Paraclete – The One Who Answers the Cry by Kristina Erny

I. Language Lesson

Yu wan lan di Krio, eh? Yu go tray, o!

Usay yu de?

A de Brooksfield.

A de to Aunty Sally.

A de Aunty Sally in os.

A de wakka.

A de swet!

A de cray, O! (A fred) A de cray al nayt.

A de fil am. Eh, bo, A de fil am bad bad wan.

pared wi try paraclete             ear not dem
barefoot way de come to thee             yu
love mango             di   teeth o   to   tear
the skin back             but   all   the   empty
tin sing             ever so   orange & green
pyramid pile at feet             but       ope
yourself paraclete             ope yu ear
dis whispering exhaust we time afta time
            palms de de of all       in       his
planted field             tomorrow’s
husband dead             her leaf in the hand
petete the leaf


II. Aunty

Grainy photo-

graphs of her boy.                     Her late bobo.

Shows us
in the

            She does
not say
            his name.

pikin   wrapped   his   school   jumper
belly full     that cornflake on his baby
cheek           o baby the sleeves end so
soon           wrapped up         the child is
gone     gone   pikin         did   he   broke
            he     take     the     pikin     share
            the   empty   pikin       pick her up
she memba (bele full of him) &   now
her   other   baby   (jillo)   with   a   baby
(belefull) &       where             wi       go
down dat place where   di   baby come
            after room full             so     full
in after noon               how   lamps   go
out the candleflare         & all orange is
light               with bars & nets
            those babies there are there &
            she is there too           she     is
made   out   gracefully   to   start   life
            (tirzah)           aunty   yu   na
granny           anoda   life   be   live
through you (tirzah)   pas   you   tiny
face     you who take his cup
            yu   tiny   hands   all   around
            &   she   is   maybe   noto   so
broken now you tiny fish



do we go or stay & why take body this body
that oda ples aks question trails so foreign so
eyes white worns inconsiderate hey wit wi
mot wit wi taym


IV. Fire

Oil fire reaches             porch
            roof.       Granat soup, fry
fish in that hot             oil,
            watch Aunty scream,
            grab the lid to keep
                        flames from spreading in
through window             bars.
from fear,             maybe, from
            worn velvet couches, from

curtains, from clothing,
from our flammable


V. Fire

One man is         beating
the other       man.

            With both of his arms.
Stamping them down down
            onto the man’s       neck.

It is far & we
can’t see clearly.

We are afraid, want
to run, anywhere.
                        & it is urgent.

            People in the
            other direction,
            shouting.           Yell.       Look

back over their arms.

                        Drop their mangoes &
plantains in the street.

Then we see the smoke.
                                                            A trunk full of gas.
                                                            Gas canisters lined
                        up together like
                        boys ready for
                                    war.     & the burning
            engine. Men
            wild to put it out.





no de touch di faya.


yu wan rice?


VI. Prosperity Doctrine

Stadium music
keeps the compound’s eyes
open past two. (Revival
of the money blessings.)

If una lek God, God

go bles una. God

go mek una prospa.

Una no go sofa egen.

Na lie dem de lie,

noto so, Paraclete?


VII. Cry Paraclete Cry

O, strange company.
O, host of hosts, speak.

            If, but is any,
            like our body, weak

& broken.
                        & we
cry to the lion

See the rich
& their houses full

of food.
            Taste salt &
bitter juice. Nuts the
color of blood.


Biscuit boxes,
piss on cinderblock

            Children with tennis
balls play in the lane,
            hit &

    At night,
            too dark to         walk

Breadfruit tree.             Bats.

Cemetery, drunk.             Thieves. Man.             Men.


VIII. Call Wi

How should the

Does his breath smell of kola nuts?

                                                Do her feet ache from walking through Ascension Town?
Neck strong? Teeth stained?


A halo
            of our
            sorrows around his head?

Does she lie

down in our compound
                        under the stars?


After living in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 2008, Kristina Erny was introduced to the idea of the Holy Spirit as paraclete, our intercessor, “the one who answers the cry.” These poems are part of a longer manuscript called Wax of What’s Left.