteous
The gift of the Great Mother
The prism
That breaks down the fine boundary
Between what we are allowed to see
And what is hidden from us.

No tutus for the dying song
Of the black swan
For this final Saraband
An empress dress
Beads and gold courtesy of 
Ob Ob Exotic Fashions
Sartoria di CastelVolturno
Orbiting around you, Miriam
Zenzele Makeba
Six boys
Who went nameless
For days
In infamy by the press.

Ooooon myyy  riiight 
Resplendent with his tambourine in hand
Yell out their names
Because the word
Creates worlds
And encapsulates
The Casalesi bullets
Sure missed
This core
Oooon myyyy  leeeeft
At his pirate drum
 Breaks loose
To cover up the crackling
Of Kalashnikovs
Aaat the keyyyyyboards
My own very grandchild
The most excellent
NELSON         LUMUMBA       LEE
No need for introductions
Two names - one programme

Iiiin froooont of yooou
Frenetic in the dance
The nimblest, most harmonious
(actually one of them  a bit awkward
An African without rhythm)
Secret ambassadors
Of Ghana, Togo and Liberia
For you the children of Africa
Have organized the first rebellion
Of blacks
On Italian soil
For you now
The band is playing.

And fiiiinally ERIC AFFUM YEBAOD 
With his glorious saxophone
You've come a long way, since waiting in your car
All bashful
For them to bring you your 
Patched up trousers
Now perform your talent
In the eyes of the world.

The new, very latest, very last band
Of Lady Miriam
"Sings the blues"
Mama Afrika
The Empress of African Song
Wrapped like a Goddess
In precious cloth
Courtesy of Ob Ob Exotic Fashions
World renowned designers of CastelVolturno
She came back
To reclaim her children
Missing in the Diaspora
Wave upon wave
 For the past sixty thousand years.

Sing, goddess, 
Not the rage of Achilles the son of Peleus,
The destructive rage that sent countless ills on the Achaeans...
But the beauty of sound
Polyphonic and stuttering
Syllables that soar
Circle and fall
Like crows 
Whose wings are shattered
By  hurricanes to come. 

For Azania Speaks Conference, November 17, 2008
(published online in the journal Kuma)
"I don't know if this needs explanation for the American public. Miriam Makeba died on stage in a small town outside of Caserta (near Naples) where she had gone for a benefit concert for an educational project, just miles away from the town where about a month before 7 immigrant African workers had been killed by the Cammora (the local Mafia). I imagined her introducing them one by one as her band, during her final concert)) "

A Mother's Day Triptych (2012)

I. The mother of invention

As she sat there unfulfilled
Under that fig tree
gratuitously  cursed 
For its barrenness
The mother stared at the well

The water reeked
 And the pulley creaked
And the choice was not a good one

But then she remembered 
The power in her cane
Then she remembered that 
You can strike water
Like  you can strike oil
Like you can strike gold

And guided by the drops
That plumped up her cells
Guided by a memory of jugs
Sitting on women's heads
Guided by the waters that broke 
Many years ago in her body
And those that flowed in her pleasure
She set off to re-invent necessity.

II. Days of smoldering and incantations

Days of smoldering and incantations While at the junction feet fail to lift As you listen to the birds Crying out their tweets And lizards lay glued To steaming rocks Days of thunder at a distance And sunspots beckoning A glowing motion To continental drift As the stuffed and the starving sit Waiting for the drone to strike And deliver Fear in the soul.

III. In praise of those unwilling to suspend disbelief

Not that they ever asked us Whether we agreed To suspend our disbelief They assumed we had done it For so long It had become our second skin Not that they ever asked us Whether We might have second thoughts About us and our offspring And the seven generations Staying in that scaly chrysalis Wrapped in our spit And theirs Our wings never breaking free Condemned to the crampedness Of a still birth

(unpublished, the third piece was published in an Italian tranaaltion in the anthology "Cuoredi preda" a female poets' anthology against violence o0n women that came out in 2012)



The planets blaring symphonically
At the rhythm and rage of crickets 
You'd better listen to the dispatches sent 
As they scour their delicate limbs
In this summer of orbs and fires running wild

In this longest inhabited city in the world
You skulk to avoid the sharpshooter
Embers under your feet
Can't even slouch towards Bethlehem 
Carrying the weight of a crumbling colossus
On your frail shoulders

Not all that is solid melts into 
That scorching Sahel wind
Some is trapped in translucent phase
And powers the blades
That turn the dream


Scatter around the petals
Of that Damascene rose
Wash the feet of the dreamer
Who threads on the thin
Filaments of dignity

She doesn't fall from a high horse
Blinded by soul numbing visions
She walks the earth
Scattering about
The petals of deferred dreams


You sit in the eye of the storm
As the shackles of the West
And the cowardice of the East
Tighten around the wrist
Of brown hands picking 
The rotten fruit of inequality
To be served on the tables of power

You dance in the eye of the storm
As flares breaking free from the sun
Millions of miles away
Perhaps radiate a soul purifying heat 

You are blowing in the eye of the storm
As the species teeters
Between dream and nightmare
Evolution or extinction
With its nail of unmanned flight
And its crown of resilient queen bees 

(Published in the online journal The Palestine Chronicle)