As Haiti grapples with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew after a succession of other calamities, and with Christmas on the horizon, the following poem, written in 1945 by one of the country's greatest poets Rene Depestre (b. 1926), assumes a new tragic significance.

Friend, this is your Christmas

Rene Depestre

There is no

Baby Jesus Christmas-time

for dirty hands

for tattered clothes

for empty eyes

for gazes hanging on the baker's loaves.

For the sneering smile of poverty

on gaping lips

there is no

Baby Jesus Christmas-time

for the darkness of hovels

for the cold hard bed of pain

for the lack of blankets

for the paradox of slaving for your bread

for the crime of the salary-man

for all that underground humanity

that you would lighten with your firebrand words.

No, no my friend

the Christmas-time of gleaming shops

of pretty toys

of low-necked gowns

of dancing midnight revels

of cannon-shots

of stupid sermons

of starch-collared gentlemen

who wear away the future of your children

of merrymaking in the fine big houses

no, if the poor little child of Bethlehem

chose this day to be born

in the heady swirl of dizzying dances

Christmas-time is not for you.

Your Christmas-time, my friend

lies sleeping in your conscience

in your bitterness

in your hopes

in all your question-marks

that stand before the world they made for you

in the overflowing torrent of your hatreds long held back.

                          Translated from the French by Norman R Shapiro

*Third World Resurgence No. 312/313, Aug/Sept 2016, p 60