"Se Bon" by Felix Morisseau-Leroy

Se Bon!

That’s fine!
That’s fine
That’s fine, judge
That’s fine, father
That’s fine, deputy
That’s fine, big shot
That’s fine, chief
What do you want me to say?
That’s fine
What else can I say?
That’s fine
That’s fine ,your honor
Judge me
Condemn me
Discharge me
That’s fine, father
Baptize me
Confess me
Give me holy communion
Confirm me
Bury me
Say the absolution prayer for me
That’s fine, deputy
Tap my shoulder
I’ll vote for you
That’s right
Eat my food
Sleep in my bed
My daughter will make coffee
What a good jack-of all-trades
She’d be in town!
O that’s fine,
Beat me up, sheriff
Sticks have no memory
That’s fine, policeman
Arrest me
Set me free just before Election Day.
That’s fine, marshal
That’s fine surveyor
Put me out
Serve me a warrant
What else can I say?
That’s fine
I say: That is fine
That’s fine, deputy
I’ll be drunk as a skunk
On election day.
That’s fine, pastor
Convert men
Civilize me
That’s fine
Call me brrother
Say it again
Deal with me in folklore
Make books out of me
Buy me cheap
Sell me expensive
That’s fine

“Se Bon!” by Felix Morisseau-Leroy. Hatiad & Oddities. Pantaleon Guilbaud. 1991.
Translation by Marie-Marcelle B. Racine

Morisseau-Leroy was an outspoken advocate for the poor in Haiti. In this poem, Morisseau-Leroy catalogs the rogues, whose class warfare and prejudice against the dispossessed is demonstrated in a familiar pattern of laws and religion which are enforced by the deputies, priests, and judges. And to which the speaker can only respond by saying, “Se bon!”

But the speaker’s voice is not resigned to the misery. There is a sharp note of sarcasm when he says, “Sleep in my bed/ My daughter will make coffee/ What a good jack-of all-trades/ She’d be in town.” For if the only way to survive the oppression is to feign contentment, then “Se Bon!”

About Félix Morisseau-Leroy

Félix Morisseau-Leroy (Haitian Creole: Feliks Moriso-Lewa; 13 March 1912 – 5 September 1998), was a Haitian writer who wrote in Haitian Créole for poetry and plays, the first significant writer to do so. By 1961 he succeeded in having Créole recognized as an official language of Haiti, after expanding its teaching in schools and use in creative literature. Morisseau also published works on French, Haitian Créole and Haitian French literature. He worked internationally, encouraging the development of national literature in post-colonial Ghana and Senegal. In 1981 he settled in Miami, Florida, where he was influential in uniting the Haitian community around Créole and encouraged its study in academia.

Source: Wikipedia


FSJL said…
Thanks for this, Geoffrey. Morisseau-Leroy was an extraordinary person, with a great sense of humour. Not to mention a fine poet.

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