You sit, dripping on the gunwale, nostrils
flaring, your hemmed dress covering your knee
while I cut guff-rope from off your ankles.
“Ah’m chilled,” you chatter, “teur t’ bone, duppy.
Gi’ uz yaw rawny ‘eat.” What dead returns
when called? The boat bobbed on gray-green Haitian
waves. They had tried to snuff you; but salt burns
with ropes, entwined; fat moon with sickly sun,
enlaced; living with dead, conjoined. This, too,
is faith. I hug you. You cough up a lung,
laugh, stare: “duppy, ah knuw you’d cum.” You wince,
shifting back organs: “theur elwis cum.” True,
I do, for you. Your lips are cracked, your tongue
black, so I row us back to Port-au-Prince.
For the record I am not using any sort of Haitian accent in the poem, it is actually Yorkshire. A duppy is, traditionally, a malevolent spirit from the Caribbean (see: Bob Marley’s Duppy Conqueror, for popular use), though as with everything that people insist on making black and white I delight in the grays.