Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

R. Erica Doyle

R. Erica Doyle was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Trinidadian immigrant parents. She received a BA from Georgetown University, an MA from New York University, and an MFA from the New School. She is the author of proxy (Belladonna Books, 2013), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s 2014 Norma Farber First Book Award. A Cave Canem fellow, Doyle has received grants and awards from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Hurston/Wright Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. She will be the Poem-a-Day guest editor in July 2021, and lives in Brooklyn.

By This Poet

6

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
Where
::
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?
Whey?

Koté belsé yé?
Whey?

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
::
There:::

Koté li yé
drapes across a baton;
glows electric in shine of taser;
pumped dry with glass bottle;
::
There:::

Koté li yé
vagina gape into the night;
neck dangle taut with plastic
bags and poorly knotted ropes;
::
There::: 

Koté li yé
belsé
Koté?

:::	     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

Ma Ramon

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.

the density of history…

—Franz Fanon

I’m an AMERICAN

I like
to be happy

I don’t want
to feel bad

I want
to feel good
like

everything is all
right, even when
it’s clearly not

I’m so

LUCKY

I’m an American
and so

I’m LUCKY
too

I’m so LUCKY
that anytime I want to

I can find something
to make me HAPPY

Something cheap       Something pretty
easy. 

I can surround myself
with people convinced

that everything
is GREAT!

Unfortunately

I was raised by
NON AMERICANS
(people who were constantly              challenging my attempts)
(to construct this HAPPY):

“That’s what’s wrong
 with you
KIDS”

my father would say

“You’re
too 

HAPPY”

HAPPY meaning not
that we were not suffering

(for he made us suffer)

but that we were
AMERICAN

so succulently
part of that

happy American culture 
where we watched

Andy Griffith
till we felt nothing

but candy canes