Published on Academy of American Poets (

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


Copyright © 2018 by r. erica doyle. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“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


R. Erica Doyle

R. Erica Doyle is the author of proxy (Belladonna Books, 2013), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s 2014 Norma Farber First Book Award. She lives in Brooklyn.

Date Published: 2018-10-25

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