May 1, 2020

We are so grateful to our dear friend, Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, for sharing a few of her works with us. Please read, listen, and share widely.


Writer, poet, actor and visual artist Michèle Voltaire Marcelin authored a novel “La Désenchantée” translated to Spanish as “La Desencantada”, and 2 other books of poetry and prose: “Lost and Found”, and “Amours et Bagatelles”, translated to Spanish as “Amores y cosas sin importancia”.
Michèle has been featured as one of the poets of the NewsHour on PBS, and interviewed by Maya Angelou and on CNN Español. She has performed her poetry onstage solo and with jazz musicians in New York, Paris, Montréal, Costa Rica, Cuba, Miami, Los Angeles.


Grief works from home at all hours (listen to audio recorded by Riva Nyri Precil here)

Sleepwalkers confined in a dream 
Six feet apart like barbed wire 
The days pass by without measure 
Calendars have been quarantined 

State your name and take a number 
Stand in line for time regained 
Only the mirror knows your face 
The mask you wear beneath your mask 

Don’t inhale the poisoned air 
Pass each other in silence 
The ground itself is a peril 
Keep your shadow at a distance 

Your chest filled with glass splinters 
Beware, Beware the crown of thorns 
It lights a fire between your eyes 
Delirium in Technicolor 

Don’t break silence with trifling words 
Thousands die behind closed doors 
Disposed of in mobile morgues 
In standard issue body bags 

They dig mass graves on Hart Island 
In parks where children ran and played 
Pine trees on which we carved our hearts 
Are now boxes that hold our dead 

Sorrow is never on holiday 
Misery is not on leave of absence 
We’ve exhausted all appeals 
Grief works from home at all hours 

Michèle Voltaire Marcelin – Brooklyn, April 2020


Nous n’irons plus à l’abattoir 

Ils nous ont bâillonés pour nous empêcher de protester 
Ils nous ont enfermés, affamés, epuisés 
Ils nous ont écorchés jusqu’au sang 
Ils pensaient que nous allions rester tranquilles 
Ils voulaient nous faire perdre l’espoir 
Mais nous n’irons plus à l’abattoir 

L’inquiétude est quotidienne 
L’épouvante est notre voisine 
La misère qui nous confine est une rigoise 
Un martinet 
Dans la pénombre 
Nous vivons à dix dans une chambre 
Quand aux repas, n’en parlons pas Nos enfants ne vont pas à l’école 
Nous nous habillons de pèpè 
Et nous allons par-çi, par-là 
Chercher la vie dans tous les coins 

Et parce qu’ils sont sans besoins 
Ils nous appellent irresponsables 
Les fonds de l’État sont leurs biens 
Ils passent dans leurs voitures blindées 
Cachés derrière leurs vitres teintées 
Leurs chiens n’ont pas de muselières 
Tous leurs murs ont des barbelés 

Ils nous ont bâillonés pour nous empêcher de protester 
Ils nous ont humiliés, exténués, opprimés 
Ils nous ont achetés à bon marché, vendus cher 
Ils pensaient que nous allions nous taire 
Ils voulaient nous faire oublier notre histoire 
Mais nous n’irons plus à l’abattoir 

Ils nous ont bâillonés pour nous empêcher de protester 
Mais nous gardons les yeux ouverts 
Mon frère 

Un jour nous briserons ces murs qui nous séparent 
Un jour, par la force militante des mots 
Nous saurons transformer le monde 
Afin que nous puissions vivre ensemble 
Car nous n’irons plus à l’abattoir. 

Michèle Voltaire Marcelin – Avril 2020


When this is over 

When this is over
The world will be wide open

I’ll claim your body
You’ll make mine a garden

You’ll plant wild flowers in my hair
I’ll build a beehive on your chest
Honey will run between my breasts
Rose apricots
will blush in bloom

Pomegranates will burst open
I’ll suck on your sugarcane juice
You’ll peel sweet lychees from my eyes
I’ll eat sea grapes
from your bushes

When this is over
Our room will be wide open
And as the breeze rustles the sheets
We’ll love each other wide open
Each keeping the other’s smell

I’ll build a dam for your eyes
You’ll never shed a tear again
Even of joy
Even to quench my garden’s thirst

When this is over
I’ll sing to the star that bears your name
You’ll tell the moon that you are mine
Our love will recreate the Spring

Michèle Voltaire Marcelin – Brooklyn, April 2020


What magic names of places
Shall I whisper in the dark
While you hold me
So we travel at least through the night
What sweet syllables of cities
Ancient or new
What bird-laden trees
In what gardens
Shall I offer you
So that at last I see the world with you
Walk with me
Through streets I’ve loved
In Buenos Aires, Aix, Lisbon, Jacmel
Keep your steps aligned with mine
Walk with me
In Venice
There is an alleyway called Paradiso
I want you to kiss me there
In Istanbul
A church of Holy Wisdom
Where we will light candles on the altar
There is somewhere in Port-au-Prince
A crumbling wall fired with hibiscus
Where blossoms wait to be chosen by you
To flower my hair
Or shall we go off on a barge
Floating on the Seine
When the city darkens and the bridges spread
Across the silent river
Will we be drunk with each other
Or will it be the boat dancing on the water
There is a stretch of sand I remember
In Valparaiso
Crusted with salt from the waves
We will leave our footprints there
Drink pisco in a secluded bar in Santiago
Sit in Pelhourino Square in Salvador
Later I will giggle as you carry me
Down the stairs to the Capri Grotto
Somewhere there is a bed unmade
In a New York hotel
Where we’ll return at dawn to make love
As sleepwalkers do
After seeing the ghosts of jazz musicians
At the Blue Note
Somewhere someday we’ll go away
But tonight let’s recite as we would poems
Names of places
That await our pleasure
Hold my hands my beloved
Look in my eyes
Tonight let’s travel in our dreams
While we remain immobile in the dark

Michèle Voltaire Marcelin – (Lost and Found 2009)