Barbara Ellen Sorensen: Dance of Manna

After ecstasy of rain-wash
on a red clay road in Petit Trou de Nippes,
a woman weaving
through a crowd of rara dancers
knelt to rub a white cotton
cloth into the earth.

She wiped it across her face,
then rose to caress
my face with it as I swayed
in near-dusk light,
all the words of missionaries,
their warnings,
passing into the pale
emptiness from where they came.

She spoke lovingly
to the earth in Creole song.
Around her clanged the deep
sounds of steel pipes molded to trumpets
and elongated horns.

Startled from sleep
on lemon tree branches,
hundreds of egrets
lifted into the air.
As they flew, I danced
as though I was the loa Ayizan.

I danced as though my body
was pounding out
red bone marrow-sound,
yellow bone marrow-sound.

I danced as a goat tied
to a tree bleated,
then opened its throat to a machete. Its blood
draining innumerable miracles
into a wooden bowl.

Sometime during that night,
a young Haitian man brought
coconuts, calabash, citrons
and laid them by the opening
of my tent.

When I woke, I was alone
on the land,
the wind against me.
Where was the woman
who had wiped my face
and blessed me?
I let the fruit go to waste,
to the black flies of morning,
denying the dance of manna, balm.

Lyons, Colorado, April 25, 2011

*   *   *
Barbara Ellen Sorensen does freelance writing for The Tribal College Journal, SACNAS News,  and Ecology magazine. She has published a chapbook, Song From the Deep Middle Brain, and her poems have appeared in numerous journals. She was accepted into Regis University’s College for Professional Studies, and plans to complete an MA in creative writing. From 1995-2000, Barbara accompanied medical personnel to Petit Trou, Haiti, where she assisted doctors and nurses in makeshift clinics. She co-authored a booklet, Lesson Sante Pou Ti Moun Ayiti, which was translated into both French and Creole, and reprinted in 2005. It is still being distributed to the children of Petit Trou today.


  1. Underestimated Diamond says:

    Very nice style of narrative writing. I like how it tells a story. I might use this tip for my writing. Great Poem.

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