Laurence O'Dwyer

Erzulie Dantor 

During the night we rode through town on scooters. 
Down the alleys, it’s like a carpenter’s yard after 
a bomb has exploded. Everyone is white with dust. 

The headlights are x-rays that slice through the DNA 
of the town. The rhythm of cicadas. The scuttle of eyes.
When Aristide lost power, the Little Machete Army 

got hold of a tractor and drove through the prison 
walls in Gonaives. I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow 
your house down. They flew into the night like howler 

monkeys. It was rumoured that the mayor had a hand 
in it. The keys are always to be found in the strangest 
of pockets. You could be robbing yourself in Gonaives 

and hardly know it. Everyone was guilty and a tractor 
through the wall was as good as absolution – 
an indulgence from a god that’s always on the make. 

They would leave rum in the graveyard. Lucky Strikes 
for Erzulie Dantor – a sultry translation of the Virgin
Mary. Everyone came out of the wash a little short. 

The sleeves of the night could barely cover the skin. 
I would like to lay my head on your breast and pray, 
but instead I have this picture of Ti-Jean – small time 

angel in a local gang – looking down on Gonaives, 
he whispers to Erzulie about the guns he bought 
in Port-de-Paix. He knows someone in the UN; 

everything will be fine tonight. But she’s hardly listening. 
When you’re surrounded on so many sides – 
you get tired. And sleep is as precious as a bullet. 


Puerto Escondido 

We went into the hills – the Dominican 
side. Rare forest there, tropical and deep, 
a twisted place of leaf rot and crumbs. 

At dusk we came upon Haitian labourers, 
soaping their bodies in a cold stream. 
A glow of muscles threshed and torn 

that our eyes found a way to acknowledge 
and ignore. Down in the village, a local 
said: Haitians here, bueno. Up there 

(waving to the hills) – malo! Meaning 
deep inside the machete ridges were 
chimères. In there, heaven and hell 

are cracked like an egg. But here 
are migrant workers, they might even 
be our friends. That night sugary 

sweet bachata blared from speakers 
in the village below. We fell asleep 
in the hills, wrapped in branch 

and moon. At dawn, our neighbours 
filed down the trail like a folktale 
every child should know: no matter 

how many crumbs we leave, Haitian, 
Dominican, chimère or ghost, 
so long as a grain of dissimilarity 
remains, we will never find home.


Ciudad del Este 

We loved it there, that border 
town of crack and cheap electrical 
stores with money lenders along 
the road to Freedom Bridge. 

“She’s fucked” he said in Spanish. 
Remember him; the red-haired 
German-Paraguayan. We were 
drinking litros by a rubbish heap, 

the leader of the barefoot street
kids, a girl in a yellow t-shirt, 
collapses in a traffic island 
strung out on heroin or gasoline. 

It’s getting dark now, everyone 
is headed for Freedom Bridge. 
Except us. Somehow we love it 
here. The boulevard is yellow, 
now blue, now black.

Laurence O'Dwyer is a graduate of University College Cork and holds a PhD in paradigms of memory formation from Trinity College Dublin. In 2017 he received a MacDowell Fellowship. In 2016 he won the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry. He has also received a Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and been short-listed for the Bridport Prize for Poetry. He is currently a script writer with Asylum Productions.