The Poetry Corner – 13 April 2021

[To read an introduction to this column, please see the first paragraph of the initial post here]


This week I would like to feature a poem I found recently that I think is powerful and important to read. It is from the accomplished poet R. Erica Doyle, and her words about the poem are given at the end.




Where is She ::: Koté Li Yé


Long ago I met

a beautiful boy


Together we slept

in my mother’s womb


Now the street of our fathers

rises to eat him


Everything black

is forbidden in Eden


In my arms my brother

sleeps, teeth pearls


I give away the night

so he can have this slumber


I give away the man

who made me white


I give away the man

who freed my mother


I pry apart my skull

my scalp unfurls


I nestle him gray

inside my brain,


my brother sleeps

and dreams of genes


mauve lips fast against spine

he breathes. The sky


bends into my eyes

as they search for his skin


Helicopter blades

invade our peace:::


Where is that Black

Where is it



Blades slice, whine

pound the cupolas


I slide him down and out

the small of my vertebrae


He scurries down the bone

and to the ocean


navigates home

in a boat carved of gommier


When he reaches our island

everyone is relieved


though they have not

forgotten me, belsé


Where is

your sister, eh?



Koté belsé yé?



Koté li yé

Koté li yé

To the sand

To the stars on the sea


Koté li yé

Koté li yé

To the one-celled egun

To the torpid moon


Koté li yé

Koté li yé




Koté li yé

drapes across a baton;

glows electric in shine of taser;

pumped dry with glass bottle;




Koté li yé

vagina gape into the night;

neck dangle taut with plastic

bags and poorly knotted ropes;




Koté li yé




:::                  I burn


my skin shines blacker, lacquer


:::                  non-mwen sé                              flambó


ashes tremble in the moonlight


:::                  sans humanité


my smoking bones fume the future


:::                  pa bwè afwéchi pou lafiyèv dòt moun








“I shared my mother’s womb with a brother and feel infinitely protective of him; the killings of black men at the hands of the state feels personal, as does working against the causes of this violence, and this poem acknowledges the labor of black women to uplift and protect their communities. Like many other black women in the United States, I, too, have been subjected to racial profiling by law enforcement and am deeply affected by the stories of sexual abuse and murder of women—particularly black, trans, and indigenous women—by those in power. I wrote this poem in solidarity with the #SAYHERNAME movement, which seeks to elevate and address the abuse of and violence against women by authorities. The poem asks, both in English and in Trinidadian French Patois—my grandmother’s native language —‘where is your sister?’ which reminds us to always ask about women and girls. It ends with a Patois proverb that translates roughly to ‘you cannot cure your own illness with the medicine of another’—reminding us that to address injustice, we must use a fine-grained, intersectional approach.”
—r. erica doyle

Eli Neumann

Eli is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan majoring in English literature and minoring in Chinese Language and Culture. His column The Poetry Corner showcases poetry from around the world to let people see the beautiful and important work poets are doing in our time.

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