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Featured Writer - Andre Bagoo Works by: Loretta Collins Koblah, Danielle Boodoo-FortunĂŠ, Yashika Graham Juleus Ghunta, Peter Roberts, Roxann West Winners of the UWI Poetry Clash 2015

Issue 4, April 2015


Susumba’s Book Bag is a quarterly digital magazine dedicated to showcasing writing of the highest grade from new, emerging and established Caribbean writers at home and in the Diaspora. The magazine is an offshoot of the Caribbean arts and entertainment online magazine Susumba.com We will publish poetry, fiction, flash fiction, interviews as well as reviews of Caribbean books. Occasionally, we will also publish one-act plays and monologues. Currently, we do not offer remuneration for the writings we publish, but we believe that writers should be paid for their work, and so we working on a way to do that in the near future.

Submission Guidelines We accept a maximum of 5 poems and 2 short stories at a time and we have no problem with simultaneous submissions but ask that you notify us immediately if the work is accepted elsewhere. We have no bias of genre or style. Our only requirement is that it be good, so send us your best stuff. Short stories should range from 2,500 to 3,500 words while flash fiction is from 10 600 words. We prefer our poetry to err on the side of Mervyn Morris, the shorter the better. We do accept longer work but if your poem is at the 33 to 64 line tipping point (longer than a page), please only submit two poems at a time. We try to keep our response time to a month, but alas we are human and so it may go beyond that. If you have not heard from us in 90 days, please feel free to send us a query. Though we publish quarterly, we currently accept submissions throughout the year, except in December. There is no reading fee, and submissions are only accepted via email. Send submissions to info@susumba.com Subject: Lastname-Firstname-Submission. Send your work as an attachment (.doc, .txt or .rtf), not in the body of the email. Works sent in the body of the email will not be accepted. Send submissions to info@susumba.com Subject: Lastname-Firstname-Submission

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Contents 6

Making Space

Annabelle Haynes

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El Mar Muerto, El Mar Vivo

Loretta Collins Koblah

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Letters From New Grace

Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

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Pragga Already Scent Now Begin

Yashika Graham

21

Reunion Etiquette Moving Again

Juleus Ghunta

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At His Sunset Survival

Peter Roberts

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Ghetto Love

Roxann West

Special Feature - UWI Poetry Clash 2015

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Creatures of the Canopy Turquoise Dress Out of Wedlock Spliff

Peta-Gaye Williams

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Sambo’s Allegory

Kaleb D’Aguilar

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Boom

Nicholai-Andre Alexander

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‘Poetry - A Communal Act’: An interview with Andre Bagoo

Tanya Batson-Savage

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Editor’s Note It’s Poetry Month and the month of the poui, one of nature’s poems if ever there was one, and the final issue of our first year of publication. This month’s issue is therefore particularly heavy with poetry, certainly one of the region’s most prolific art forms. So, in the words of Mervyn Morris I urge you “make some time and space for poetry”, and be like Edward Baugh’s person, and slink off to a place where no one asks “what is poetry for?”. To all our readers and writers I say large up and bless up, and hope to make it another year.

Tanya

Tanya Batson-Savage Editor in Chief

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A publication by Blue Moon Publishing

Cover Illustration: ‘After the Flood’ by Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

Editor: Tanya Batson-Savage tanya@susumba.com Sales info@susumba.com

PO Box 5464, Liguanea PO, Kingston, Jamaica W.I. www.susumba.com 5


SUSUMBA’SBOOKBAG April 2015

Making Space by Annabelle Haynes

You gather, dust, and sort through the clutter of your loneliness. Your son comes home today. For the first time in a year, you will see the man you birthed. Your son is coming home. The last time you saw him, you had failed to prepare. You hadn’t cleared his room of the plastic bottles, or the shoe boxes stacked high in one corner, or the wire hangers, or the scandal bags, the knickknacks and old clothes he thought you had long donated. He stayed away for a year after that, no matter how many times you sent money for a ticket. Internship, he said - busy. You suspect (a mild suspicion) that he may have felt displaced, overwhelmed. Now, the situation has grown dire. The emptiness of the past year caused the rapid expansion of your families of things. Recycled margarine tubs - I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter - make great lunch boxes, but for side salads only. You have almost sixty. Someday you will use one. Someday you will carry a side salad to work. These, along with washed out peanut butter jars; rolls of used and unused wrapping paper; zip lock bags; ceramics full of copper coins, fill every crevice of his room. You will definitely need these things. You hustle now to relocate the families to your own room, each item, fighting for relevance. Last week you cleared a new path. You threw away a collection of old milk cartons. Some of these you could have used to store water, but you decided they must be kept together, so you discarded them all. Yesterday, you took off from work, unearthed the bed, like a fossil, and fitted it with new, clean sheets. You found the window as well, and pried the louvers open with a knife. But yesterday, a setback, a new dilemma: a blockade had formed between the two rooms, a trap from which you emerged, only well after sun down. Today, you rose at dawn, to continue making room for the prodigal son. Your son is coming home tonight. At 8:45 pm, Caribbean Airlines brings your baby home (though no longer a baby at nineteen). Your brother will pick him up from the airport; bring him back to his mommy. It will not be the homecoming you had wished for - just a brief stop. In two days he will leave Kingston for Port of Spain. The son goes to meet his father for the first time. He will walk up to a coffin, and gaze upon his corpse. He will meet siblings, will see himself in strangers. He will mourn a man he never knew. And he will seek his father in everything now, more ardently than before.

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Making Space Annabelle Haynes

People already tell him that you weren’t, could never have been, enough. People tell him he is incomplete. They question his manhood, because ‘it takes a man’, they say. Never mind, how you watched over him, closing in on all signs of femininity. You let him fall when you should have protected him, let him cry when you should have held him. You tolerated your brother because he loved your son. Never mind that now - uncles don’t count. The funny thing is, without those voices insisting on your inadequacy, the boy would have been fine. You even, might have been ok. Night falls quickly, but by 6:30 pm the curry goat simmers and his room has been cleared. Fresh clean air circulates. Lemon-green curtains dance in the night breeze. The grilled cage receptacle for garbage overflows outside. It almost didn’t close, but you fought with it, padlocked it, because you knew you would be right back there, retrieving each item you had bravely bid goodbye. A new unknowable sea of disarray surged into your own room. Luckily you can still get to the important things, although its hard nowadays to tell what is what, everything being so darn important. The letter, tucked inside the embossed leather jacket of the boy’s baby photo album, is right where you left it, under your old panties in the bottom dresser drawer. The white envelope, slightly brown now, is still in tact. The airmail stamp, from December 1995, is faded. It was a particularly chilly Christmas season that year. Son-son had arrived 28 days before the letter. You had been counting the days, wondering how soon, and without judgment, you could wean the baby. The child had emerged gnashing and gnawing, gums sharp like teeth. That November he had arrived alone. In the early days, there had been two – a girl you presumed. Sometimes you wondered if the boy had chewed her up. He would take up too much room in this world. Your son had always seemed to know. He seemed to know that you would have to go it alone. Indeed, months later a wife would materialize – an alien wife expecting a little Martian of her own. That December, the letter came with a sizable check, meager compensation for your burden. More than a lover, you would lose a friend. Yes, the dougla man from Port of Spain had been your friend. No one would acknowledge this loss. So, your son ate the girl, to save you from having to split yourself in three parts. You could never be shared in equal proportions and there would be little left of you, for you, much less a little girl. The women get the smallest pieces. The baby had watched you read the letter. The man tells you to stay away. It’s best for his career. Political representation requires a certain image, and surely, you could understand that. He says he is sorry, several times in fact, that he will shoulder the blame for the mess he has made. The man tells you to choose what to tell the boy, when he comes of age, but make him know that sometimes adults make tough choices: you know, complications. The man instructs that ‘if he asks, if the boy will not put it to rest, tell him his daddy’s job takes him far away, tell him his daddy is a spy even, just tell him something. You must tell him about me’. He says, should you, or the boy, ever want for anything, you must write to the return address enclosed.

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Making Space Annabelle Haynes

You never write. You stop answering the phone. Since then, you had rehearsed exactly what you would say when the boy started asking questions. His question would start with how come? – it always started with how come? – in the gullies of your imagination. You thought that after some prolonged bout of brooding the boy would ask, urgently, Mommy, how come I don’t have a daddy? That you would sit him down, calmly and responsibly, and explain that families come in different shapes and sizes. How could you know to expect that the boy, at six, while happily picking impatiens, would casually ask, ‘Where do daddies go when they disappear?’ There was no pregnant pause, no expectant tilt of the head, no how come? So, ‘spy’, landed firmly on your lips and besieged your tongue. You told the child that his father was a noble spy, who didn’t want to endanger his family. Alex continued picking flowers. From that day he would know you as a liar. Everyone in the West Indies is a spy. It is the duty of those living in small spaces with violent histories to catch news before news catches up with them. The boy had done a good job putting it to rest all these years. Only once, recently, had he obliquely accused you of making him fatherless. But upon realizing the constriction forming in your throat, the boy, your good boy, buried the issue of the Trinidadian apparition. The ghost would loom larger now that he was about to look the man in the face and lay him in the ground. The men make the bastards and the women take the blame. This time you must tell the boy the truth. Before long, there were countless versions of your story: everything but the truth. The truth is, the boy was loved, but not wanted. The boy should know this. Son-son walks through the door a little past 10:00 pm, beaming. “Hi mommy!” Your son is home. Clean-shaven, but manlier and a bit taller than the last time you saw him. As usual, your boy brings his mother gifts. This time he brings a purse and a blouse he picked up for you at Harrods in London. The purse is a little young looking for a woman of 47, but you appreciate it still. “Lawks pickney! You not eating? What they feeding you Alex?” The girth of the embrace feels unfamiliar. In fact, the boy is getting fat, but only in the mid section. “You must be hungry child.” “I just had Island Grill mommy, Uncle Calvin brought it for me.” You share a plate. All the meaty parts, you share for the boy, gravy drizzled over white rice piled high, vegetables on the side. You watch him struggle to finish. You know you do not cook well, that this batch of curry is slightly burned on the bottom. But, through mouthfuls, your son dutifully sings your praises. You recognize the tune and dance along. You provide comfort for the all-night studying, the torture of dreary London days. After so much time away, the child needs some heavy-handed mothering.

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Making Space Annabelle Haynes

While strategically spreading the food around the plate, Alex stares past the table. “Mommy this curry is good. You cook curry like a Trini.” There is a break, a tempo you do not recognize. Something has shifted. “What you say Alex?” He looks at you now, eyes wide and terrified. His expression gives him a child-like quality and you see your baby once more. “Oh, so you eating whole heap of Caribbean food in London man! Careful though because all of it going to you belly.” You pause. “Come put up your things, Son-son,” you say. You rub the boy’s neck and lead him to his room. This takes some effort. The boy has been towering over you for a few years now. His chest fills with air, and he exhales audibly upon seeing his room. Shock or relief? You can’t tell. “Wow, Mommy! The place really look nice! Pity I only staying two days you know!” “I know son-son, but remember you still live here.” You watch Alex step into the room and walk in little circles. He sits on the bed and runs his hand on the sheets, stands again and looks through the window. “Mommy, I have to tell you something.” His chest fills with air and before you can respond, he is deflating quickly, letting it out in one breath. “You know how my Aunt called to tell me daddy died…you know how I told you she found my name in the newspaper because of scholarship. Well, honestly mommy, what I never tell you, is that is really daddy who found me. After his wife died last year, daddy was the one that found me - called me at school. I still don’t know how him find my number you know, but anyways, he told me he really wanted to meet me. Mommy, the truth is, I was in Trinidad this summer. I met him Mommy, spent time with him. He had cancer you know, he knew he was going to die. He asked for you all the time mommy, asked why you didn’t write all those years. Why didn’t you write mommy? Why you never write the man?” The air passed through the room and swallowed you up. Everything felt sparse. The emptiness of the room engulfed you. Your son would never return. You wish you could have filled your life with other things, but you had devoted everything to him. Suddenly you miss the tubs, the hangers you had thrown away. You know now that you have made a mistake. These are necessary things; these are all you have. “Mommy, where you going? What happen mommy? Sorry mommy! I sorry.” You move quickly, but you think you glimpse tears forming in the boy’s eyes; maybe these are your own. Soon you struggle to retrieve articles, anything that can fit through the grill bars. It doesn’t occur to you now that the boy can still see you there, on your knees, rummaging through the trash.

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Loretta Collins Koblah El Mar Muerto, El Mar Vivo For Tiphanie Yanique Everywhere ghost-scent blossoms of the narranjatales, green and yellow mottle-skinned Seville oranges and blood oranges peeled by vendors on the roadside. They crank a small metal fruit lathe, shaving off one long, spiraling curl of orange husk and bagging juicy globes that bathe us to the elbows when we arrive at the beach. Even the tire shops are called Melao, and kiosks sell guarapo, though La Central San Vincente, where the sugar Haciendas processed cane, shut-up shop forty years ago. The wide A-frame metal roof of the sugar shed rising above the pueblo now shades a stone quarry, where cut-marble slabs are engraved with names and dates that erase family members from the world and give them shade as they sleep in their graves. At la Playa Puerto Nuevo, the rock outcroppings and sand divide the balenario into two sides, one - el mar muerto, a salty pool where children float and wade to their waists; the other - el mar vivo, a cove where the unexpected undertow surges in and rolls out, carrying swimmers beyond rescue. Someone has placed a white wooden cross on a sea-sculpted rock, the kind we stake at roadsides to make shrines to loved ones who have died in an accident. A beach dog swims among the children who back-peddle in inflatable rings. Tiphanie has swum across, climbed to the top of the rocks. She is looking for her grandmother who nearly drowned here. At church in la Parroquia Nuestra SeĂąora de Rosario, a neoclassical beauty in the town square, where

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Loretta Collins Koblah

four evangelists over the altar to look like gigantic Marvel comics super heroes, a white angel unfurls wings over the altar to catch the light of the cupola and stained glass. Four votive candles flicker in the corner, where prayers are said for aborted babies. Tiphanie is looking for her grandmother. She sits in an alcove taking notes. At a farmacía built in the 19h century, we buy agua de coco frío. El Teatro Fénix advertizes concerts of trio singers. El Teatro América, an art-deco palace, with furniture of the 1950’s, projects films or hosts children’s pageants, bodas and quinceañeras. Tiphanie pulls back the red curtain, and enters. She is looking for her grandmother. On the street, celebrants walk in la Procesión del Santo Entierro, carrying santos, palm fronds and flower-covered crosses. Tiphanie has come from St. Thomas. She is looking for the childhood of her grandmother. I am with Tiphanie, I walk in Tiphanie’s procession. Her mind is elsewhere, looking. A ghost child says to me all day, I am here with her, in Vega Baja, too, as quiet as a prayer.

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Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné Letters From New Grace I Daughter, be wary of men. They burn soliloquies, sift charred words through teeth. Even their sweetest words are bitter, melt dark in your belly, ride your chest like untamed horses at daybreak.   See, I’ve been waiting here since it ended, combing the late streets for lost dogs and scraps of your laughter.   Each day I wash my eyes with your memory   Oh love, you’ve been lonelier

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Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

than I can bear. Tomorrow I will come for you, fists oiled and hunger strapped to my back.   Wait for me, guard your heart till you hear my cry.

II Ashes anoint each rooftop, each footstep is ground glass. I wonder how you’ve managed to outrun the decades of loss.   Dying light frames your shoulders, the tight angle of your martyr’s spine.   We were worlds from here, once.   The skyline is a hatchwork of bones eaten clean and left behind   but we are too hungry here to make memory.   Your eyes billow with smoke in the ruined room.   New Grace was never home, you say.   Home is for the next life. Here is already burnt. 

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Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

III There are no more stars, mother. No light but the glare of the moon’s white grin. I’ve no words left to write, nothing to say but this:   Over time, one forgets the business of bodies.   I carry my bones softly, bear his weight while I count the ceiling’s rotted ribs.   A tree still lives here, somehow.   When I breathe deep, something yellow, ambrosial swells in me like the distant memory of love.   But nothing bears.   God, I am tired of being young upon this dead earth.   I am so tired of being someone’s  daughter

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Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

IV The nets drowned my mother’s great heart long before I learned to weep. My father, a fisherman’s son, wore his hair slicked back, razored at the temples to keep the vultures away. My brother said daddy’s left eye once belonged to a fearsome fish. I’d often wondered about the crown of bones on the dresser but there are no corners left here for hiding things. I keep my mother’s picture tucked beneath my waistband, against the stitched muscle of my belly. My right eye is a sharpened blade, my breasts are bound by the ribs of fearsome fish. There is no mercy left for daughters in New Grace.

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Pragga by Yashika Graham So you wake up wid a rahtid conscience; you and this everlasting dark morning that won’t break, won’t set you loose, won’t let the sun out. In part you fraid of being the only one wide-eyed drizzling with torment, in part it is the dark; how it traps you. You want to wake somebody, tell dem how yuh sorry, but the district always so quiet at night, you fraid the entire plate mash and everybody doubly vex cause you tief dem sleep. It wouldn’t be the first, but you siddung deh; frighten like fraid puss, a jerk wid every leaf, a wonda why di dammin dog won’ go sleep. Is really your fault. You shouldn’t move wid di people dem yam. Harvest Sunday is fi sharing yes, but what you do was tief.

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Yashika Graham

Already Already I am stained; a merchant of scents, of spinning smoke, of haze. Already I am stacking whims, habits, ways. Already I am stained; a merchant of touch, of goose-bump, of feeling Already I am, figurehead to the said same quivering I thought dead, already falling into the same drip-dream waterhole, of love-source.

Reckoning Thought I saw you today, the air, panic-red against the graying curve of memory and you; justified.

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Yashika Graham

Scent Any day now you will change and all that has brought you to me will have departed. You were always traveling sand; moving with the rolling winds, shifting into sea grape cultures, wedging up the shin bridges of beach comers, resting. You journey the flowing island air; all is a meshing of moments minted in the hour of scent, but this too will fade. When next I see you; chest meshed on chest behind months and months of seeming like years, we will be different. All excesses will have rushed to the edges and flown. Your eyes will have a different stain, your skin; new signs of being loved. You will have found a different fix for your heart, you will have grown out of familiar scent.

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Yashika Graham

Now Now I wish I’d find that single sock fought off during a night of dream, come home to the tinkering of you neatening our ways to please me; the lop-sided things, the approval-craving smile, rendering me loved in ways stranger than ourselves. Now I leave your shorts as you would, in some in-the-way place. The scents are gone, except on rare visits when the sun-tarped Lignum wafts you into me. But I find you in the walk through the hall, your movements stationed in its pockets of air. You… still wrap around me, like skin…

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Yashika Graham

Begin This dizzy spell comes to us collect from the outer limits of understanding. Love has had its clear cuts, but not at this hour, not in this clogged heap of dust. You must understand that from wherever it tempts you, there is a shackle-shaped hold-me-close you cannot escape. And roads, roads that twist and mingle with your inner workings, and trust me, trust me when I feel this; you, you have always been the one the ill-bred, mockingbird shedding thought for feeling and this, this is not crazy, no. This is your beginning.

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Juleus Ghunta Reunion for Mellisa Stoddart fort charlotte – where we retreated to after school to plot revolutions, dream many days died with us here, prostrated on wooden rails between reams by garvey & césaire on some speechless evenings we watched pelicans dive from the promontories today, years later, we lean on charlotte’s canons to talk of restraint, regret how we wish we had dived with the pelicans & died a thousand deaths

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Juleus Ghunta

Etiquette She would have none of it. This sound of soup swirling on my palate like revivalists at roadside baptisms. She smacked me for eating wrong. And now, years later, in Japan, I attempt to impress new friends by eating as silently as I can, though the skyward dance of steam urges rebellions in my mouth. My friends assure me, that here, there’s no greater praise to one who gives me soup, than to hollow my lips like revivalists deep in spirit and slurp.

Moving Again Her voice pierced our slumber, rupturing our dreams. She unlocked the backdoor and stood – a headless star – within the frame, breathing her bruises into her breasts. Our knapsacks bulged like a third trimester, huge plastic bags flapped in the breeze disrupting dawn’s crowing cacophony. We knew well these signs. Eager to escape the parental wrangles we arrived with the early sun, weeping in a huddle on the veranda of our ninth home.

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Peter Roberts At His Sunset At his sunset His eyes dimming Said, “I have to go now” Softly, softly into his night He left us Turning his face Closing his eyes To find a new dawn Leaving Concrete deep footprints as memories That guide us Through our own private darkness

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Peter Roberts

Survival The flower pushed up -was pulled upgrew up in hostility amongst trampling feet in unyielding shoes a concrete jungle lifestyle still knowing reaching for the source of all that would guide it to reclaim land lost

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Roxann West Ghetto Love I called his love, ghetto love The kind that knocked you to your knees instead of sweeping you off your feet. Love he said…..but i called it……ghetto love Care was merely an expression, an understatement, a carbon copy, maybe, his interpretation of love. The love he gave left me tattered and torn; Emotional scars, my heart ripped out, worn. I wondered, why do I go through this? Whirlwind, spinning, spinning. Today I must put the trash out! I salvaged what was left of my heart, collected the pieces put them together, and maybe just maybe I’ll be able to find true love. Not another misinterpretation. misunderstanding. of love. I called it ghetto love… The kind that knocks you to your knees instead of sweeping you off your feet...

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SPECIAL FEATURE Winners of UWI, Mona Poetry Clash 2015

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Peta-Gaye Williams - 1st Place Creatures of the Canopy

In the canopy, a Jamaican Blackbird nests, a ring-tailed pigeon coos to the croaking of a frog, the Old Man’s Beard hangs out on limbs in search of sunlight that peeps like streaks of fire through blades of grass. Swallowtail butterflies float on the wind and lizards leap for flies.   The understory is a sea of ferns and mosses that cling to the trunk of trees, Slender Sun and Wax Lip orchids and lilies that bloom near the floor -  a carpet of dry leaves. The tune of the forest is the resonance of birds perfectly pitching their chirps.

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UWI Poetry Clash 2015: Peta-Gaye Williams

Turquoise Dress When Mama goes to the hospital she joins a line forty persons long  and waits from 2:00 am to 6:00 pm as if a stroke is a joke that one waits to manifest.  She leaves the house in her turquoise dress, She comes back in a white  and a coffin the colour of cream. 

Out of Wedlock An out of wedlock orgasm still takes me to the gates of God  and they say God is not merciful to sinners

Spliff I imagine myself in another life where I am that spliff being rolled between your fingers like nipples, becoming familiar with your tongue snail stepping across the surface of my skin. I imagine being clasped between your lips and being the substance for getting you high. I envision enjoying the wet. I die only when you strike a match and light up.

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Kaleb D’Aguilar - 2nd Place Sambo’s Allegory What’s one more nigger more or less Don’t cross my path Teach him Nothing You, boy Here! Bitter things Nothing between us, nothing Black And insolent Don’t cross my path And so we gather. To remember Here, at Sunderland Point Lying at the site of Samboo’s grave Waiting for full earth to speak Waiting for buried bones to whisper So that we can remember You nigger You nigger without a name Nigger without a reason Nigger without a history My nigger I named you

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UWI Poetry Clash 2015: Kaleb D’Aguilar

Sambo Dis nigger without a name Dis nigger without a reason Dis nigger without a history Dis nigger Sambo Black Nasty Nappy Ugly Slave Nigger My nigger without a name My nigger without a reason My nigger without a history My nigger My Sambo Stop! Lying at the site of Sambo’s grave Waiting for full earth to speak Waiting for buried bones to whisper So that we can remember Who is Sambo? A derogatory name given to anyone of the negro race Clarke Brown Johnson Lewis Duncan D’Aguilar

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UWI Poetry Clash 2015: Kaleb D’Aguilar

Sambo A nigger without a name Sambo A nigger without a reason Samboo A nigger without a history Sambo A nigger A Sambo

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Nicholai-Andre Alexander - 3rd Place Boom

Click. Click. Click. Gun shots litter my brain, heart and soul non stop, God became a gunman I can barely stand AND the reason I got shot was because I needed to be made hot, So the hot shot made sure I got shot with hot shots that shot lots into every soft spot in my sinful flesh and burnt away my desire for another master til there was nothing left. His arsenal was stocked with armour piercing bullets shot from rocket launchers Lit up like old English canons.. Canonized text shot me like a sniper the impact sliced like a two sided knife... Am I sadistic? Cause I think I like this debt free death daily, pained-up to break-chains-up life. God shot me... But not with an STI or STD He lodged a bullet in my brain to lock down my flesh and set me free... But of course the body fights outside agents And everything strange and

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UWI Poetry Clash 2015: Nicholai-Andre Alexander

Tries to create its own equilibrium So it keeps spitting out bullets like Hulk, Deadpool and Wolverine, But it's like He expected it so hulky clips keep causing dead pools of blood, truth ripping at me like a rabid wolverine, Word running in, sin stumbling out, north western bar fight, broken bottle of bloody wine to the skull, right upside my cranium, seeping down to dye my gray matter, He died to kill all grey matter. Jesus hates middle grounds. He wanted it all or nothing. So He launched an atom bomb barrage on my nothing triggering everything needed for making me something I was not, He shot things which were not as if they were, a visionary production my past reduced to a mere single scene experience my rebirth blown up on big screen for the world to see. He shot me multiplistically... And now I see me, being made into a full feature movie... Oh one more thing, He booked Himself for my story first, and He'll be here beyond the last. Assassinated as salvation from death. Can’t believe Christ created a crime spree just to save lil ole me...

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FEATUREDWRITER Poetry - A Communal Act: Andre Bagoo Interviewed by Tanya Batson-Savage

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SUSUMBA’SBOOKBAG April 2015

A Communal Act An Interview with Andre Bagoo

“A poem is a communal act,” declares poet, journalist and blogger Andre Bagoo. Already widely anthologized and on the cusp of launching his sophomore collection of poems, Burn, Bagoo resides in the borderlands between the emerging and established Caribbean writer. There is nothing nebulous about his ideas of poetry, however, as his opinions are squarely rooted in the belief in the power of art. Burn, published by Spearman Books, is among the quartet of new fiction and poetry being launched at the 2015 NGC Bocas Literary Festival in Port of Spain. Bagoo’s first collection Trick Vessels was also published by Spearman Books in 2012. Burn has been described by Professor Mervyn Morris, Poet Laureate of Jamaica, as containing “poems of intimate grace” while Loretta Collins Koblah, winner of the 2012 Bocas Prize for poetry describes the collection as “kaleidoscopic, surreal and stunning”. So, with two collections under his belt and having been anthologized in The Boston Review, The Caribbean Writer and the Caribbean Review of Books, Bagoo is well on his way to transitioning from emerging to established voice among the current generation of Caribbean writers. We are seated on the steps of the amphitheatre by the National Library with the Old Fire Station as the backdrop. The conversation includes his journey toward poetry, as well as what he hopes to achieve through his writing. “I wasn’t a prodigy of anything like that,” Bagoo says talking about his early writings. The youngest of four and only boy admits that occasionally his mother comes across his early writings and brings them to his attention. He laughingly describes them as “cringe worthy”. “I guess it doesn’t matter when you start,” Baggoo continued. Bagoo reveals that D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Snake’ and Derek Walcott’s ‘Maas Man’ as poems he read early in life that had a lasting impact on him and influenced his own journey toward writing. “I remember reading that,” he said of ‘Snake’. “It just worked on a strange level that lingered for a long time.” Creating this lasting response is also what Bagoo wants to achieve through his poetry.

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SUSUMBA’SBOOKBAG April 2015

A Communal Act An Interview with Andre Bagoo

“I think the ideal response from a reader could be an emotional response.” Bagoo said. “Perhaps I would also want to state something that is communal that different people can identify with.” “I would like the poem to document for recall.” Bagoo said. “Recall and maybe speak to somebody now or to come or maybe just disappear forever. But the voice must be a truth. Even through the techniques of misdirection, even though the artifice of the poem, it should do what M. Taylor says a poem should do: it should command itself.” The conversation shifts to the fertility of the contemporary Caribbean literary landscape, an the influx of emerging writers, many of whom come to the fore through regional festivals such as the Calabash International Literary Festival (Jamaica) and the Bocas Literary Festival (Trinidad and Tobago). Though he admits that it does appear that there are more writers, Bagoo believes that the Caribbean is no more fertile than it used to be. “I think there’s always been a lot of literature that’s being produced,” he said, arguing that Caribbean people have always been writing even though a lot of the work was not being seen by the public. He notes however, that the global literary landscape is changing. “I think literature, not just Caribbean literature is going through a lot of changes,” Bagoo said pointing to the impact of digital publishing and blogs. Bagoo is the editor for the “So what we are seeing is a lot of proliferation from that,” Bagoo said. “I certainly think that more people are finding ways to connect with the literature,” he said. One of the most evident results of these changes appears to be that more of the current crop of Caribbean writers are choosing to stay at home, as migration is now seen as less an imperative for writing success. “It’s certainly less true today than it was in the 1960s,” Bagoo said pointing out that travelling is now much faster and the internet has significantly widened communications and access. “Countries are much closer,” Bagoo said. Even so, he points out that the reality that most publishers are outside of the Caribbean remains. Bagoo expresses great belief in the power of poetry as well as the freedom of expression and power of the audience to engage or disengage with what has been said.

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SUSUMBA’SBOOKBAG April 2015

A Communal Act An Interview with Andre Bagoo

“I don’t think that anything can be dangerous about poetry,” Bagoo said, explaining that he doesn’t believe there is anything that a poet cannot write about. “I would say that there are tendencies in society, not just poetry itself, there are dangers in reinforcing the oppression of marginalized voices. But as dangerous as a poem may be, every person has a right to self expression,” he said. “We may disagree with a poem but we have the freedom to react to that poem and the same freedom gives us the right to disagree,” Bagoo continued. “No poem can ever be dangerous because the response is equally powerful,” Bagoo says.

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Susumba's Book bag issue 4  

New writing from across the Caribbean: Loretta Collins Koblah, Danielle Boodoo-Fortune, Yashika Graham, Winners of the UWI Mona Poetry Clash...

Susumba's Book bag issue 4  

New writing from across the Caribbean: Loretta Collins Koblah, Danielle Boodoo-Fortune, Yashika Graham, Winners of the UWI Mona Poetry Clash...

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