In Translation: Heaven // Paradi Selès

A dual-language poem by Patrick Sylvain.


I have interviewed the dead. Dumbfounded.
They wanted to go to heaven, but Saint Peter
blocked their paths for not having shoes.

They were the shoemakers. They were gate
builders. Now, they are buried in unmarked graves
and lain face down in order not to see the pearls,
and the golden chariots of the angels, well-fed.

Paradi Selès

Mwen te entèvyouwe mò yo. Etoudi.
Yo te vle ale nan syèl, men Sen Pyè bare
wout yo poutèt yo pa te gen soulye.

Yomenm ki te kòdonye. Yomenm ki te
konstri pòtay. Kounye a, yo antere nan tonm anonim
epi kouche fas atè pou yo pa wè bèl kolye pèl,
ak charyo an lò zanj yo ki vrèman byen nouri.

Author’s Note

The translation is in Haitian (or, Haitian Creole). I write in English and in Haitian. My goal is to show that Haitian is the lingua franca of Haiti, and it must be valorized (more so than French, which is the language power).

Patrick Sylvain is a poet, writer, social and literary critic. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Published in several creative anthologies, journals, periodicals, and reviews including: African American Review, Agni, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, Chicago Quarterly Review, Ep;phany, Magma Poetry, Ploughshares, and Prairie Schooner. Sylvain has degrees from the University of Massachusetts (B.A.), Harvard University (Ed.M.), Boston University (MFA), and Brandeis University (PhD). Sylvain is an Assistant Professor at Simmons University, and he is also on faculty at Harvard University’s History and Literature Division. Sylvain’s poetry chapbook, Underworlds, is published by Central Square Press (2018), and he is the leading author of Education Across Borders: Immigration, Race, and Identity in the Classroom (Beacon Press, Feb 2022).

Appears In

Issue 18

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