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Decaul, Maurice

Decaul, Maurice


Maurice Emerson Decaul, a former Marine, is a poet, essayist and playwright whose writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Sierra Magazine, Epiphany, Callaloo, Narrative, The Common and elsewhere. His poems have been translated into French and Arabic. His theatre pieces have been produced at New York City’s Harlem Stage; Poetic License Festival, New York City; Washington DC’s Atlas INTERSECTIONS FESTIVAL; l’Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris; the Paris BanlieuesBleues Festival;the Middelhein Jazz Festival in Antwerp;the Avignon Theatre Festival in France; and Détours de Babel, the Grenoble Festival, France. Forthcoming productions will be held at Arizona State University, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center, the Mary L Welch Theatre at Lycoming College, Pennsylvania, and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. His album, Holding It Down, a collaboration with Vijay Iyer, and was The LA Times Jazz Album of the year in 2013. ACallaloofellow, Maurice is a graduate of Columbia University (BA), and New York University (MFA). He currently is pursuing his MFA inplaywriting at Brown University.

In The Meantime

The gods looking down from safety resume their dispute about humans
the interventionists argue for decisive but limited action
fire   plague, while the pusillanimous remind the others of Diomedes

stabbing Aphrodite, Diomedes piercing Ares with his spear
the hubris of man. The apathetic throw up their hands
let man kill man his blood is his blood, they argue what is it to us

if he destroys himself & Zeus meant to speak up
but the debate had moved on to topics of importance
while below him, people marched & fought & declared their lives mattered.

The War Was Young

For Greg Pardlo

By the time I looked over my shoulder, the sun had fallen
flat desert, the tree of life? Or is it
black smoke rising? My birthday
was yesterday & I watched smoke rising
from artillery strikes against insurgents. Dust
floats chest high, I breathe in. Boots kick up dust
quick stepping. My rifle slung cross body
it’s safe here but I tap the rifle’s magazine
tapping it reminds me how to keep safe
When we got here yesterday
its inhabitants became specters. The sound of boots
quickstep through me. Where am I? Am I
still alive? In the background, lights
on in a hut. Listen. I’ve been working myself up
so I’ll say it, in the hut men are being beaten
& they are crying & they are pleading & I don’t
need to understand to know.

Greg, you asked me why can’t you feel?
but I do
& I learned that night to survive
more than two days in Iraq
tune out the crying & carry on

say a prayer for your enemy
in the morning
& in the evening

& the war was only in its infancy then
learning how to kill us in the morning & in the evening
in houses & on street corners, in Humvees
& when we return home the war kills us
one at a time two at a time


The baby is a creature of habit, every morning a slice
of toast a smear of peanut butter, a little extra
on her spoon. White table grapes when in season,
strawberries quartered, when in season
my refrain is always: take small bites Elaine.
On my roof seagulls & pigeons wait to gorge on her scraps
even when it is raining, they come. She has outgrown
her rain boots again so I remind her to not
splash in puddles. My umbrella is three feet long.
We walk to the subway; I hold her hand, my umbrella
cradled& I love walking point on patrols
knowing I might die with each step. But my rifle
is god & it keeps me. “We are shepherd dogs
protecting the flock, never forget
Marines, we are part wolf & this is why we’re so good
at killing them.” My umbrella is a burden
each time Elaine is on patrol with me; she tugs
on my hand wanting to be carried. I can’t Lainey,
you’re too heavy & daddy’s hands are full. Every morning
she asks for a penny to make a wish at the fountain;
I see her lips moving, the penny sinking, her dewy curls.

The first play is called Holding it Down, The veterans Dreams Project. It was commissioned by Harlem Stage and produced as part of their Water works program in 2013. It has had subsequent productions in Washington DC’s Atlas Theater’s INTESECTIONS Festival in 2013. The Play has also been produced in Antwerp and will have another round of productions starting this fall at ASU Gammage, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

The second play, Sleep Song was produced by La Foundation Royaumont in France. It has been produced in Paris, Grenoble, and Avignon France.

The third, Dijla Wal Furat, Between the Tigris and Euphrates, was produced in NYC by Poetic Theater Productions. It will have its second run at Lycoming college in April 2015. It will also have a reading at Lincoln Center in November 2015.