Sunday, July 8, 2018

La Rose de Porcelain - Poem in French

Sur une petite île dans les Caraïbes
Vit une rose de porcelain
Dans son royaume vert et archaïque
Règne cette merveilleuse dame!

Sans courtisans ni serviteurs
Pour garder sa compagnie
Mais des milliers de progéniture
Garderont la mémoire de sa vie

Cette reine de la beauté et de la grâce
Garde son coeur si triste et calme
Quand il pleut elle ne montre pas sa disgrâce
Elle est une femme pas plus ou moins!

Dans les tempêtes ou les ouragans
Elle garde sa foi si forte
Et dans ses bras si élégants
Elle offre toujours du réconfort.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

One Day While Strolling 'Neath Tropic Skies - A Poem

One day while strolling ‘neath tropic skies -
I saw a pair of wizened eyes.
A little man all dressed in green -
With the strangest face I’d ever seen.

He had a cunning little presence -
And bowed to me with reverence.
Then eyed me with a cautious glance -
This solemn gent I met by chance.

Though old and haggard, thin and frail -
He had the most extraordinary tail.
And seemed amused by my surprise -
I saw it in his ancient eyes.

This garden was his vast domain -
Each flower, each beetle was his to claim.
And when a fly grew far too bold -
He flicked his tongue and ate him whole.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Saint-Pierre, Martinique: The Sleeping Beauty

By Pierre-Olivier Jay

A century after the eruption of Mt. Pelee, the former "Little Paris of the West Indies" has not regained its former glory. It is still only marginally developed. This is perhaps what makes this pretty little sleepy town so charming.


The month of May in St-Pierre is punctuated by celebrations, commemorations, and festivities. And for good reason, on May 22, 1848, the Martinican slaves took their liberty even before slavery was officially abolished, and half a century later, on May 8, 1902, the city was entirely destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pelee. These days of celebrations are all the more important in a city where, apart from a modest museum, few things allow the visitor to imagine the size of St-Pierre before the disaster. Here, it is not like in Herculaneum or Pompeii, where the bodies are frozen in time from the moment of their death. If the memory of the 30,000 inhabitants who disappeared in 1902 has not been lost, the visitor must reconstruct it from clues scattered throughout the city.


St-Pierre is only the shadow of its past. It takes a good dose of imagination to plunge back into it. The city was a beacon and a cultural and economic capital of the 19th century West Indies. Its streetlights illuminated the streets with electricity, a line of horse-drawn streetcars circulated its elevated streets and, from 1879, they boasted a "vitascope," the first cinema of the French colonies. While today the heat is often overwhelming, in those days, this spa town was crossed by multiple channels of fresh-flowing mountain spring water that refreshed the atmosphere. On the industrial front, rum and sugar were the treasures of the city. Today there are 16 distilleries and their know-how is legendary throughout the Caribbean. Through this port, valuable commodities were shipped between South America and North America, including cocoa, orange wine (vin d'orange), indigo, cassava, and pineapple.

The city was a mythical stop for sailors, attracted by its festive and frivolous nightlife. At dusk, more than a hundred cabarets and pubs come to life. They became the cradle of a new kind of music known as "biguine." The libertine atmosphere was described in one of the only novels from that time, "Nuit d’Orgie à St-Pierre" (Night of Orgy in St. Pierre). The opera house was the pride of the bekes, the white Antillean aristocracy, of which St-Pierre is the capital. The city is also the seat of 11 of the 15 Martinique newspapers of the time. They dealt mainly with politics, one of the West Indian people's burning passions.


On April 27, 1902, the first round of elections was tight between the two candidates. Industrialist Fernand Clerc, a progressive candidate of the Democratic Republican Alliance, obtained 4,496 votes and his opponent, Louis Percin, Radical-Socialist candidate, 4,167 votes. Overlooking the city, the volcano known as Mount Pelee awakened for a bit and then erupted on April 20. First a lake appeared in the dry crater lake, and then the White River showed unusual flow variations. On April 30, earthquakes shook the city. They were accompanied by phreatic explosions, steam-blast eruptions caused by the sudden increase of temperature of the superficial waters surrounding the volcano and the extremely hot magma reservoir. From May 2, ashes began to fall on the city, then a mudslide overtook the Guérin distillery, taking Pelée's first victims.
For the elite of the city, despite these signs and a panic among the residents, it was vital to mobilize voters for the second round of voting on May 11. It would never happen. Due north of St-Pierre the island has little to no access to the rest of the island. The only way to escape by sea, but by then it was impossible. But the authorities continued to reassure the public and a pseudo-scientific commission published a report that concluded, "St-Pierre is no more in danger at the foot of the volcano than Naples is at the foot of Vesuvius." The governor of Martinique, Louis Mouttet, previously stationed in Cayenne, arrived in the city with his wife, hoping to calm the agitated crowd.

From May 5, the situation escalated at the crater. The magma reached the surface, glowing rocks are thrown from the crater, a mudslide engulfed part of Precheur, taking 400 victims during the night of May 7 to 8. The inhabitants were never informed.

On the morning of May 8, the city of St-Pierre was calm. The clouds around the mountain obscure the town. A ship, le Diament, leaves curiously a few minutes before the tragedy. Some also speak of a ship, the Grappler, which was loaded shortly before the disappearance of the city, with all the fortune of the Martinique aristocracy. But until this day it is still a mystery. 

At 8:02 am, as the mass ends in town, a pyroclastic flow, a cloud of hot gas carrying debris of all sizes, reaches St. Pierre in less than a minute. In addition to the heat of the cloud, which reached 500 ° F, the shock wave and the inhalation of gases and ashes caused instant death for the town's 30,000 inhabitants. The passage of this deadly cloud triggered a fire in rum stocks. For three days, the city burned. But the apocalyptic vision of the rubble photographed is in fact the result of the seven fiery clouds that fell on the city until August 30, 1902.


If many people saw this cataclysm as divine punishment for the dissolute lifestyle and the mores of the time and a particularly libertine carnival season, for the scientific community it was the beginning of contemporary volcanology. An observatory was set up by volcanologist Alfred Lacroix, who investigated the eruption. He analyzed the phenomenon of the pyroclastic flows, whose process of volcanic eruption took the name "Pelean". This eruption remains in volcanology a reference  to explosive eruptions accompanied by viscous flows. Since the last eruption of the volcano in 1929, underground activity has been continuously monitored by the Morne des Cadets Observatory, which houses one of the largest seismographs in the world.

The city of St. Pierre was never fully rebuilt. At the time, it was losing its dominance to Fort-de-France, favored by its central location and better port facilities. In the 20th century, Martinique no longer wishes to look north; the trauma and tragedy are still palpable. The ruins of the old city are everywhere, but they are left to crumble.


St-Pierre is now rich in its underwater heritage. The discovery of the wrecks of the many ships that were in the bay on May 8, 1902 is an unexpected treasure trove for the city.
Jacques-Yves Imbert arrived in 1981. He lives with his family in a small white house several feet from the bay. A pioneer of scuba diving, he founded a diving club. He relates, "In May 1977, Mayor Jean Bally and Michel Metery declared themselves" "inventors" of all the wrecks, but they were already known to fishermen. Since then, diving, especially in wrecks like the mythical Roraïma, one of the first big steamers, is one of the main assets of the city."


After acquiring the prestigious label "City of Art and History" in 1990, cultural projects are waiting to emerge. Archaeologists are also working on excavating sites, bringing with them their share of new discoveries. In September 2015, David Earle, an American screenwriter, received the Best Screenplay for "Pelee" at the Monrovia International Film Festival in California. It tells the story of the tragedy of 1902. Will the exceptional destiny of St-Pierre be rediscovered on the screens of cinemas through an American super-production? That remains to be seen.

Guagin's interpretation of St. Pierre bay.

Hello Young Soldier of the Vietnam War - A Poem

Hello young soldier of the Vietnam War,
What guides your noble swagger
In these dreadful foreign shores?
The courage of your mocking stance
Is not mere vanity,

It shows your pride, your bravery,
Your pure humanity!
Hello young Marine of the Vietnam War,
What guides your fearsome prowess—
In the jungles you explore?
Your boots, your rifle, are all you possess
In these tumultuous of days,
They cannot hide your burning soul—
A fire that’s set ablaze!
And in your sweat-drenched chest
There beats a heart of finest gold,
Forged in the battles of Bunker Hill,
Of Lexington and Concord.
The breath of Freedom guides you now
And will until the end.
I pray it guides you evermore,
For on your courage we depend!

Monday, April 23, 2018

On a Moonlit Night in the Antilles - A Poem

On a moonlit night in the Antilles -
Beneath a field of stars -
I heard a murmur in the breeze -
A voice that wasn’t yours.

The sand felt soft beneath my feet -
The breeze removed my shawl -
But the fingers that caressed my cheek -
I could not grasp at all.

I thought I met your glance that night -
In the vast celestial skies -
But the orbs that twinkled oh so bright -
Alas, were not your eyes.

Tomorrow I shall yet return -
To this silent, lonely place -
As long as my heart weeps and yearns -
To see your distant face!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Why I Wrote a Disaster Thriller-and Why I Would Do it Again!

A few years ago, the writer Karen Dionne wrote an article for the Huffington Post about why she would never write a disaster thriller. Among the reasons she gives is that during a terrible disaster, the situation deteriorates to the point where the story cannot end well. She thinks the final confrontation with the villain (in whatever form), must be violent. She says, "Readers have limits when it comes to the amount of violence they'll tolerate in fiction." But at their heart, disaster thrillers are stories about survival amidst impossible odds. As readers, we want to experience the dangers our heroes are forced to confront. We want to see ordinary people braving impossible odds. Think of Rose and Jack adrift in the freezing ocean in "Titanic". Or Ernest Shackleton and his brave crew struggling to survive in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica. As readers, we want to see ordinary people braving impossible odds. The need for this is so great it is almost embedded in our DNA.

When I set out to write ISLAND ON FIRE, a disaster thriller set during the eruption of Mount Pelée that destroyed the city of St. Pierre, Martinique, I knew the story had to be based on individuals fighting for survival. Disasters thrillers like “Titanic”, “Dante’s Peak”, "Pompeii" and “The Day after Tomorrow" make for the most compelling drama because they are a microcosm of our own struggles. Disaster can strike at any moment, and in the end we have only ourselves to rely on. The government is not going to rush in and save us. The violence can be quick, indiscriminate, and brutal. The chances for survival may be minimal at best. The responses of the characters can show the widest range of human emotions possible: from calm to irrational, fearful to stoic, depraved to heroic. In the end, like the characters in these disaster thrillers, we have to use our wits to shape our own destinies. We have to find our own way out of danger. 
In the dungeon of Ludger Sylbaris, one of the few people to survive the catastrophic eruption of Mount Pelee in Martinique that destroyed the city of St. Pierre in 1902.

Whether we like it or not, disasters are part of the human experience. Since time immemorial mankind has been ravaged by hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes, wars, and shipwrecks. Yet we persevere. Resilience is built into our shared human condition. Countless people have suffered sweeping tragedies yet find the will to go on. They rebuild from the wreckage and sometimes find redemption in the process. This is our shared heritage. What makes each story so fascinating are the individual tales of perseverance and triumph in the face of adversity. A disaster is not just about destruction; it’s about people fighting for survival without losing their basic humanity. Disasters teach us to look for our inner strengths and goodness despite the odds against us. A kindness and a favor rendered to another human being at the height of a disaster can bring redemption in ways nothing else can.

I believe disaster stories remind us of what’s truly important. Think of those final brief phone calls made from the Twin Towers on 9/11. Or those desperate passengers on Flight 93 knowing their self-sacrifice will save many more lives on the ground. Helping and comforting our fellow man in a moment of peril is one of the most selfless acts a person can render. Disasters show us the great depths to which humans can sink, but also the great heights at which they can soar. This is something we can all learn from. Without disasters there can be no heroes. And heroes are what inspire us to be better people. Sometimes it takes a disaster of epic proportions to remind us of that.

Treat yourself to ISLAND ON FIRE, the untold story of the Pompeii of the Caribbean. Paperback version $10.99 and e-book version $3.99.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Land of Alexander Hamilton - Poem

On the isle of Nevis in the Caribbees-
In a Great House ‘neath the cassia trees-
A boy was born named Hamilton-
In this land of sugar, slaves and rum.
His father was a Scotsman proud-
But to wed his Rachel he was not allowed-
And so his fate grew hard to bear-
For this noble son of a Scottish Laird.
So to St. Croix the family sailed-
But luck again would not prevail-
Though they made their home in Christiansted-
Fate would soon strike Rachel dead.
Bereft of mother, father, and home-
Young Alexander was left all alone-
Through darkest night he remained unbowed-
And soon grew tall and strong and proud.
So full of honor was young Hamilton-
He read all night when work was done-
He set his sights on something more-
And wished that he could fight a war.
He dreamed of battles, glory and fame-
Like Plutarch’s generals of great acclaim-
Above his station he dreamed to rise-
Yet Honor remained his greatest prize.
Through Hamilton's pain and sad torment-
His resolve was firm, his will unbent-
No hurricane could yet destroy-
His burning ambition, his boundless joy.
So he left the isles of the Caribbees-
The sugar, rum, the cassia trees-
And sailed away to find his Fame-
Soon all the world would know his name.

But in the Grange in mother yearns-
And silently waits for his return-
Where cassias bloom 'neath the tropic sun-
In this land of Alexander Hamilton!