Poems by Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné


Image courtesy of A. Davey. Shared via a Creative Commons license.



Five Songs for Petra


They say my great-grandmother was mad,
but I like to think she flew into herself,
got trapped in the wool of her feline heart
and decided to stay there.



He was already married when he met her.
Her name juts from the borders of his own,
half-Carib woman with a forest in her bones,
mother of his mad children, she who would dare,
with her sharp white teeth, to try and eat him alive.



They say my great-grandmother lived alone in the leaning house.
I slept there once, long after her death,
my body rocked between the walls by
a slow August earthquake.
I smelled her in the damp floorboards.
The syllables of her name
rolled through the broken windows like
swollen fruit and grating metal.

That was how I found her.



He was already married when he met her,
but there was something about her
that caught him, pierced his skin.

Her love was an unsheathed claw.

He waited, tunneled around in the flute
of her hip to find the sound
of himself.

But soon, the beasts around the bed
would not let him in. The house bulged
with books and bared teeth.

When she began to sing to the trees,
he decided it would be best
to remain whole.



There is a door that leads
down a broken hill. Trees grow there,
but are dark, burdened with moss
and too much hunger.
If she walked here, with her dogs
barefoot and half-blind, then
I might still find her.

If I go mad, like she did,
I wonder if he will stay.




This is not a poem about
the sound of my voice.

This is a poem about ribs,
and about how hard it can be
to hold a body together.

This is a poem about your last life,
where you lived among
the hard white trees, where
the man with smoke on his hands
held you,
as though
there would be no lives
but this.

Remember this: the night
will not leave you.
There is nothing here
to outlive.

Each time you wipe the earth
from your wet heart,
you find this poem
happening on your tongue,
hot, gritty and new.

For it is hard to keep poems
from claiming your bones,
especially when you are prone
to reckless memory.

It is hard to keep poems
from curling along your spine
and blooming, especially
when there is nothing to be had
beyond your window but
bricks and bright noise.

So gather your lives
and keep them here:
against your left lung.

For you see, this is a poem
about longing. It is not about
the sound of my voice at all.

This is a poem
About ribs.



A Hammer to Love With

On her sixteenth birthday
you gave her a hammer,
told her
here, love with this.

Love has been hard
since then, and brittle.

You’ve gone ten years
without sleep, five years
without silence.

Today she lets you in,
mines the cracks
in her bones with the
point of her tongue
and listens.

You straighten the sheets, crush
fennel seeds in her tea
to keep the gods at bay.
How any man can survive her
is beyond your wisdom, but
in some way you are proud
of the thing she’s become.

When did it happen,

she asks, as she always will,
her tongue bruised
from the night’s work.

When did it start?

You remember, oh yes.
She must’ve been seventeen,
dragged him home bleeding from the mouth
and singing in godstongue.
Between her bone-sharp teeth,
the hammer, dark and glistening.

Or at least that’s how you remember it.

You say nothing,
wipe the spilt marrow
from her breasts.
feed her, spoon idle talk
into her bitten mouth.

You do what you can.

Oh, this one is difficult,
you can tell by her eyes.
She is afraid he might undo her,
take her by the hips
too gently


the wound

too slowly.

But you smell the bones
buried shallow in the bed.
She will manage him,
like she always does.
There is no tenderness
here, not since

Tonight you will comfort yourself
with smoke and prayer.
When she licks her way
into him, you will wish
you hadn’t heard the cry,

wish you hadn’t said the words

But it is finished, you tell yourself.
And it is not your doing.
After all, a heart too soft
will fail, collapse in the lung,
send you  fumbling for a body
to breathe for you.

You know this better than most.

After all,
anything, swung hard enough
will kill a man,
hammer and heart alike.


Daniel Boodoo-Fortuné is a poet and artist from Trinidad. Her work has been featured in several international journals. She was awarded the Charlotte and Isidor Paeiwonsky Prize by The Caribbean Writer’s editorial board in 2009, nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010, and awarded the Small Axe Poetry Prize in 2012. Danielle’s first solo art exhibition, Criatura, was held in June 2013 at the Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago. You can view more of her images and writing at her blog Half-Broken Things.