Ma Ramon would fall upon the floor
feigning death at her children’s no’s
when they were too grown to force the bending

M’ pa palé anglé, she’d say, no eenglees
to tax collectors and those too dark to fall
within her notice. She a grand lady
of Abercrombie Street now the capital
was under the Queen and not the rusted
Republique. She did not
believe in London, the pappy show
that was the civil service, good jobs
for brown faces behind a desk.

She believed in land. Her own mystical origins
lay en la France, in red-haired green-eyed
aristocrats escaping guillotines and egalité
for seven mountains they would call their own
and though she had to marry black for money
she never forgot she was person of qualité.
She kept her parchment mother in lace and linen
photographed herself with all her siblings
maintained a piano in the parlor
for butter-skinned suitors with Creole tongues
to swirl the Castellan with dervish daughters
petticoats twining with worsted knickers.

Eh ben, Lucretia! Allé, Ena!  Oú ça, John?
Vini, Vivi!  Dansé, dansé!  Li beau, nuh?
Mes bel enfants, my beautiful cream children.

Copyright © 2001 R. Erica Doyle. This poem originally appeared in Best American Poetry, 2001. Used by permission of the author.