Letter to Bondyè
By Reine Duell Bethany
Bondyè, Today I have become a thing unheard of: I have become your Divine Horse.
I cannot explain what has happened—why I am so certain it is you who possessed me and not one of the loas. It is presumption beyond words to imagine contact with you, the single God who directs all the loas. Furthermore, you did not possess me during seremoni, and seremoni is the time of possession, of hearing you through your servants the loas. No loa ever chose to ride me, but my mother has been chosen. To see her laughing raucously once she stopped her trembling, speaking boldly as she never did in everyday life, and prancing with strength and abandon across the floor of the ounfors, I knew that Erzulie Danto was speaking through her, exhorting kind behavior from the men toward their wives, threatening revenge on men who did not obey. And last night, when old Claude commanded the Baptist missionary to leave the ounfors and let the spirits avenge the blood shed by the Haitian National Police, I knew Ogoun spoke, not Claude. The missionary had nothing to give us: we needed strength from the loa of war.
Yet today when the U.N. soldiers and the police invaded Cité Soleil, when I was calling upon Ogoun, you came to me instead, and I died and rose, though my body is only damaged and not destroyed. I lie here across the bodies of Dante and Jean-Mars, trying to look as dead as they, beneath the pure sun that makes Haiti seem so bright and calm in tourist photos. I lie and know I was like my two friends, full of assurance from the loas and ready to kill or die—but never can be like them again. I have been burned up as completely as if I had swallowed the sun and become a dazzling flame. My mother will not understand me; my friends and neighbors will not accept me; the Roman Catholic priests will not listen if I tell them that Bondyè, the Overarching Lord of all the gods, the good one who sends the loas and the saints to help us, has placed his very self within me and possessed me for his own.
You possessed me at the instant I felt the bullets rip through my shoulder muscle and my calf. Your eyes blazed through my pain and I threw my machete against the wall of my shack and tackled the U.N. soldier who shot me instead of stabbing him. I brought him to the ground and held him there just in time to save him from the volleys blasting from the guns of the police. No thinking, no reasoning, impelled me. I only saw the soldier in danger of death, from me and from the wicked bullets, and that is when you possessed me and I rescued him. When he broke from me, my head went back and I twisted and saw Jean-Mars collapsing beside Dante. Jean-Mars’ head had opened and blood and brains came out. I threw myself across him and held still, praying to you while the police clattered by. Darkness shadowed the sun until they passed.
The U.N. soldier now sits weeping between my shack and Michele’s. I must move somewhere, help myself, but I dare not go to hospital because young men with bullet wounds are assumed to be followers of Titid, and therefore insurgents against Latortue’s government.
I will ignore my fear and go find the bottle of water in my shanty. See, Bondyè, I haul myself from the warm red death under me and find I can crawl. I cross the narrow street quickly to my shack. The soldier huddles away from me, eyes glistening with fear, but I fear nothing now. I will wash my wounds and share my water with him, whether he kills me or loves me, because I need nothing from him, for you live in me. I can do nothing but give, and teach of giving. I will be hated by my friends who wish me to kill for Titid, and I will be tortured by the police when I speak out for the return of Titid but submit to arrest, and when I then preach your truth from prison. “Bondyè bon”—God is good—the Haitian philosophy. Every morning, all my eighteen years, my mother has sighed, “Bondyè bon.” She means that everything comes from you, whether pain or pleasure, and will end in good. She says it as a way of resigning herself when she feels too weary to fight our stinking poverty. I am not resigned! I am consumed by your blazing reality: active, unchanging good, as different from everyday earthly good as the conflagration inside me differs from my darkness and hate. I no longer need the loas, who speak imperfectly for you. My thirst for truth and justice and strength is satisfied. Soon I will be without friends, because I cannot hate like the other Titid supporters and I cannot be scornful like the disgusted rich or like the military and the police. I can only reach out, longing to reveal the purity of your self-giving love to my angry, wounded people. When I stretch forth my hands to love, some will chop off my hands. When I speak your love, in their crazy distress they will cut off my tongue. Still I will offer my body to speak every way possible of this love that floods out darkness with its light, and though my speaking will eventually be silenced, many will have heard.
I give the water to the soldier, who takes it hesitantly and wide-eyed, expecting my gesture to be a covering for an ambush. Will he see your love in my eyes? Shine through me, Bondyè, for I will speak life into this world as long as you would possess me here, and then I will see you in the land of the living.