Weekly Feature: Poetry at The Arts Fuse
Welcome to “Poetry at The Arts Fuse.” A new poem, every Thursday.
Meatloaf died and Judy Woodruff was established behind the PBS desk
In her easy properness to announce the singer Meatloaf had died,
Having been most famously known for his album Bat out of Hell.
She pronounced each word crisply, earnestly in her non-coolness,
And authority. I loved her for it, yet sensed—this is ridiculous—she
Should have said Bat outta Hell, cracked a sly French joke, said something
Louche, but she is Judy Woodruff, and I felt how Haitian the moniker
Meatloaf is, for an opera-singing rock star. In attitude (not etymology,
Which hits more Germanic). How we have Languichatte Débordus,
Tongue of Cat Outrageous, if this can be translated at all, and Maurice
Sixto’s Mèt Zabèlbòk Bèrachat, Professor Avocado Cat Butter (I kid
You not), whose cognitive dissonance deliciously unfurled in skits
That rode diasporic and national airwaves. So I called my friend
Jean-Guerly Pétion out in Cali, because he would understand
completely when I told him: We need to start a band called Viand Moulu
(Ground Beef), the closest we will arrive in Haitian culture to the feeling
And dégustation evoked by meatloaf. The band would have as its origin-
Story the night we lamented and celebrated Meatloaf, Judy Woodruff,
And independent television. Being a musician, Jean would oversee
Sound. I would write lyrics and sing. What do I know about instruments?
I have a good reading voice, I am told, and know. How else would I
Dare consider serving as the lead singer of Viand Moulu, which would
Appear in the dark of an Internet night, present itself for consumption
To audiences of outliers and artists, and make four YouTube Videos
In which our faces would be obscured and our forms sartorially
-Resplendent. Exactly how this balance of light and shadow would be
Achieved is another question, and the first agenda item of the second
Meeting of the band in its full goal of ephemeral stardom and esoterica.
That night, we mulled over the pros and cons of the band name in Kreyòl:
Vyann Mouli, to be more down—and in an expanding vision, added
Back-up singers christened Les Pikliz (after the spicy relish: the bright vegetables
Displayed so magnificently in a bed of vinegar, seen through a clear jar: orange
Of carrots julienned, translucent onion slivers, the robust bulbs of garlic,
And green cabbage)—and so we would not be viewed as zuzu Francophones
(On account of a French band name), but decide to keep Viand Moulu
For reasons of global audience reach. Think of it: Martinique, Guadeloupe,
All of Francophone Africa. And Francophone Africa outside of Africa.
Vanuatu, oh, and yes, France and Canada too. Some of the songs would
Be tongue-in-cheek, of course, and others expressed in pure sincerity
Like the glorious rendering of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta
Flack done so equally gloriously by Kandace Springs that I nearly burst
Into tears when I heard it for the first time. Like the songs of the past
And the songs to come mixing together in a dish that makes you cry.
How I miss my Haitian elders with their sun, and prim, and attention
To detail. Their elegance so natural it stood uncut, their Blackness so
Solid it stood without needing a name.
Danielle Legros Georges’s most recent book is Island Heart, translations of the poems of 20th-century Haitian-French poet Ida Faubert (Subpress Books, 2021). Her awards include fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MASS MoCA, the PEN/Heim Translation Fund, and the Black Metropolis Research Consortium. She is the former Poet Laureate of Boston; a professor of creative writing at Lesley University; and creative editor of sx salon, a digital forum for explorations of Caribbean literature.
Note: Hey poets! We seek submissions of excellent poetry from across the length and breadth of contemporary poetics. See submission guidelines here. The arbiter of the feature is the magazine’s poetry editor, John Mulrooney.
— Arts Fuse editor Bill Marx