POEM: The Death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier

He was a Baby with a capital B
A ruler by which so many would be judged
He was unjust
A child of 20
A President for life
A President for death
As so many capriciously dyin’ with a king
An entourage of automatic weapons and complimentary wine
Drunk with power
As a prince of port
Celebrating fear
Of those his pathos cross
In the company of thieves
A bout to meet their maker
In the chaos of Haiti borne
I was just
A child of 10
With a father doc of my own
Standing up like so many others
In a sense wondering
Who had come before me
And what might fallow
Only to depart so quickly
As a pre-mature baby with terminal rashness
Vainly hoping to reach ode age
Goon before we know it
And such is life
I dash to the winnow
Like a babe in the woulds
Mirrorly site seeing
Unschooled in this deathly land escape
As my mother
Without peer
Pulled me to her side
That one side that fits awe
Only hereafter to learn
In do time
With respects
To wrest in peace

I wrote this poem this morning after hearing of the death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, a former president of Haiti, much more aptly described as a brutal dictator.  I was born in Haiti while my parents were serving there as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee.  Our family returned to visit Haiti in 1971, soon after “Baby Doc” inherited the family dictatorship from his father, “Papa Doc.” This poem recounts an incident when we were dining in a restaurant in Port-Au-Prince, the capitol of Haiti, when “Baby Doc” came in for a meal.  I was ten years old.  All of the sudden, everyone in the restaurant stood up.  And as is the etiquette in a foreign country, when everybody around you does something, follow suit.  We stood up.  “Baby Doc” and his entourage of guards armed with automatic weapons entered.  The proprietors of the restaurant quickly prepared a few tables for them directly adjacent to our table.  We were mere feet from three tables occupied by the president and his armed guards. Complimentary wine was ordered for all of the restaurant’s guests. Of course, I found all of this quite fascinating.  They ate and left rather quickly, and I scurried to the window to capture yet more of this gawk-worthy event.  My mom quickly and discreetly rounded me back up and pulled my away from the window.  Only later did she share the worry that such behavior could be viewed as suspicious and perhaps dangerous.

The death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was experienced by countless Haitians who were murdered and disappeared.  This morning there were probably relatively few Haitians mourning the death of this one man.  May Haiti continue to recover from the death brought by his reign, among so many other troubles and challenges.  The experiences of myself and my family in Haiti continue to give me a life-long perspective from which to work for justice and wrest in peace.

Leave a Reply