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An Introspective Journey with Joe Jacques


By Maryse A. Nelson 

Just the other day, I became a bit tired. For the first time in a long while, I felt emotionally drained. Amid talks of terrorism, and anthrax, and a decelerating economy, my mind became so frazzled that I decided to take a journey.  I stepped far away from issues of finances, health, motivation, and everything else that had somehow become my life’s work.

Every now and then it is good to get away. It is worthwhile to veer from our daily course into areas unknown, where we may accidentally find a piece of ourselves; A piece that perhaps completes the puzzle of our lives, or at the very least fits very nicely into the woven fibers of our being.  A therapeutic journey meant to temporarily preserve my sanity, proved to be an actual lesson in life; a wonderful experience that accentuated my heritage and underscored the things in life that we take for granted.

I stepped into the mind of a Haitian legend; a hero of yesteryear and an idol of my parents and their generation. Safe within my room, I traveled within the mind of Joe Jacques and discovered dangerously remote areas of desolation, of pain, of pure agony, and every now and then of resolve and of unexpected bliss.

 Konsa konsa ou oue map joue musik moin, fo ou pa komprann ke se tout tan ke moin kontan…The accordion wails, and Joe’s words fall effortlessly filling the room with sorrowful tension.  Recognizing the possible negative effects of his disturbed state of mind on his physical surrounding, Joe offers a weak apology and requests that he not be judged. The vibration of the music gives me an eerie feeling. Joe’s dark words are no more soothing. Se couto sel ki kon-nin sa ki nan ke yam…I see it on his face, I hear it in his voice—evident manifestations of his mental anguish.

 My Haitian rhythmic experience in full swing, I close my eyes and find Joe’s heart… A la traka pou on jeun gason, ki trouve ki rimin-ou titit…I listen attentively and before long become engulfed in the story of a timid young man, unable to approach the object of his love. Si ou oue titit pou moin, oua va dil ke moin rinmin-l, sel bagay kap fem la penn, se ke moin pa ka di-l sa…The song transports me to hot sunny days in Haiti when robust young men of Laboule would send ‘komision’ to older beautiful family members through younger innocent and unsuspected girls such as myself. The simple music without climactic crescendos nor orchestral fanfare, penetrates my soul and reminds me of days of leisure and innocence. It is a music rich only in simplicity and color.

 As it appears to be his signature, Joe’s music continuously reverts to a prevailing theme of humiliation and helplessness. Moin sonje le-m te jeun gason, moin te rinmin yon ti pitit, si nou konin kisa li fem… He recounts a tale of betrayal. His anger is apparent in the words ‘ma che ou san charite a la ou malonet, on jou Bon Die gin pou-l puni-ou.’ I find myself staring into the eyes of the woman who made him write: “ Ou trouve minm te minm di konsa, yon nomm tankou moin minm, kisa pou ou ta fe a ve-m?...nan ki seso pou ou ta kroke-m?…se pa mouin ou ta bay gaspiye-ou…”  I feel his pain. Without condoning her probable mode of expression, I also feel hers.

Although short in duration, I enjoyed every bit of my journey. I discovered Haiti within myself, safely preserved in a little corner of my heart. I saw the world through the veiled and cloudy eyes of Joe Jacques and realized how lucky I have been all of my life. I found a renewed interest in my land and in my people. I redeveloped a sense of pride and of belonging to a people of color, of imagination, of substance, and of endurance.

I swayed to the rhythm of the accordion, tapped my feet and snapped my fingers to the beat of the drums. I was reminded of tambou and rara and carnival and Saturday evening mass and confession of sins I never committed, and Catechism, and Palm Sunday and sugar cane and school uniforms and camionettes and guayav and  corossol and ‘je jure devant Dieu et devant la nation’ and etc and etc…. My journey with Joe Jacques allowed me to explore a whole gamut of emotions. Sadly enough, I was also reminded of the way we as a people looked upon the handicapped. We were wrong—but alas, Did we know any better?

Thank you Joe, for your wonderful works...Thank you for sharing with me the raw reality of your days.  I also thank your accordion that, like B.B. King’s Lucille, has been the most faithful companion of your life. By the way, did you ever name her?

Maryse A. Nelson, LPT, MBA
Business Consultant, Professional Speaker, Trainer
Kenor International Corporation
Altamonte Springs, Florida
(407) 682-2881

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