27 Days


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The last one found alive

Haitian quake survivor tells of being trapped for 27 days—For the past 10 weeks, Evans Monsignac has struggled to understand how and why he is still alive. So remarkable is his survival, at times it has been easier for him to think he must in fact be dead. Severely malnourished, dehydrated, deeply traumatized and with festering wounds, the frail slum-dweller emerged after 27 days trapped in the ruins of Haiti’s earthquake, confounding doctors and defying medical logic. It is believed to be the longest anyone has endured such an ordeal . . . —Jacqui Goddard, The Sunday Telegraph.  Published: Saturday, April 03, 2010—National Post



27 Days

Dedicated to Monsieur Monsignac, his fellow survivors and those passed on

Written by Keenan Norris and Alexandria White

Originally performed by Alexandria White and Darold Rawls at Evergreen Valley College, San Jose, CA


He: They say a man feels it when his woman is pregnant. A doctor would tell me that after countless days under this collapsed building what I feel is the corruption of my organs and the expiration of my body. He would tell me that this is how death feels. But I know that what I feel is not death, but new life. I know that this pain in my stomach is not hunger but a child. This pain in my sides is not lacerations but a child. This shortness of breath and this writhing heart and this terror in my throat is not the end but a beginning.

She: What will this child’s name be? What form will this child’s body take? Yes, new life is on its way…but what kind of life.  God made birth hard, not to punish Eve, but to build Eve’s character . . .  We must be strong as Haiti is re-born…but please can someone tell me what this place will look like? This place that has been re-born a million times . . .  since the pale faces came on the sea long ago, how many times must one be re-born?

He: I am used to doing for myself. I have always worked. I have always provided for my family. There is barely a blinking traffic light sometimes in my stretch of Port-au-Prince, let alone Red Cross ambulances speeding around all havoc and United Nations officials and American physicians and Christian missionaries careening this way and that through the streets, the alleyways, the fallen buildings, over the rubble that now encloses me. So it is very strange to me to wait here, like a trapped firefly in a crumbling jar, for some perceptive soul to unearth me before I die. The Red Cross has never cared for my wife. The Red Cross has not raised my children. The United Nations has not made due when there is no food in the city and I have survived on chalk and dirt and slim hope. The United Nations has never done my surviving for me when the political gangs and the police have had at it in City Soleil. True, I have been less than the man that I and my God have wanted me to be. I have lied. I have cheated. I have not always loved the ones that I loved enough. But I have survived, I have made due, I have raised and protected my family. Now I feel as innocent as the child

She: My man is gone, I fear that he is one of the lost ones swallowed up by the angry gyrations of the gods, he is lost, perhaps he wants to be lost, perhaps he is in the thunder clouds playing swords with Shango, perhaps he is underground where Limba devoured him whole, perhaps he recognized that being with me could only mean having more bellies to fill, he is one of the lost ones now.

He: I move a little this way, a little that way. I twist my body beneath the rocks. My new child and all my children need me to move and to endure and to rise from beneath this mountain. I play farmyard-poor games, just as we poor have always done, with broken things. A sliced teacup is within reach. I play a single rhythm. Click, click, click. It is still off key . . .   I, from the race that invented the drum, a man down from the first people to dance and sing and fear God, people so ancient that we still lay our dead to rest with a whirlwind of rhythm. I, now, cannot make a tune. I, a man from a family and of a people that still proudly fears the incomprehensible universe, the fathomless heavens and the glories of this earth, cannot close my two hands in prayer or lift my voice loud enough that the people above, let alone the heavens might hear.

She: But still I wonder what this new child will look like? With the American tanks paroling our shattered streets while thousands of our people starve and die of open wounds. While thousands of our people cry out to God.

He: I imagine I hear a child or a god below the earth calling my name.   I cannot turn back. I have survived twenty-four days beneath this rubble. If I must live life eternal beneath the living world above, I will. I have survived too long not to constitute some part of the new Haiti.

She: What will this child look like? What form will this child take growing in the midst of the fragments left in this ruptured place?

He: And now it is just me and my thoughts. The beautiful thoughts. The sad thoughts. The way my island’s hurricanes have for all my days since I was a child reminded me in wind and thunder of love and death. The way the land beyond the city stretches out and out, and then the mountains and behind the mountains more mountains still. And on all sides of us there is water, water so vast and blue and beautiful that all the money and human power on this earth is as nothing before what a Haitian child can see from a good rooftop. We are not poor. We are not weak. We are not deprived. We are not desperate. We are not ignorant. We live in God’s careful hands.

She: We live in God’s careful hands. We are of this land where the magical and the real collide ferociously . . .   like two tyrants fighting for power . . .  how can I look around myself seeing fragments of misplaced bodies, smelling the rotting, putrid flesh of neighbors and strangers, and find solace in the unreal turquoise sky & the endless emerald-lush mountain tops? How does the magic of the land still reach me within such a state? How can the sweet & beautiful smells of hibiscus & jasmine register in my nostrils? He: And now my stomach moves. It churns, all havoc. My God: My stomach moves like the new washer-and-dryers that the American soldier boasted of to my wife the last time they came down our streets in their tanks.

She: I am scared. No I am Oya, goddess of war. No, I am weak & vulnerable because my belly is too big & the child inside beats my stomach like a drum each night, making sleep uneasy. No I am Mami-Wata, goddess of all the children & fertile women  . . .  no I am scared, I am lonely, I am hungry, I am tired, I am thirsty. No, I am the unnamed black slave woman who sliced open the black pig whose spilt blood meant death to all the white slave masters and meant the birth of the world’s first Black Republic: Haiti!

He: I think about my wife. I know without doubt she is pregnant. The child is real. It is coming. I feel it inside me now. It moves me more deeply than the earthquake when it shook this city to its core. My unborn child. Lord and all the gods, I feel this new life coming. My child will be born above this jail of shattered stone and steel beams. Born, he or she will be, with a father, and a family, and a history more horrible and brilliant than the wildest imagining. 

She: My man was never lost because God knew where he lay, and on the 27th day, God allowed him to emerge from the cement-rubble cocoon.  Haiti will never be lost because the power of Haiti courses through the veins of the living—the ones who have endured. Haiti could never be lost because from this Earth rupturing nightmare a new Haiti will come forward, more powerful than before.

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posted 2 May 2010



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