POUI CAVE HILL JOURNAL OF CREATIVE WRITING
POUI NUMBER XVII, 2016 CAVE HILL JOURNAL OF CREATIVE WRITING
Number XVII, 2016 EDITORIAL BOARD: Rob Leyshon Nicola Hunte
CONSULTANT EDITORS: Jane Bryce Hazel Simmons-McDonald Mark McWatt Kamau Brathwaite Philip Nanton Mark Jason Welch
COVER DESIGN: Mark Headley ‗.
Poui, the Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing (CHJCW), is published by the Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
Poui welcomes submissions of previously unpublished poetry and fiction (see last page for details). © 2016 by Poui, CHJCW, Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature.
Welcome to POUI XVII. We‘re sure many of you will have noticed that POUI‘s been a little sluggish out of the blocks this year, but we‘re also sure that the wait will have been worth it. Inside you‘ll find the usual vibrant mix of prose and verse by writers (both established and emerging) from the Caribbean and from across the world: Afghanistan to Alaska, Tanzania to Toronto. And again as usual, you‘ll find arresting visual images accompanying some of the pieces. Our featured writer for this issue is Dr Ruoen Fan, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Fudan University in China and currently visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature at the UWI Cave Hill Campus. Fan‘s sequence of poems (―Seven Poems Composed on an Island Beyond the Ocean‖) is the fruit of a collaboration with renowned Cuban artist Leandro Soto, who has kindly allowed us to reproduce his drawings. You‘ll read a lot more about the precise nature of the two artists‘ collaboration in the relevant section. All we‘ll say here is that the result is an illuminating cross-cultural dialogue between text and image. Speaking of text and image, at the end of last year POUI hosted the launch of a new book of poems by veteran POUI contributor and one of our consultant editors, Philip Nanton. Canouan Suite and Other Pieces (Papillote Press) is a wide-ranging interrogation of the relationship between the verbal and the visual, between (as Nanton puts it, with a nod to the late John Berger) their different ways of seeing. Interestingly enough, this interplay of genres (and cultures) that Nanton‘s collection explores turned out to be an unmistakable leitmotif running through many of the contributions to this edition of POUI, so much so that we decided to devote a whole - in fact the longest - section to it. Finally, a word about how the material was organized. Jane Bryce was cajoled out of retirement to arrange the various sections and provide them with subtitles. For this and for much else, we thank her: il miglior fabrro.
From the editors: Rob Leyshon Nicola Hunte
TABLE OF CONTENTS Foreword …..……………………………………………………………….
Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming Brothers & Sisters …………………………………………………………
Ellen Taylor Ironing Board ……………………………………………………………...
Lindsay Kroes Jupiter or Mercury, Whichever ……………………………………………
Lafleur Cockburn Shackles .……………………………………………………………………
Alyssa Quintyne Letters to Momma …………………………………………………………
Karen Smith-Miller On the Edge of a Life .…………………………………………………….. A Decade to Dig his Hole ………………………………………………..
Obediah Smith Needing herself to be in her Mother‘s Arms ……………………………… Quarrelsome Couple .………………………………………………………
MISFITS & OCCUPATIONS
Lindsay Kroes Wipes ………………………………………………………………………
Danielle Norris To Save A Life ……………………………………………………………..
Kristine Simelda Dellis .………………………………………………………………………
Obediah Smith 8 Hands Chatting .…………………………………………………………
Nancy Anne Miller I is for Immigrant ………………………………………………………… Flight Attendant ………………………………………………………… Sharma Taylor Believe Me Teacher ……………………………………………………… . Eric Rose Autumn Afternoon In Beijing …………………………………………….
Daisy Holder-Lafond The Art of Presentation .…………………………………………………… Breaking News ……………………………………………………………..
Tia L. Clarke Forty Cents ..……………………………………………………………….
Arnulfo Kantun 3 Sightings And A Miss ……………………………………………………
OF GODS & SPIRITS
Yashika Graham Sun God ..……………………………………………………………………
Gerardo Polanco Beeswax Candles and the Dying ………………………………………….
Gerardo Polanco Las Cabañuelas Alux (or, The Alux Tells Time) ..………………………….
Obediah Smith At St. Phillip‘s Church in Kisii ……………………………………………… Long White Beard of Father Time ..………………………………………….
Mark McWatt Body Light ……………………………………………………………………
FEATURED WRITER: RUOEN FAN
Seven Poems Composed on an Island Beyond the Ocean
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………
Leandro Soto Seven Drawings………………………………………………………………..
70 70 70 70 71 71 71 72-78
LANDSCAPES OF MEMORY
Gary Brocks Caribbean Fortress Munitions Room (1994) ..……………………………
Nancy Anne Miller House Visit .………………………………………………………………
Tia L. Clarke The Shack .………………………………………………………………..
Nancy Anne Miller Hot Water Bottle .………………………………………………………… Shakespearean ……………………………………………………………
Althea Romeo-Mark Aqui Me Quedo ………………………………………………………….
Dorsia J. Smith Returning to Soweto, July 25, 1992 .……………………………………
Yashika Graham Synthesis .………………………………………………………………… Guidelines .………………………………………………………………. Still ……………………………………………………………………….
88. 88 88
Obediah Smith In Jinja on my 61st Birthday ..…………………………………………….
Kavita Ganness River Lover ..…………………………………………………………….. Daughter of Fire ………………………………………………………….
Obediah Smith Easy Come Easy Go ……………………………………………………… Stones Fake or Genuine ………………………………………………….. Once Upon a Greasy Pole ………………………………………………... Frog Pitching Back to its Pond …………………………………………..
95 96 99 99
Arnulfo Kantun Blue Mango ……………………………………………………………….
Dorsia J. Smith Love Work …………………………………………………………………
Jane Bryce Shadow Boxing ……………………………………………………………
Philip Nanton Seeing is Believing ..……………………………………………………….
Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming Anti-Matter Soucouyant ..…………………………………………………..
Alyssa Quintyne Come Back And Sea Us Again ..……………………………………………
Eric Rose Bejing Waltz ………………………………………………………………..
WORDS INTO ART
Mark McWatt A Triptych for Tomorrow ………………………………………………….
Kamran Mir Hazar Sixteen Poems from the Hazaristan with Haiku Body and a Yellow Mandala
Yashika Graham Retrieval ……………………………………………………………………
Kenny Parris Tales From Detention ……………………………………………………….
Obediah Smith Soft Pillows, White Sheets ..………………………………………………… Under Belly of the Beast ……………………………………………………
Althea Romeo-Mark Carte Blanche …………………………………………………………………
Dorsia J. Smith Open Door ……………………………………………………………………
Tia L. Clarke Up in Smoke …………………………………………………………………. And We Made Love ..………………………………………………………….
Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming Black Hole Midnight Robber ………………………………………………… Wet ……………………………………………………………………………
Ellen Taylor No Regrets ……………………………………………………………………
Kavita Ganness Flour …………………………………………………………………………. We Piss ……………………………………………………………………….
Eric Rose The Burn ……………………………………………………………………..
Arnulfo Kantun Carnival Creator ………………………………………………………………
Brothers And Sisters Don‘t turn around when shadows darken the windows of childhood when brothers and sisters spin playing ―drunk man‖ until giddy Don‘t peer into sepia photos you may espy the thunderstorm clouds creeping into the corners and you may know that in looking back you see the periwinkle necklace broken the lives of children full-stopped Don‘t be a voyeur prying into the childish pleasures of yore you may stumble into the future through a shadowed portal filled with ghosts of brothers and sisters
Ellen Taylor Ironing Board A new friend observes we share the same birthday. She has counted back the weeks and discovered her date of conception: Valentine's Day. I never considered such sleuthing into my Roman Catholic origins -Now, I wonder if that was the year, for Valentine's Day, my father gave my mother her red frame ironing board, which she still uses today, 53 years later. I imagine them, celebrating that lover's holiday, ironing board leaning in the corner of the kitchen, red bow undone. Did they imagine me as they pressed 12
together into sleep, or did they just doze off in the steamy dream of a freshly ironed shirt?
Lindsay Kroes Jupiter or Mercury, Whichever ―Tom, you have to understand. Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation.‖ Callie took a sip of pineapple juice and stared over the railing at the Caribbean Sea. It was improbably blue, exactly as advertised on the brochures which covered our coffee table all winter. Callie was dressed already. She and Max had already been to the top deck to look for whales and dolphins, and then to the middle deck for breakfast. He was still operating on pre-school time, which meant he sprang out of bed a few minutes before six every morning. Around this time, he and his classmates would ordinarily be settling into quiet solo play, and true to routine, he was stretched on the couch inside the cabin with his blankey clutched in his fists, absorbed by the iPad. ―I just need a day to myself. I need to go to the spa, read on the deck, swim in the pool, and eat lunch in the adults-only dining room.‖ Callie looked at me directly. She is a stickler for eye contact. I could tell from her tone that she was ‗expressing her needs,‘ something which her therapist had told me to respect. Our therapist. Our therapist who was always on her side. ―You got it,‖ I said, placing my hand on the small of her back. ―But isn‘t today the Barbados stop? I thought you were talking about going to some wildlife reserve?‖ Callie had been scouring TripAdvisor ever since we booked this cruise, filling a notebook with must-see‘s in every port of call. I am more of the ‗show up and go with the flow‘ kind of guy, but (as Callie pointed out) this approach doesn‘t work so well when you only have six hours to spend in each country. ―I ran into Charles and Megan at breakfast, and they‘re taking Marlie and Josie to the reserve too. So, they said you two would be welcome to join.‖ Her smile said, nice try. I smiled blandly back. ―Great.‖ Max was still staring at the iPad, his face glowing blue from the screen‘s reflection. ―Ready to meet some monkeys?‖ He didn‘t look up.
―Max,‖ I said. He gave no visible sign of hearing me. ―Max!‖ I repeated, but Callie put her hand on my arm with a pointed look. Don‟t push it. ―Great,‖ I repeated, looking towards the horizon and addressing my words to nobody in particular. ―Max and I will go see the monkeys.‖ Outside the tinted tour bus windows, crooked wooden houses and crowded shops gave way to a thick snarl of green underbrush. Every so often, a palm leaf reached out of the tangle to slap against the bus as it passed. Max looked up for a moment, startled, but his eyes quickly returned to the book in his hands. His iPad and blankey had been replaced with Mr. Martian Moves to the Moon, a weathered board book which was the only story he would entertain for a five-month stretch last year. Mr. Martian lives on Mars. Each day he looks up to the stars. “I am all alone,” says he. “Oh where is there a friend for me?” His mouth moved as he turned the page, and his pointer finger traced the cartoon illustration of Mars. Marlie and Josie pressed their sunscreen-smudged faces against the window panes, jostling against each other and squealing with each new discovery. ―Look, goats!‖ ―A pink house, Mummy. I want a pink house! Why can‘t our house be pink?‖ On the first evening of the cruise, after the kids had gone to bed, Charles and Megan came over with a bottle of wine. The balmy air and the long day of travel combined to make us quickly, sloppily drunk. We reminisced in stage whispers, so as not to wake Max on the other side of the sliding glass door. ―We never thought we‘d be cruise people,‖ Callie had admitted over her third glass. ―We made these crazy plans, like backpacking in the Andes with our kids strapped to our backs.‖ It was true. If you had told my pot-smoking, high school self that, in fifteen years, I‘d be swimming in a chlorinated pool twenty feet from the ocean, I would have told you to go fuck yourself. Megan laughed. ―Us too. We used to go backwoods camping, many moons ago. Algonquin, Sleeping Giant. But the only place we‘ve been since Marlie was born is Orlando, Florida.‖ ―It‘s different when you have kids. Kids make it harder,‖ Callie said. Charles raised his glass, adding a hearty ―amen.‖ ―Especially kids like Max,‖ I added. 14
Megan and Charles were abruptly solemn, as if someone had just announced a moment of silence. Callie levelled a steady glare in my direction. In an instant I saw the conversation we would later have. What does that mean, Tom? Kids like Max? What kind of kid do you think our son is, exactly? That night she slept on her side facing away from me, leaving a foot between us in the queensize bed. I lay on my back, staring out the window as Max‘s white-noise machine blocked out the sound of the waves. The moon was silvery white and almost full, shining impassively on the black ocean. ―Look, Max, it‘s a big, big slug. It‘s huge!‖ Josie hopped up and down on the tips of her toes, bent over a smooth green leaf. We were all loitered in a group near the reserve entrance, like students on a high school field trip. I took the opportunity of Max‘s momentary distraction to slide the board book out of his hands. ―Remember, at two o‘clock the animals get fed!‖ The guide called, and we dispersed through the cobblestone paths of the reserve. Max tottered a few steps behind the group, stooping to pick up stones and twigs. He took no notice of the sleepy caiman lounging in a nearby pond. He stopped to look at a tortoise only because it had crawled directly into his path. I snapped a photo of the two, looking at each other blankly, to show to Callie. Look Mum, we had fun. We proceeded towards the bird cages, where macaws bobbed and ducked, emitting piercing shrieks from their outstretched beaks. Marlie and Josie hammed for the camera in front of a cage. Max covered his ears and squatted on the ground, as if hoping to escape. Eventually we made our way to the feeding area, a large platform where tortoises and peacocks and deer had already assembled in anticipation. Monkeys flitted between the branches of nearby trees, looking down with attentive faces. I settled on a bench, and Max hunkered down at my feet, intent on the flagstones. ―That‘s Mercury, it‘s the planet that‘s closest to the sun.‖ I craned to see what he was doing. He had arranged eight pebbles in a line, with a large, jagged piece of red brick at the centre. ―Mercury is so, so hot, right, Dad?‖ ―That‘s right,‖ I said. ―But hey - did you notice the monkey up in that tree?‖ A wildlife reserve employee wheeled a barrow full of food down the path and overturned it on the platform, spilling a large pile of cut fruits and vegetables onto the ground. ―Look, they‘re going to feed the animals now.‖ The monkeys descended, snatching up bananas, chunks of pumpkin, and halved sweet potatoes.
A skirmish broke out between two monkeys, and the peacock‘s fan unfurled to its full height. Spectators surged forward with iPhones and GoPros outstretched. ―Maxy! Check it out.‖ Josie giggled as a monkey loped by, a banana in each hand and a sweet potato lodged in his teeth. ―Greedy monkey,‖ she laughed. ―Look, Max!‖ He didn‘t respond. Instead, he picked up one stone, jiggled it in his hand, and set it down again in the line. ―Jupiter is the biggest planet in the solar system, but the sun is way way way bigger.‖ I intercepted a knowing glance between Charles and Megan. Another tourist was staring at Max, and when I caught her eye, she gave me an indulgent smile. ―Come on, Max,‖ I said, taking hold of one arm and pulling him upwards. ―There‘s all kinds of animals to see right now.‖ He made a sound of annoyance and shrugged my arm off, hurrying to fix the scattered stones into a straight line again. ―It‘s Jupiter and Mercury and Venus and-‖ ―Max. That‘s enough about the solar system, okay? That‘s enough.‖ His head was bowed, and his fingers were busy. ―Jupiter‘s too cold to live on, right Dad?‖ ―Enough about the solar system, Max. Leave it.‖ I ignored him, squinting into my camera to capture a monkey sitting at the base of a nearby tree. His hands were peeling a banana with surprising dexterity. ―Right, Dad? An‘ the one that‘s closest to the sun is Mercury, right Dad? An‘ it‘s cold on Jupiter and really, really hot on the sun, right Dad? Right, Dad?‖ I didn‘t answer, pressing the shutter slowly. The monkey looked up for a moment, his eyes catching mine. A shriek from Max, and I turned around. He was wailing, staring at Josie with outrage. She cupped something small against her body. ―They‘re just rocks, you should share!‖ she cried, darting away from him. He stamped his foot against the ground repeatedly. ―No no no no no.‖ He charged towards her, but she turned and threw the pebble – Jupiter or Mercury, whichever one it was – into the underbrush. I grabbed Max‘s arms, holding them at his sides. ―Maxy, it‘s okay, we have to share remember? It‘s nice to share.‖ The monkey got up and loped away, disturbed by the commotion.
Marlie reached out to pat Max‘s head, with the well-meant condescension of one child comforting another child. ―They‘re not really planets, they‘re just rocks. You can get another one.‖ She grabbed a small stone off the ground and thrust it into his hand. ―Take this one right here.‖ Max avoided her gaze and ducked from her embrace, turning back to the stones on the ground. He straightened the line again. ―Thanks, Marlie,‖ I said. I avoid looking at Megan or Charlie. ―He‘s okay. He just – he just really likes the solar system.‖ ―Time to move on to our next stop!‖ Our tour guide bounded down the path, leading us back to the bus. Max was still on the ground, quietly commentating his universe. ―Mercury is the first one, and then Venus, and then Earth. Earth has only one moon, and Mercury has no moons, and Saturn has a lot of moons. It has eighteen moons.‖ He counted under his breath as he placed flecks of moss in a circle around one of the pebbles. ―Max, time to go.‖ Max didn‘t respond. It‟s not that he‟s ignoring you, Callie always says. He just doesn‟t hear you. He picked up the third stone and set it back down again. ―This is Earth, and beside Earth is Venus, and Mars is on the other side, and Mars is hot and all burning and if you step on it you die.‖ The last of the cruise passengers had disappeared up the path, and I was beginning to long for the sterile kiss of air conditioning. I seized Max by the arms and lifted him off the ground, pressing his writhing body into my own and carrying him up the path. My face was frozen in a grim line. As I walked, my shoes scattered Max‘s collection of stone planets. He buried his face in my shoulder, moaning. An older man stepped to the side and waited for us to catch up. As we reached him, he turned to me. ―My wife and I have a child who has what your little guy has.‖ Something caught in my chest. I had the irrational desire to put my hands over my ears. La la la can‟t hear you. But I also wondered what it would sound like if he said it. How would it sound in the air, spoken out loud instead of reflected in the questioning eyes of other parents, hinted at by speech therapists and preschool teachers? ―It‘s tough now, but it‘ll sort itself out. They‘ve really come a long way with therapy nowadays, and a lot of that‘s even covered under insurance. My son‘s a computer scientist at Johns Hopkins, and you know, he even has a girlfriend now.‖
I nodded. I didn‘t know whether to thank the man or punch him in the face, but the bus was already mostly loaded and the guide was beckoning us, so all I did was follow him up the path. Callie was stretched out on the balcony when we got back to the ship. I flopped down on a patio chair, and together we watched the port growing smaller, while the horizon widened on either side of the island. ―Did you meet some monkeys, Max?‖ He avoided her eyes, burrowing his face into his blankey instead. I showed her the picture on my phone. She smiled over-brightly and leaned down to tug the blankey from Max‘s face. ―Maxy! You saw a turtle!‖ ―Tortoise.‖ ―Hm?‖ ―Not turtle, tortoise.‖ He turned to me. ―Right, dad?‖ I looked into his eyes, and he looked back, a simple action so rare it felt like a gift. His eyes were round and deep brown. Inquisitive. Careful. I resisted the urge to wrap him in my arms, knowing he would recoil. Instead, I settled for looking into his eyes. It was true, what Callie said. Everything is different when you have kids. You look into the eyes of your child, and you feel the pull of something like gravity, something equally invisible and inescapable. Your universe rearranges. From then on, you revolve around him like his own private moon.
Lafleur Cockburn Shackles Evenin‘ Ms. Jacobs. Nah say me ah badah yuh. You ah de only body me could complain to. Ah fed up get licks now, an it nah get easier at all. Dis time me scringe up pan the ground like a millipede, and me beg pardon like how yuh tell me beg. But not ah soul care bout me ‗pology. None ah them listen. Granny say how me too brazen and how mommy too soft. But how she could be ―too soft‖ and she ah beat me mawnin‘ noon and night? Den uncle Winston say how me rude because me bawling out and not ah water coming out me eye. Ah tell the fronted man to mind he own damn business. Who tell me say so? Mommy wring me mout and cuff me
innah me eye. Me swear me head bin goin‘ buss like one ah dem dry coconut. Look how me eye shut down and me mout swell up. Like de woman mean to kill me dead dead Ms. Jacobs. Mawnin‘ Ms. Jacobs. Me bring back the book me did borrow. Sorry bout the state. De cover come off when mommy grabble me unexpected and drag me out in de rain. She say how me force-ripe and how she go beat out the fluxiness that get innah me head. Me keep telling she dat de man and de woman on de cover is Pip and Estella, but she say how me ah read big people thing right in front she face. An den she say is all de wrong tings I reading dat hav me waltzing home so late every evenng. She beat me so bad, ah vomit, ah pee me skin and ah. . . Ms. Jacobs you awright? Yuh better sit down. Yuh face doh look to good. Well ah cudn‘t tell she why I does come home so late. She go mek me stop coming by you and yuh does help me real good with the common entrance practice. To mek it worse, granny say how yuh does wuk obeah and that is why the government tek way yuh teacher job. And she say how yuh sell yuh soul to the devil and that is why yuh husband and two pickny burn down in de house. Nah worry Ms. Jacobs, me nah go believe ah thing dem haffuh say bout you. Not me! Good day Ms. Jacobs. Me come show yuh me common entrance results. Me come 10th. Dat nah jus fuh de school yuh know, dah ah fuh the whole country. So is town school me going now, just like yuh bin done say. D same one you use to go in yuh days. Dey saying that me musse de only one who tek ine wat de teacher bin saying, because nobody else pass to go town school. Everybody else goin de school down the road or the one over the hill. Everything single ting you teach me come pan de paper. Ello, wen dey ask me how me do so good ah give demy uh message - that common sense nah book learning. De principal say how me outtah place but mommy bin too busy pampersettin to tek he on, so me nah get no licks. She send me by me fadah with me results but all he do is cuss bout how much money he hav to plug out to sen me town school. Me nah study he doh. Me just too proud ah meself. Ms Jacobs, yuh proud ah me, nah true? ―Evenin‘ Ms. Jacobs. Sorry fuh disturb yuh on de lawd‘s day but ah cyar tek how dis place unfair. Dis blessed Sunday, me an dem oders go down by de river on May Day fuh go dam deep-hole. We nah disturb nobody yuh know. We tek some ole banana body and some ole bag we meet on de ground by the road near Deacon Green banana field caz all body know dat he does jus burn dem up. Not one ah we set foot pan the man land. Yuh know de dangerous man say how we damage his crop and how he want compensation? Mommy say dat she fine dat I bright up since I goin town school, an she send fuh the ole leather belt. Yeeess Ms. Jacobs, the same nasty belt the wicked Deacon tell she fuh soak down in the stale pee. Well from de time me hear dat, me nah wait yuh know? Me lent off! Ah head straight to de guava patch below the ole sugar mill. You know de Deacon macko me and lead all ah dem straight to me? If he cuddah lead he flock so eh? But he waste he time, because not one ah dem come near me. Dey say how de place blight because dat is yuh obeah spot. Why you never tell dem dat is the only peaceful spot yuh cuddah find where yuh drunken husband couldn‘t harass you? Ms. Jacobs, is bare wrong impression they have bout you yuh know. Ah doh like it. Yuh haffuh do something bout dat. Good Morning, Ms. Jacobs. Things not getting easier at home at all. Mommy says how I‘m getting hoity-toity, all because I trying to talk proper like how you told me. I have to practice 19
home to get it right at school, and it‘s working! If you see my English teacher face when I read my paragraph on the person I most admire. I pronounced all the words just like you teach, I mean taught . . . just like you taught me. She didn‘t have much criticism after me done! I mean after I finish… was finished . . . after I was finished. She says, said…she said that I did a great job describing your qualities and you sound like an amazing person. The class don‘t laugh at me now and they even stop calling me Country-Bouky. What would I do without you Ms. Jacobs? I don‘t understand why the whole village calling you a mad woman at all. I real glad that is your doorstep I drop sleep that night I tried to run way. ―Good Afternoon Ms. Jacobs. How you doing? No. No! I never went back to daddy house. I listen to you Ms. Jacobs. I don‘t bother with mommy when she send me by him for money. I tell she what he tried to do to me the last time I went to him. If you never give me money to go school I don‘t know how I would be surviving. This mark in my face is from when I tried to explain family planning to her. She claim how I always fronted in big people business. That woman is confusing, because last month when she almost break me left hand, she plainly say that I was no longer a child and I should start acting my age. Everything like it ticking she off. I even stop trying to talk different home, I switch when I reach school, but she just find something else to complain bout. How come you never get vex with me Ms. Jacobs? Good morning Ms. Jacobs. Me come show yuh something. Watch me legs. . . wait, leh me get closer. You think these marks will ever go away? We had the usual thanksgiving service in Deacon Green yard and you know that wicked Estina? The one who swear she saw you change into a soucouyant? She claim say she catch spirit. Well I saw her peeping out the corner ah she good eye, cause you know the right one blind. Estina mek complain say me look at her with scorn? I ask her how she make dat out if she was so deep in her spirit. Ello, mommy gave me one slap! The way she jump up and put she weight behind it like one ah them Chinese kung fuh masters, Ms. Jacobs, you could tell she was showing off. I didn‘t say anything after that. I just wait until the feast start. They send me to bring the food. Man I spit in every glass ah mauby juice and yuh know how mauby frothy so it blend in nice nice. One eye Estina see me and yuh know mommy had to show off again. Look pan me nice pretty legs, look pan them. Ms. Jacobs, the marks go fade out, nah true? Goodnight Ms. Jacobs. CXC results out! Look! All grade ones! I really lucky to have you. You like you knew exactly what was coming on every exam. Nobody home jumping up with me this time. They frighten after I drink all granny pressure pills one time. They say how I have sweet man. How you watching me so Ms. Jacobs? Okay. Okay. Well to tell the truth, is one time I meet Pasco by the guava patch but me never tell he come dey! And guess who see him? That man like he don‘t have enough time to do church work. Now they have my name say how I want to kill myself for man. They not wrong yuh know, but they have the wrong man. My father is a monster, and I still can‘t believe mommy have him living in the house again. He bragging about how he have big daughter when he know damn well he never gave me a cent! Sorry Ms. Jacobs, ah don‘t mean no disrespect. You ah the last person on this earth that I will ever disrespect. Sorry plenty. Good Day Ms. Jacobs. I couldn‘t come last week because I was really feeling sick. I think I have food poisoning because ah start to vomit after ah eat some stale callaloo and crayfish boil20
up. I come to ask for some money to go to the Health Centre over the hill because it getting bad. Is a whole week done pass, and every single morning I vomiting Ms. Jacobs. Nothing staying in my stomach. And then this rash just appear out of nowhere and take over my body! Wait. Why yuh crying Ms. Jacobs? Why you holding your head? My period? What my period have to do with food poisoning? Ms. Jacobs I only do that thing one time, I swear. After you warn me I never go back near the guava patch again. Is the callaloo and crayfish wukking me belly, nah true Ms Jacobs? Evening Ms. Jacobs. Well, look at you! You rising after mid-day on Mother‘s Day. Rest yourself. Come sit down. Leh me get your little helper. Winnifred! Come make grammah comfortable! Well look at the big smile on yuh face eh? She take more than your name you know? Only five years old and she bragging about being a teacher like her grammah. Lord, don‘t cry. Winnifred! Come help me cheer up grammah, we can‘t have her sad on Mother‘s Day. And when you finish we will talk about you apologizing to Deacon Green for picking his mango. What you mean he don‘t want an apology? What he want? Child I got enough licks for you and me, and the next generation too. I don‘t care what everybody else doing! Deacon Green‘s wishes won‘t be fulfilled in this house. What you crying for now child? Go to your grammah, she has a way of explaining how this village works.
Alyssa Quintyne Letters to Momma May 23 Good morning, momma. Today starts a new chapter for us. The house finally was approved to be sold, and the inspector should be coming by any day this week. It‟s funny really, I thought I would never leave this place. No offence, but this part of town is kinda filled with old people. I know that‟ll make you laugh. I‟ll be happy to see the other parts of town with you. Can‟t wait! ~Love, Maddie May 24 Good morning, momma. I have some bad news for you…Remember Mr. Bernie? Yeah yeah, I know you don‟t want to think about that jackass now, but it‟s important. I saw Ms. Leslie in that maroon dress you loved, prancing down to George‟s ice cream shop with him. I don‟t know how in the hell she got it! Maybe when I donated your clothes, she got her hands on it… But either way, it‟s not her color. Anyways, they went in the shop and, rumor has it, they came out the back and were spotted 4 blocks down practically naked. Only reason why I know about it is because poor George came by with your dress. Said he found it in the bathroom and figured you might want it back. I washed it for you real good, for when we see each other next. The day will come before you know it. ~Kisses, Maddie May 26
My God, do you have a lot of stuff! I remember when I used to live here, don‟t get me wrong, but Jesus woman! There‟s a limit! Broken records, dolls with no heads, broken jewelry, baby clothes? Since when do you like baby stuff? Poor George and I had to sift through your crap, and I‟m not too sure we‟ll be done by the time the movers get here. Next time you leave, you‟re packing your own stuff. ~Maddie May 27 Good morning, momma. Today, George and I got a little further with packing. George got tired, so I sent home early. Poor thing. I came across your antique rug all rolled up in the attic, and I swear I could hear you giggling behind me. I remember that damn thing. A week after the fire, we were staying with Grandma. And you came stumbling drunk into the living room late at night, screaming that you bought the Feyon house on 9th Street. Grandma wasn‟t too happy that you were drunk and cursing around me, but you didn‟t care. You swooped me up in your arms and ran all the way to our old house and collapsed onto Mrs. Wakefield‟s lawn across the street. I got curious and walked across the street, but I cut my foot on some broken glass. So you had to carry me all over the neighborhood, looking for someone to help. But it was well after midnight and most old folk were fast asleep. All except Ms. Leslie, who of course would be up at that hour. All her lights were on, and you could hear her old jazz song blaring down the road, obnoxious. There whole time we were there, she stormed around, lecturing you about being a better parent. When she patched me up and went to go find a lollipop for me, you came up with the idea to take her antique rug from the entryway, and we snuck out with it. I don‟t know how you did it, but you carried me and I carried the rug back to our new house, hoping Ms. Leslie wouldn‟t chase after us. Chances are, she was still pacing around the house. And to think that dumbass put out an ad in the lost column, hoping someone would‟ve seen her „German antique rug from the finest Rutchez Dure collection‟ blah blah. It‟s old news now. She probably bought a new one soon after. Wonder what I should do with that rug though… ~Maddie May 28 Good night, momma. Today, George and I are almost done with packing up. In a week or so, we‟ll finally get to see each other again. George broke down crying when we came across you jewelry box for some reason. I know how you hate to see men cry, unless it‟s Mr. Bernie! God, I hate that man. I don‟t know why you were so infatuated with him. His beady eyes, crooked teeth, bumpy olive skin, and he always smelled like cigarettes and ginger. But you clang onto him tighter than your favorite dress. He promised you all this nonsense, said he loved you, that he couldn‟t wait to join you again, and maybe love that dress off of you again. And look what he did! Loved the same dress off of Ms. Leslie instead! Bitter old slut bird always had it in for you anyways, but why did you ever want a man like that? Maybe it was the sex? Or maybe it was because he made you feel young again? That‟s understandable, even ol‟ Wakefield would look 50 years younger compared to that crabapple of a man. ~Maddie May 29
Good morning, momma. Remember when I wrote to you that we found your jewelry box and George started crying? Well, I forgot to tell you that we found your hummingbird necklace in it. Sorry I forgot about it, too much ranting about Mr. Bernie I guess. I wanted you to have it before you left, but we just didn‟t find it in time. It wasn‟t so much of a shock for me because I knew I would see you again and I could give it to you myself. But George…poor George cried and cried, blaming himself. I knew you wouldn‟t have minded it too much, and hugged the poor man until all his tears dried up. He really does miss you. He decided to take the necklace and get it polished so it‟ll be all nice and shiny for you. New necklace, clean dress, you‟ll be so happy again. I miss you and I can‟t wait to visit. ~Love, Maddie May 30 I‟m glad to announce that George and I are finally done packing!!! You‟re definitely giving me that jam recipe now, and I don‟t care if you „can‟t find it again‟. I deserve it! Speaking of, I found all your old jam jars in the attic. I know you stopped making jam a while ago, but the jars were still sticky and sweet. And you know what else I found? A crystal jar! Tisk tisk, momma. You remember what you told me about crystal, „That‟s only for woman with husbands and low self-esteem‟. I‟m going to keep it for when I see you next so I can call you out on it! ~Your funniest daughter, Maddie May 31 We‟re done! We‟re finally done! Everything‟s packed up, and the moving trucks came this morning, so now we can move upstate together! You know, I was so excited for this day. To finally get out of this old neighborhood, pack up our past and start new, refreshing. That is, until Mr. Bernie came and offered to drive one of the moving trucks. Jackass. He didn‟t even come to see you off! Why the hell would he want to get involved now, especially when he‟s still pounding Ms. Leslie? But I do have to say, karma finally came his way and it was fantastic! See, he came into the house, (I could smell him before he walked in). I was going to greet him, but then I heard a loud smack. Then, I turned around to see that idiot jumping and flailing about, screaming something bit him! What bug in the right mind would go anywhere near him? I don‟t know if that was you or not. Either way, it was good to see him suffer a bit. ~See you soon, Maddie June 3 Sorry I haven‟t written to you every day like I promised. Moving‟s just been so stressful, that‟s all. I promise that I‟ll come by and see you when we‟re all settled and done. Plus, I have the perfect room for you here! It‟ll be worth the wait. ~Maddie June 4 Goodnight momma. Packing today was productive, but time consuming. I‟ve had to use 3 vacation days so far…there goes our weekend trip to Florida. Anyways, George drove up to visit yesterday. Brought your necklace back…and cried again. I guess he‟s been having a hard time lately with you being gone, and me moving away. He had no memories left, so I gave him your crystal jam jar. His face brightened up as soon as he saw it, but it didn‟t make the tears 23
stop. What can you do with that man? He was a crybaby since we were little! He did offer to take me to see you in a couple days. You must be impatient by now, but just hang tight. I‟ll be there before you know it! ~Love, Maddie June 7 It‟s been extremely quiet in this new house. I‟m just so used to seeing you, or hearing your voice echo through the rooms. But this place is empty. Whenever I‟m walking and I listen to my footsteps, I can hear you walking with me too. But then I realize that it‟s just me. Sometimes, I swear I can see you right behind me, or lying on the couch all curled up, but you‟re not here with me this time. Maybe I‟m the one getting impatient. Tomorrow momma, tomorrow. ~I love you, Maddie
June 8 Hello momma. I finally get to see you. I don‟t get why I‟m still writing instead of talking. Maybe I‟m just an idiot, but when I see where you really are, there‟s nothing to say. Back home, I could see you, and hear you, and feel you everywhere, even when you were gone. And to come here and know that you‟re underneath all this earth, it‟s like you‟ve been lying to me all this time…And I know you wouldn‟t lie to me. I don‟t know why I can‟t see you now, why I can‟t hear you, or feel you, or even smell you. You‟re really gone. Well, did I make the right choice? Moving away? I did it all to see you easier, but why did I do that when all of you was back home? You said, you promised me that you‟d never leave my side. But this, this is not you. Cold dirt, colder stone, dying flowers? This isn‟t you, momma. Are you back home? Can I but the house back and see you again, you know, go back to how things were? Or maybe you‟ll come to the new house, right? Right momma? That‟s what you said! You‟d never leave, no matter where I go. You‟ll always be right here, always with me. Where are you now? September 13 Good morning, momma. I hope you‟re doing ok. I haven‟t heard or seen you in a while now, so I can only hope you‟re busy doing angel business. I just wanted to let you know that I‟m ok. The new house has really brightened up since we moved in. When George came by all those months ago with your necklace, he never really left. Oh right, so, I should tell you that I‟ve been seeing George for a while now, and I‟m thinking about having him stay here with me…permanently. I know, I know, you‟re probably cussing right now. Yeah, he‟s a crybaby, but he‟s sweet and he‟s always been there for us, and, I don‟t know…I thought I could move away from the past when you left. I thought that‟s what I needed. But George reminded me that we can never run from the past, but we can welcome the good parts of it into our future. Pretty emotional, right? Anyways, I have this wonderful idea if we ever get married to have you walk him down the aisle. He‟s always seen you as a mother figure. I‟ll put the hummingbird necklace on a chair in the front. I love you. ~Maddie
Karen Smith-Miller On the Edge of a Life Mama walkin‘ out People talkin‘ ‗bout Me. I don‘t wanna care Just can‘t live in fear Alone. Tinking ‗bout ma life Don‘t wanna use this knife On him.
A Decade to Dig his Hole He‘s gone….forever. I‘ll never get to talk to him again. He won‘t walk me up the aisle. He won‘t be there to hold me in his arms and say everything is gonna be alright. I can‘t lean on him again. Nor depend on him To be there for me. He is gone. What lesson History or Trigonometry The Father expected to teach me? By ripping my dad Away from me? Giving me No notice No warning No time To patch things up, Make things right. Nor to ask him Those questions I knew he would know all the answers to. How could He!! 25
And there I was. Left so empty. A big hole in me Food could not fill up. So I shouldn‘t even try To eat Nor sleep Can‘t find him Nowhere. Where could he be? Hiding Or sleeping Or sneaking, Peeking at me Soon he‘ll say GATCHA! Cause it‘s all a big joke. But the joke continued Too long So long It made me numb. Void of feeling or thinking. I was just existing. I hear people say, ―let her go to work so she can put her mind on something else‖. Maybe my mind left me or I didn‘t have the strength to lift it to put it someplace else. I sat And sat in front of the computer. Stared at it Soon it stared at me, Shouting, 26
―What are you doing, Again?‖ I wish I could sleep Come sleep. Instead people kept coming Inanimate objects Come to see if it was true. They could find the answer Here. Friends. Where were you When I needed you? Couldn‘t you Stay And pray For another moment? Didn‘t you know I needed you beside me? I would be moving To another place, Another dimension And if you weren‘t there Here with me You would forever Be left behind. Existing in two different dimensions. At the sound Of the news I almost couldn‘t tell you What happened. I lost it. My composure, My equilibrium, My harmony With gravity And collapsed to the floor. The news Deafening to the ear Weakening to the knees 27
A blow to the subconscious. Didn‘t my sister know Not to give it to me Like that? Hot, bloody red. Right there In the doorway? Didn‘t she know how I would react? Hell. I didn‘t even know I would act Like that. It would be one of the most devastating losses of my life. No outburst of anger Nor joy To take the adrenaline from my body Nor numb the pain from my brain. The only cure For the next 10 years Was amnesiaTo just forget it.
Obediah Smith Needing herself to be in her Mother’s Arms who has a baby, a daughter, to whom she bares her breasts and feeds, whom she nurses, here in Mombasa Hotel, in public, without shame how interesting that she seems herself to be a motherless child
Quarrelsome Couple for MMN how close to the edge, my love
are we gonna go are we gonna live nearer and nearer to the edge we go - we grow my God, is it because of this, because of it why we are losing our neighbours two families, your mother‘s tenants, moving out- moving on today is it - was it because of our screaming-shouting-hittingcussing-carrying on as we had been doing doors banging in the night breaking the stillness of early morning our love battles, love quarrels to the vicious edge we‘d go we‘d venture, as if quite stupid, as if equally stupid but love and madness what close cousins what twin sisters what close friends
II MISFITS & OCCUPATIONS
Lindsay Kroes Wipes With its sewer system under siege, tallying millions of dollars in equipment damage across its underwater maze, New York City is confronting a menace that has gummed the gears of plumbing networks around the world: the common wet wipe. -Matt Flegenheimer, New York Times, March 13 2015
*** You‘re not going to guess who came into the plant today. No, not Obama. De Blasio? No! Forget it, I said you‘re not going to guess. It was a reporter. For the New York Times. Not the Post or the Daily! The fucking Times! He came down to write an article on wet wipes. Boy, I say to him, did you lose a bet? He just looks at me funny. Must be a slow news day. I say, No bombings? No plane crashes? He gets real serious. He goes, ―Damages caused by wet wipes have cost the city over $18 million dollars in the past five years. We‘ve got to let the public know, so they stop flushing the wipes.‖ Future Walter Cronkite, I guess. Going where no man dares to go. He comes down dressed in a full-on hazmat suit. It even has a hood. Most guys just wear overalls. The hood crinkles when he looks around, and his gloves make his hands oversized, like Mickey Mouse. He‘s got this wrinkle on his nose the whole time. You could tell he was going to be talking about his visit to the shit factory at dinner parties for years to come, getting a real kick out of it. The gross-out factor gets everyone. Anyways, don‘t need a Master‘s degree in Journalism to see that the wipes are a big problem. Every shift, I spend a few hours scraping them off the rakes, twisting and pulling them free from the machinery and wheeling big tubs of them down to the dumpster.
Motherfuckers are indestructible. They go through 700-odd miles of pipeline, slopping up everything they pass, getting stuck in big clumps of grease, plastering every gear and railing along the way, clogging up the drains and the traps, and hanging off the rake tines like the coat of a shaggy sheepdog who just rolled in manure. Sorry, am I turning you off your dinner? It‘s just the last couple of years that this has been going on. Somebody in Wet Wipes HQ must have decided, hey! The baby market is good and all, but what with birth control and abortions and all the gays not procreating, there are fewer babies every year. And my yacht isn‘t going to pay for itself! So some college kid, double major in marketing and hoodwinking, gets the bright idea to make everyone in America feel like the toilet paper they‘ve been wiping their ass with their whole lives is unsanitary! Archaic! Hardly better than a corncob or a scrap of yesterday‘s newspaper. Wet Wipes are the solution. A few commercials, one endorsement by some crackpot doctor, all delivered through the IV drip of TV, the great American pastime – then, pass the Cheetos and Bob‘s your uncle, you‘ve got yourself a box of wet wipes you never knew you needed, and that kid‘s got himself a corner office. Anyways, Vince asks me to tour the guy around the floor, along with a couple office guys who showed their faces in the plant for the occasion. It‘s not every day the nation‘s biggest newspaper visits our humble sewage treatment facility. I show him the rakes and irons, and then let him wheel a cart of wipes to the dumpster where we toss them. There‘s not much to see down there. A confusion of pipe and rattling machines, everything rusty and rundown. It‘s loud, too, with all the clanging doors and machinery rattling. And then there‘s the smell, which is a force of its own. Almost like a creature in the room with you. But the reporter spends the whole time gaping around like he was seeing the Grand Fucking Canyon for the first time. We‘re crossing the bridge over the main holding tank, when the guy slips. One foot slides right out from under him, skids across the steps. It slips off the platform and hovers above the greyish effluent beneath us. I reach out and grab him under both arms, like you‘d grab a little kid. He scrambles up as soon as he can get his foot under him, hanging on to the railing for dear life. Vince and the other guys are fussing around him like they‘re his great aunts at Easter. They‘re having a bird, thinking they‘re going to get sued or something. Full railings in place, safety boots, the floor‘s dry. All the safety protocol boxes checked. What caused him to slip? He turns his boot over. There‘s a wet wipe, grey and soggy, clinging to the tread of his Timberlands. The little cloud-shaped imprint on the wipe is still visible under the layers of grime. 32
After that, the reporter is a bit less enthusiastic about the place. Maybe he‘s starting to feel a little resentful that he‘s stuck with the story about discarded ass-wipes, while his colleagues are racing around in blazers covering sexy crime stories on the Upper East Side. We get back to the top of the staircase, where the tour began, when turns to me, and he goes, ―It‘s a whole different world down here, isn‘t it?‖ Got that right. There‘s a whole lot of different worlds. Whole lot of worlds right here in this city. All told, he‘s here for less than an hour. The smell really gets you the first few times, and the noise. On his way out, he turns to the photographer and goes, ―I feel like I need a two-hour shower.‖ He‘s probably got an uptown condo with a modern glass shower that looks like it belongs in a spaceship, and one of those wide showerheads that make you feel like you‘re in a rainforest. He probably has a cupboard full of Crabtree and Evelyn soaps. Even at that, it‘ll take some scrubbing. It‘s not an easy smell to shake. I think he‘ll notice that for a few days. Vince comes by later to thank me for the tour. I shrug. You‘re a good worker, and it doesn‘t go unnoticed, he says. I just show up, I say. And do what they tell me to. When does the article come out? How the hell would I know? Do I look like the kind of guy who reads the fucking Times?
Danielle Norris To Save a Life 11:45pm I always get this feeling in my stomach on Friday nights. You know that feeling you get when you‘ve had too much ice-cream or the moment you realize you left your purse at the store cashier but you‘re already pulling into the garage. It‘s always the same weird feeling that comes just before I get out of my car. Tonight… it‘s ten times worse. I haven‘t prayed in a while but I feel like now is a good time to try to get God‘s attention. Taking a deep breath, I bow my head and rest both hands on the steering wheel, middle and index fingers crossed… just in case. ―Dear God, please let tonight be uneventful… scrap that, just don‘t let anyone die tonight please. Amen.‖ 33
I lift my head and take a long look at the sliding glass doors of the front entrance, grab my scrubs from the passenger seat and get out of the car. 1:36am Walking down the corridor going to get a snack from the vending machine near the elevators I hear someone screaming behind me: ―Nurse, nurse! Help! It‘s my son. He was driving and there was this other car and he stopped the car. I don‘t know why he stopped the car…‖ ―Ma‘am, please. Where is your son? Is he inside already?‖ By this time I have changed direction and begun to firmly usher a well-dressed, possibly middle aged woman back to the A&E area. Whatever happened must have really frazzled her because her wig is exposing the beginning of cornrows just beyond her sweating forehead. She‘s wearing only one shoe and doesn‘t seem like the type to be caught dead in a state like this. ―Please nurse, you must help him. Some guy, he came up to the window…‖ She recounts the story with no tears but the look in her eyes says it all. That nagging feeling in my stomach starts up again. 2:15am We called Dr. Granger from home to get some extra help. Thank God Maria is able to stay on a few hours and take on Mrs. Drakes and her son who only sustained a ‗through and through‘ gunshot wound to the right shoulder. 21! My God, what the hell did he do to merit being shot at 21? I guess he isn‘t the ―good church boy‖ his mother constantly repeats in her shock. Why were they out so late on the road anyway? The police should be here shortly to take a report. I pour my second cup of coffee. Better take my pills now. It‘s still early.
4:09am ―Stella!‖ I scramble to sit upright in my chair and wipe my eyes trying to focus them. ―What are you doing?‖ ―Nothing… I was just… reviewing the log book.‖ I tried to dry the saliva off the page with my sleeve.
―Reviewing the log book, I see. Stella, what are you doing here? I don‘t have you scheduled to come in till Monday. This is supposed to be your week off remember?‖ ―I thought Laurel called you. She told me she had an emergency and wanted someone to cover for her.‖ ―That Laurel always has an emergency of some kind. I will get to the bottom of that, but c‘mon Stella, you‘re exhausted and I need a focused staff on night shift.‖ ―I‘m fine.‖ My lower back starts to send dull tingles down my right leg. ―Are you sure? How have you been holding up? I was to give you a call and check in, but work…‖ ―I‘m fine… really. I‘m ok!‖ ―Look, it seems to be quiet now. Go into the nurses‘ quarters. It‘s my break hour so I‘ll take over and come get you later, ok? You got one hour Stella. Use it wisely.‖ ―Ok Pearl. I will.‖ Pearl is barely five feet tall and can command a space like nobody‘s business. The best head nurse and supervisor this place ever had. She has a comforting way about her like warm Sunday afternoon sweet-bread. I never know why she treats me the way she does and I don‘t know that I deserve such kindness. It takes some effort to walk to the nurses‘ quarters. My eyes are fading but at least my leg stopped tingling during the walk. I push the door of the quarters and it is empty. The last thing I remember is lying down on the cot. 5:12am ―Wake up Stella there‘s a fire!‖ I bound up off the cot. ―Quick! Get everyone to the emergency exits…‖ My heart is racing and my back flares up. ―You wake up on the ball, don‘t you?‖ ―Damn it Jed, you‘re such a dick-head!‖ ―Tsk, tsk, tsk. Some mouth we got there Stella!‖ Jed, the hospital‘s pet. The adopted son of Warren Pile and heir to Pile Pharmaceuticals. Type A over-achiever and pain in the rectum to all who really know him. It doesn‘t help that he is both genetically and biologically perfect either. Rumor has it that he has been through all of the new intern nurses. I can‘t say I‘d put that past him. He always gets what he wants. In the 35
middle of med school he decides he wants to become a doctor instead of a pharmacist. Bam…Done! Some people just have everything. ―Pearl sent me to get you and when I saw you resting there so peaceful… well I just couldn‘t pass up an opportunity like that.‖ ―Thanks Jed. I didn‘t realize you still had the time to grace us peasants with your presence.‖ ―I could never forget about my Stella. As I recall, it was you that stopped coming to see me, remember? By the way, how is your back?‖ ―Good bye Jed.‖ I walked over to the door and opened it. He stood right in front of me and groped my behind. ―Now, now Stella. You should really treat your friends better than that. Remember all I did for you.‖ I really hate Jed but right now I hate myself more. 7:40am One gunshot wound, two asthma attacks, a blocked bladder with kidney stones and a woman went into labour! I can barely keep track of which cup of coffee I‘m on and my back is killing me! I‘d promised myself I‘d stick to the dosage this time but this damn pain won‘t let up. Just 20 minutes till I get off … ―Stella, come quick...‖ ―What now, Maria?‖ ―It‘s Mrs. Drakes!‖ 7:42am Mrs. Drakes can you hear me it‘s Nurse Stella if you can hear me I need you to raise your right hand Mrs. Drakes Maria call Dr. Shepherd she‘s not responding Mrs. Drakes I know you can hear me Dad just hold on Kyle give me a hand on my count 1 2 3 get the oxygen mask on her hold on Dad please hold on c‘mon God quick pressure just dropped to 80 oh God please I can‘t lose him eyes dilated can anyone tell me what the hell happened to her we need Dr. Shepherd now… 9:15am ―You did everything you could, Stella.‖
Did I? Why didn‘t I see the signs? I could have done more. Why didn‘t I see the signs? Why didn‘t God do more? I prayed, didn‘t I? Damn this feeling in my stomach. All the time! Why doesn‘t it go away? Why couldn‘t I save him? I was right there the whole time. Why didn‘t I see the signs? She looked fine. She told me she was fine and I believed her. Then it happened so fast. He was sitting there and he just started slurring. I tried to pick him up, get him to the car. His body slumped over my shoulder. He was so heavy…then I couldn‘t lift him anymore… ―I‘m sure she‘ll be ok. You‘ve stayed on long enough, Stella. Laurel is here now so you can go home. Get some rest ok. I‘ll call you.‖ 9:51am ―Here!‖ He threw a brown paper bag through the car window and it landed on the passenger seat. ―I know you need them Stella. I saw you writhing in your sleep. How bad is it?‖ ―Really…bad!‖ ―Those should help for a while. I increased the dosage, so follow the instructions, ok? Take one right now. It should kick-in in a few minutes… Stella?‖ ―OK!‖ ―Come back and see me when you get the chance. You know, if you wanna talk or something. I don‘t like seeing you like this.‖ I turned on the ignition and started to back up. 10:30am My garden is the first thing I see pulling into the driveway. It looks so beautiful today. I don‘t even know how long I‘ve been sitting in the car looking at it. The morning is quiet and calm. A cool breeze comes in and makes my eyes water a little and then the smell of flowers. Orchids. I take a deep breath and hold it. The pain fades and my stomach settles. I close my eyes and let the air out of my lungs. I‘m tired but there is something I have to do. I take off my scrubs, put them in the passenger seat next to the brown paper bag, open the door and get out the car. ―Good morning Stella. Good to see you out and about again. Save any lives today?‖ ―Good morning Ms. Lou. I certainly hope so.‖ ―I‘m sure you did. Oh good! I was wondering when next you would water them. It‘s been so hot lately and the poor things are barely holding on.‖ ―Well Ms. Lou, at least I know I can save these ones.‖
Kristine Simelda Dellis Dellis stares out from under the brim of his filthy ball cap with bloodshot eyes. He takes a nip of rum and lights a spliff. Inhaling the pungent smoke, he blows it out his disfigured nose. Despite environmental regulations against deforestation, he plans to cut down every tree in this bloody forest. When he was a little kid, his father always told him the rainforest was sacred, called it Papa Bois. And for a brief time Dellis believed it was holy. But now he hates this place, blames it for everything bad that has happened to him in the past fifty years. He remembers playing in these very woods with his brothers and sisters when he was a child. He was happy back then, lost in a beautiful dream, but after the disaster his life became a nightmare. Élas. His fate had been sealed by the collapse of one wayward tree, and now the entire forest is going to have to pay. Dellis revs his chainsaw as if to challenge anyone or anything standing in the way of his wicked plan. ―Ready or not!‖ he taunts his sworn enemy. ―Here I come!‖ The saw snarls like a vicious guard dog waiting for the signal to attack. Flipping the butt of the still glowing joint into the bush, he steps from the sunlight into the dimly lit woods. He knows this forest well. He imagines the wise old trees are standing guard. They have already dug their buttressed roots into the soil, and raised the barbs on their bark in selfdefense. So many men have come to harvest their bounty. The trees know the drill—the godawful noise, the stinking smoke and exhaust, the plastic bags and bottles left behind. After surviving hundreds of years of floods and droughts and fires, mighty grandfathers and grandmothers will soon be reduced to a pitiful pile of boards and sawdust, hapless seedlings crushed and trampled to pulp. But no matter what the bleeding heart environmentalists say, Dellis is convinced they deserve it. ―Fucking green hell,‖ he mutters as he moves deeper inside the leafy labyrinth. As he launches his assault, he is aware of voices filtering down from the canopy. ―Ay cheyé! Get lost!‖ they seem to shout. Dellis scans the treetops for the source of the disturbance, and trips over a concealed buttress of a root. He tries to save himself from falling by leaning on the saw like a crutch, but when the blade sticks in the damp earth, it kicks back, sputters, and dies. All of a sudden, the potentially lethal weapon is just another piece of junk condemned to rust and rot on the forest floor. Dellis suffers a moment of vertigo. He lets go of the saw and reaches for a nearby tree trunk to steady himself. The protruding spikes filet his hands to bloody strips. A white-hot pain shoots through his left ankle as he hits the ground. Howling, he curls into a fetal ball. ―Shit!‖ he bellows into the otherwise silent space. His voice echoes through the trees and comes back to him accusingly. ―Piece of shit!‖ is what it sounds like. * Dellis Jamal Rocque was born the last of five children to a Rastafarian family who lived on the edge of these woods. They lived in tune with the rhythms of nature—grew their own food, distilled oil from dry coconuts, boiled syrup from sugarcane, and, of course, harvested their 38
own ganja. They were so self-sufficient that they seldom went to town or interacted with other people on the island. Life in the bush was sweet, right up until the time of the big storm. The trees had already braced themselves and settled down to wait. Around mid-afternoon it started to blow. Dellis, an independent young soul, had been playing alone in a cave on the cliff side while the rest of the family hurried to secure their meager belongings. They hadn‘t quite finished when the leading edge of the hurricane descended on the forest. Barricaded inside the flimsy shack, they prayed to Jah for salvation while heavy rain and falling limbs pummeled the corrugated tin roof like angry mallets pounding on a steel drum. When the roof flew off, leaves, branches, and even a couple of stunned birds blew inside and were plastered to the partitions like wallpaper. Water had already begun to soak through the cracks in the wood before someone realized that a family member was missing. ―But where is Dellis?‖ His father was about to go looking for him when a tremendous gust of wind sent the giant Chatannyé, the big tree they depended on for shade and protection, crashing down on the shack. For the next several hours, rain fell, rocks rolled, and land slid. By the time Dellis crept out from the cave where he had been hiding, the tiny shack was flooded, and water was pouring out over the windowsills. When he managed to push aside the debris and wade inside, he saw his father‘s lifeless body sprawled on top of the flattened kitchen table. A trail of red blood was dripping from his crushed skull into the muddy water. His mother‘s face, pale like a ghost, stared up at him from where she floated under the tabletop. The corpses of his brothers and sisters were pinned under her, encased in the thick, suffocating mud. Dellis tried to call for help, but his vocal cords refused to work. He attempted to run, but his feet were stuck, hopelessly mired in the same unholy glue that had stifled his siblings. It was three days before his mother‘s people found him, filthy and exhausted from shedding so many useless tears. * Half a century later, lying in the forest with his legs entangled among thousands of aspiring vines, and his hands bleeding profusely, Dellis stares up through the fluttering leaves and wonders if the trees recognize him. Take away the stooped posture, the bristly gray beard, and the hostile expression, subtract fifty or more years and put a smile on his face instead of a scowl, and voilà—little Dellis! He used to play here as a kid, hunted wildlife along the ridges and ravines, bathed naked in the river. Once upon a time he was at home in the forest, curious and lively. But look at him now, unarmed and sprawled on the forest floor like an invalid, unable to run and unwilling to cry out for help—just like after the disaster. Dellis dares to imagine how things might have turned out if the hurricane hadn‘t destroyed his family. Would he have been content to live the uncomplicated, spiritual life of a Rasta man in the bush? Would he have found a good woman, fathered free-spirited children, become a respected grandfather? Never mind. None of that matters now that his journey from victim to perpetrator is about to come full circle.
As he waits for his story to play itself out to the end, Dellis notices three initials chiseled into the bark of the closest tree, well weathered but still legible. ―DJR,‖ he mutters weakly. That was his mark alright, carved at a time when that was all the higher he could reach—back in the days of innocence, before he had sold his soul to the devil. * The forest was able to heal itself naturally after the hurricane, but since no one bothered to address the emotional damage young Dellis had suffered, he never fully recuperated. He blamed himself for his family‘s deaths, and no matter how he tried to forget it, the stench of decay followed him everywhere while he was growing up. Even after he was taken to live in town with his auntie and uncle—cleaned up, fed regular meals, and sent off to school—he battled with alternating bouts of rage and depression. ―You can‘t make me go to church!‖ he yelled at his auntie. ―I don‘t believe in God!‖ ―You‘ll do as we say!‖ she said. ―Now finish getting dressed!‖ ―No way I gonna get down on my knees and pray to some old white man who lives in the sky. He‘s the one that sent the hurricane that killed my mamma and papa!‖ His uncle took a swing at Dellis, but his bones were so stiff and the boy was so small that he missed. ―Humble yourself, young man!‖ he commanded. Dellis ripped off his hand-me-down shirt and tie, and bolted into the alley behind the house. ―I going back to live in the forest!‖ ―Good!‖ his uncle called after him. ―One less mouth to feed!‖ Dellis kept running until the pain in his side made him stop. But that was nothing compared to the wound in his heart. ―I all alone in the world now,‖ he sniffed. ―Nobody, not even Jah, loves me.‖ It was a sad situation, but since he had left the forest and moved to town, Dellis had never once allowed himself to grieve. When threatened, he retreated deep inside his shell, swallowed his fear like a bitter pill he was bound to take. When challenged, he lashed out at anybody who was available to soak up a portion of his frustration. ―Please, Dellis. Try to behave,‖ his auntie begged him. ―You can‘t make me!‖ he yelled, clenching his small hands into fists. The more he rebelled, the further he found himself outside the family loop. The adults were put off by his lack of humility, and his cousins considered him an uncivilized misfit who could never be part of their circle. But instead of trying to win them over, Dellis antagonized them.
―I hate all you too!‖ he shouted across the playground when other kids failed to include him in their fun and games. He was small for his age, and his voice was high-pitched. His lackluster skin, which had patches that were scaly and lacked pigment, was stretched tautly over his boney frame. His hair was matted and unkempt. When combined with his bad attitude, his unappealing physical appearance made Dellis‘ evolution into a rudeboy practically preordained. With no family to back him up and no reliable friends, he was a social outcast by the time he reached his tenth birthday. Of course there was no cake, not even so much as a pat on the back for surviving his first decade. Well, he‘d show them who‘d come of age. Sirens wailed as the fire brigade pulled up behind the house to extinguish the blaze that had mysteriously started in the trash bin in the garage. As acrid smoke, burnt pieces of plastic, and other combustibles floated through the air, neighbors milled about out front, shaking their heads and whispering accusations. Dellis? Dellis smiled when he heard the tinge of fear that accompanied the mention of his name. At last he was getting some attention. To show his appreciation, he circled the assembled crowd, flicking his lighter ominously at each person who blinked. ―Anybody need a light?‖ he taunted them. From then on the community gave him respect. So what if their eyes were filled with trepidation instead of admiration? He had taken the first step down the path to becoming a bona fide gangster. * When he first landed in the ghetto, Dellis was so naïve that he was fair game for those more savvy in the ways of the world. Later on, as a barely educated urban youth, he really had no choice but to join a gang. To prove he was worthy, he started out as an errand boy, passing messages for the neighborhood kingpin. ―Just tell me what to do, boss. Ain‘t nothin‘ too much to ask.‖ In the old days, things were relatively simple. Gangs provided protection within the community for a fee. Bad things happened if dues were left unpaid. Then dirty politics got involved. Government funded improvement projects were awarded to certain neighborhoods in exchange for votes delivered to certain political candidates. For a while, it was a win/win situation. But unfortunately the dons got greedy. Cash was siphoned off the top of money delivered for the bòbòl projects and used to pay young thugs like Dellis to commit petty crimes for the profit of the gangs, not the betterment of public welfare. On the newly renovated basketball court: ―All you realize who paid for this facility, not true?‖ ―Yah, man, Dellis. Come next election, the Fat Chance Posse behind them boys all the way!‖ In the rum shop: ―Pay up, old man,‖ he said as he twisted the proprietor‘s arm behind his back.
―But funds are low for the time,‖ the shopkeeper whimpered. ―Take what‘s in the register and leave me alone.‖ Dellis dipped his hand in the drawer and stuffed the cash in his pocket. ―What about this gold watch?‖ he said, as he stripped it off the man‘s wrist. ―Keep your filthy hands off me!‖ Back then, Dellis wasn‘t much inclined toward violence, but he didn‘t like being insulted either. By the time he finished with the old man, his hands were indeed filthy, his knuckles bloody and swollen. ―You did good, son,‖ the boss said when he handed over the cash and the Rolex. ―Hey. Why don‘t you just keep the watch?‖ Dellis liked the way the Rolex draped itself over his slender wrist. He developed the unusual habit of talking with his hands so people would notice it. But over the course of time, the persuasion of ordinary folks and the coercion of small business people became obsolete. With the advent of trafficking in cocaine—and the massive amounts of money involved—the bad johns were more focused on generating huge incomes for their individual gangs than on delivering votes in return for community favors. By then his auntie and uncle had come to look upon Dellis as a golden cow, so what choice did he have? The allowance he doled out in cash was certainly more regular and lucrative than their social security! ―Thank you, man, Dellis. We sure do appreciate it.‖ Things continued to escalate until Dellis found himself installed as the boss‘ right hand man. Although he didn‘t always like the violent ways the posse handed out retribution, he figured he was in so deep that it was too late to turn back now. ―What time the plane coming in?‖ Dellis asked the boss. ―The Cocaine Cowboys are ready to rock and roll.‖ ―Tell your mules to chill,‖ he said. ―You know what happens to rudeboys who get antsy.‖ ―Where the shipment headed this time?‖ The boss smiled. ―North,‖ was all he said. That was before Mexican and Central American cartels took over the transshipment drug trade. In the meantime, gang leaders had focused on winning multi-million dollar government contracts at home on the island for their elaborate business fronts to handle, and becoming multi-millionaires themselves. ―Yo. Dellis! You looking good driving that big ole black Mercedes,‖ a sister said when he stopped at a busy intersection.
Dellis‘ gold-capped teeth glowed through the tinted windscreen. He pushed his shades to the top of his shaved head, and rattled the pendants and chains that hung from his neck like obeah charms. ―The boss bought it for me,‖ he boasted. ―Hop in!‖ Once the DEA cracked down on the Western Caribbean connection, the dons in the East were back in business. Only this time go-fast boats had replaced small planes, and high-powered weapons like M16‘s, Uzis, and Tech 9 pistols upstaged outmoded revolvers. Dellis resisted temptation as long as he could—he was afraid of water and generally used his fists or a knife instead of guns. He also resisted the temptation of snorting cocaine, stuck to drinking rum and smoking marijuana when the rest of the gang was getting high on blow. Then one day he discovered crack, and from the first hit it was as if his free will had gone up in a puff of yellow smoke. ―This shit is plenty better than what goes up your nose,‖ Dellis said. He was cooking up a batch of rock from the powder that had leaked from the condoms intended for the cowboys to swallow before heading out. The boss agreed. ―Yeah, man. It‘s what we call primo.‖ From that point on, Dellis lived only for his next high. In between, he carried out the gang‘s business at breakneck speed. Dellis had been threatening a low-level official who had been causing trouble for the Fat Chance Posse when the cops burst in. Night sticks rained down on his head and shoulders. Steel-toed boots connected with his ribs and kidneys. ―Tell us the name of your don and we‘ll let you go,‖ they sneered. Dellis may have been a crack head, but he was no sellout. He fell to his knees and took the beating until the Babylon wore themselves out. He really didn‘t have a choice; if he didn‘t take the fall for the boss, he‘d probably be killed, chopped up or shot to death like so many other unfortunate homeys. ―The boss‘ name is Santa Claus,‖ he mumbled through broken teeth. Prison was a nightmare. The kind of things that passed for fun under lock and key were unmentionable, even for someone as jaded as Dellis. He emerged from jail eight years later a changed man—and certainly not for the better. Since the former don had eaten a bullet while he was away, Dellis took over where the old boss left off, and added a few innovations of his own. Extreme forms of violence, such as castration, burning rivals alive, and even decapitation, were not out of the question. ―A murder a day keeps the riffraff at bay,‖ he chuckled. Citizens who were grateful for the purging lavished Dellis with expensive gifts. But it seemed all the cash and drugs and loose women in the world couldn‘t make up for the time he had lost in prison. He wanted revenge. Beyond the brutal beating the cops had inflicted on him way back when, Dellis hated the way they ran things in the here and now. The Babylon even had 43
the audacity to enter his turf with weapons drawn and tear gas in hand. Over a hundred of his people had been arrested during the last invasion. More than half had been detained for questioning without being charged, and were still rotting in jail. ―Babylon must burn!‖ Dellis raved to the heated crowd. The riots went on for weeks and crippled the entire island. Neighborhood shops were closed, children were let off school, and fêtes were postponed. When body parts that were subsequently identified as those of dirty cops were found floating in ditch drains along the highway, tourism came to a halt. ―Fuck the tourists!‖ Dellis grinned. More popular than rum and Coca-Cola, his name was immortalized in irreverent graffiti, his battered face caricatured in painted murals island wide. Dellis! Dellis! the mob shouted as they pumped their fists in the air. But instead of running for Prime Minister, Dellis ran out of steam. His time in prison had taken its toll; he had paid his debt to society in pounds of flesh, and the result could be summarized in four capital letters: AIDS. * Dellis went into seclusion without so much as a goodbye or a word of explanation—turned over the whole show to one of his lieutenants and holed up on the edge of the rainforest where he had spent his early childhood. He needed to think, identify his problem, and then figure out a way to resolve it before he died. It would be easy to blame bad company or drugs for his demise, but he decided that the influence of street gangs hadn‘t been the real source of his anguish. Neither had the police, nor the assholes who had fucked with him in jail. They were just ordinary people who were as misguided as he was. Something much larger had messed him up. Whatever it was, it was buried deep beneath the layers of guilt and drug-induced paranoia that influenced his actions and clouded his thinking. And then it dawned on him. It was the cosmology of island life itself—the vulnerability of living on a tiny slice of land completely surrounded by the potential disaster, and being unable to do anything about it. That‘s what had ruined his life. And what was at the heart of it? Papa Bois, of course! The bloody rainforest! ―Paybacks,‖ he whispered as he lay on his cot and plotted his revenge. Dellis was well aware that his death from AIDS would be pathetic and undignified, so it was important that his final act of retribution be memorable. He dreamed about it day and night: a chaotic scene with a chainsaw on the rampage, huge trees crashing to the ground like matchsticks, and bush fires visible for miles around—only this time he himself, Dellis Jamal Rocque, would play the starring role. But by the time he finalized his plan, Dellis had lost so much weight that he looked more like a skeleton than the former boss of the Fat Chance Posse. He barely had the strength to put food in his mouth, let alone chew it. Just getting up to go to the toilet was a challenge. ―Best I get on with it,‖ he rasped.
It took all his strength to raise himself up from the bed and put on a semblance of clothes. Pulling on his boots was a major production. It seemed to take forever until he reached the shed. Dellis put one foot on the chainsaw to hold it down, flipped a couple of switches, and mouthed the closest thing to a prayer he had voiced in long, long while. ―Start, goddamn it!‖ he said as if to irrefutably confirm his fall from grace. He grabbed hold of the cord and pulled hard. The saw roared to life and then died. Dellis sank back on the step. So it had all come down to this: a flip of a switch and a jerk of a rope was all his life had been worth. No, man. No mechanical piece of shit could decide his destiny. He tried again, and this time the saw kept running. Dellis grabbed his dirty cap and headed for the trail that led into the forest. * Fire ants rain down from the leaves overhead, as Dellis, presently trapped on the forest floor, stares at the initials DJR carved into an ancient tree trunk. He squirms and tries to bat them away as they swarm over him, but there are too many. The ants start with his eyes. He shrieks to high heaven while they feast. The vibration attracts hordes of land crabs that attach themselves to his fingertips. He holds his breath while their sharp pincers pick their way to the tender flesh behind his nails. Dellis starts to cry for the first time since he kept his vigil with his dead family all those years ago. Long repressed tears rolled down his hollow cheeks. ―God help me,‖ he wails. But the god he so often damned ignores his plea for salvation. The aura of his helplessness only serves to attract more predators—an opportunistic hawk circles in the clouds, a foul-smelling manicou drops down from an overhanging branch, and countless species of hungry larva, drawn by the blood and salty tears, wait in the wings. Aware that he is hopelessly outnumbered, Dellis, the former big bad boss of the Fat Chance Posse, utters a long, low moan and finally surrenders. But this time, instead of praying for salvation, he begs the forest for absolution. ―Papa Bois, please forgive my transgressions,‖ he sobs. Ah! The magic words! Unlike penance doled out by the conventional church, it seems pardon granted by the natural world is quick and straightforward: It starts to rain, and, in his last moment of consciousness, Dellis feels as if all his sins have been washed away. The old trees look on noncommittally as the forest goes about its business. Birds sing and frogs croak. The river continues to rush to the sea. It gets dark, and the stars come out. A nearly full moon sends slivers of light shining through the woods. Dellis doesn‘t move a muscle. He is lost in a wonderful dream. He and his parents and brothers and sisters are gathered around the kitchen table, holding hands and giving thanks for another beautiful day—in paradise.
Obediah Smith 8 Hands Chatting four of them, all deaf, about two tables, aggressively signing seat at one of these two tables one in which I usually sit looked and thought to sit elsewhere away from all the noise they were making with their signing all the nuisance- the disturbance that it was thought I might not have been able to hear myself think how loudly they talked what noise they made four of them together in conversation four of them conversing what a din it was chatterboxes in silence conversing so loudly
Nancy Anne Miller I is for Immigrant The vertical you become leaving your country. I is for how you see differently, eye pupils learn another country. I is for Iâ€˜m a migrant now. I is 46
for the two stitches sewn across a border, top one holds the fray of exit, bottom, the pull of return.
Flight Attendant Kate could be her mother pushing a refreshment cart down the central aisle of the plane as she wields Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana through the elderly British crowd, squatting under umbrellas like newly hatched chicks. Could be as she serves them what they want. Hair neat as a stewardess, nothing out of line. William appearing, a captain straightening his tie, as they briskly walk through waving, smiling, assuring a turbulent free flight.
Sharma Taylor Believe me Teacher Teacha, dem sey mi tief. That gal, Terry-Ann, yes, Miss Sonia, dry-head, knock-knee, crossyeye, liad pickney... she always call mi so. I hear my mother call her mother a ‗hore. I write that word with my finger on the back glass of Mr. Jones‘ car one time when it park in Miss Sonia front yard. It park there every night Mrs. Jones deh ah ‗Merica cleaning rich people house. Hore like ―horse‖ without the ―s‖. I spell it real good like how Miss Anderson teach we in class. I make sure I line up every letter neat and leave space between each one. Never mind dem say I ―slow‖. Never mind I repeat the class three time and dem sey mi can‘t take Common Entrance ‗cause mi too old and mi head too tough fi go high school. When Terry-Ann see it the next morning, she start bawl and I sorry. Really, Miss, ‗cause she start cow-bawling without sound and I see har mouth trembling like har jaw not strong enough to hold it up. Miss, mi neva tief yet. Mummy send all 6 ah we to church every Sunday and I go Sunday school. Mi learn sey we mustn‘t tief. Last month, after dem break inna the church office and 47
tek ‗way all the tithes and offering, Pastor Jackson bellow from the pulpit, til him throat-hole look like it will pop: ―God shall smite the tief!‖ Old lady Grant start groan under har breath sey: ―Hmm-uh. But who will smite the man of the cloth wey trouble people good-good girl pickney?!‖ Then pastor wife spin round and tell har fi hush and don‘t vexate the Holy Spirit. That‘s why har sick foot swell up like jackfruit and badfeeling stand up inna her husband gut like the devil. Every Sunday mawning, Terrell, Vashti, Anya and me each get $3 from we mothers fi offering and we only give $2. We take the rest and buy cheese-trix, bun, sweetie and suck-suck from Mr. Chin shop up the road. We make sure wipe we face and wash the stickiness from we fingers in the stream before we reach home. Sometimes, we catch the little land crabs you find under rocks, hook them on the line we cast into the river and, sometimes, we lucky fi catch a water-crab, with dem pretty brown, green and purple legs, or a Tiki Tiki fish. We haffi look out fi crocodile ‗cause them tricky and look like floating log. When Mummy ask: ―How was church?‖, I say ―good‖ and give thanks she nuh ask ‗bout the offering, so mi nuh haffi tell lie. God see and know and I feel him is a big eye in the sky we can‘t see that just look, look, look every time we do wrong. Is good thing Mummy stop go church from she get pregnant with the first one of we and couldn‘t bear the shame ‗cause she did deh pon the choir and she and daddy nuh married. Miss, the day start out good. Mr. Jeff, as usual, was trying fi teach we Mathematics and Chucky round the back taking bets on the football match in the school yard later. Ricky ah draw dirty picture weh mek de boy dem laugh. Mr. Jeff nuh bother look ‗round. Him keep him back to we and ah grip the chalk like him want scrape up the blackboard. I hear him mumble: if him really give up accounting studies inna Henglan‘ fi dis, go teachers‘ college fi teach dunce pickney wey fight ‗gainst learning and him can‘t wait fi hear if him get through fi law school... Teacha, next thing, Principal come and everybody pon top ah table settle down good and the money inna Chucky hand and Ricky drawing disappear like magic. Mr. Jeff start smile widewide, like everyone ah we are the blessed angels that we pretending to be, wid we hands pon the table and we leg cross. Principal walk wey like him glad fi see we nah riot. Miss, after that was English and Miss Nurse ask we to show the story book she did ask we to bring from home last class. I don‘t know why Miss Nurse talk like that, like har words take long fi form, as if in farin she learn from the white people sey pickney ears only hear if vowel draw out. She call we ―claaaass‖ and talk like she always asking question when is tell she really telling we fi do something. After all, is not like we can say no. ―Noooow claaass...shall we take a look at your books today?‖ Last week, when we playing dandy-shady in front of the teachers‘ office and I run for the ball, which is really a box-drink box we stuff with paper, plastic bag and mango leaf, I hear the teachers say she ah try to be Vice Principal, look how she parade round the school in har pants suit, walking in har heels like puss pan hot brick. That she think she better than dem because she study at a Uni-ver-sity in a funny place name ―Wash-ing-ton C.D‖ and have something 48
funny name ―Pee. H. Dee‖. Well, if ―Pee. H. Dee‖ is a ―afflick-shon‖, like Uncle Pauley love fi sey, mi nuh want dat sickness...especially if it mek mi talk like mi have hot potato inna mi mouth and call boys and girls ―claaaaass.‖ Miss, mi neva have no book fi show. No pretty story book with happy white faces, blue eyes, hair wey bright like sun and lips like red hibiscus. Mummy can hardly send the 6 ah we go school. We haffi take turn. Me on every 2nd Wednesday and Thursday. Me get two days ‗cause mi slow. On Saturday mi go market with Mummy. She sell carrot, potato, yam, cho-cho, cabbage, callaloo, pumpkin, spinach, thyme and escallion that Daddy plant. She nuh mek mi count the money ‗cause mi head no good. One time, a man give me a $20 bill fi buy two hand a banana and I give him back $40 change. Mummy beat me that night wid Daddy belt til mi skin raw. I only help carry the bag from off the truck, help har set up the stall, pack out the produce and bag and hand them to people after dem buy. The only ―book‖ mi have ah the Gleaner newspaper we wrap up the yam after Mummy cut it. And is beg Mummy beg it from the corna shop. Mi wish mi was like Lok Chee who work in har father, Mr. Chin, corna shop. At least, she out of the heat, noise and dust and can sometimes flip through comic book when business slow. Suddenly, Miss Nurse give out: ―Eeeeesmiiiiin, would you like to tell us where‟s your book?‖ And everybody look at me and mi feel dem eyes ah pin mi down. Time feel heavy like a crocus bag of breadfruit and I start study the wooden desk. Miss, Joelene round ah back start howl and everybody else start laugh and I feel more shame than when mi pee-pee up the classroom last year ‗cause Miss Harrison put we under punishment fi mekking noise and we haffi stand up fi one hour straight and don‘t move and I want to piss and she wouldn‘t make nobody leave... So I did it right there. Later, I tell everybody sey mi juice bottle turn over and dem believe. I spin around my skirt to the side and cover the wet part with my bag. Only the inside part of mi white socks turn yellow and de new shoes Aunt Josephine send inna barrel from farin go squish-squish-squish with every step. ―I-I-I....‖ I start to say and couldn‘t go no further. Miss Nurse look like she real sorry she ask...Sorry for mi shame but har eyes look helpless like she couldn‘t do nothing. ―Weeell claaaaass, should we take turns coming up to the front and telling everyone why the book you‟ve brought is your favourite book?‖ She is nodding now with each word and claps her hands to shush them, as if the last 5 minutes never happen. Joelene put har hand first and gone up to the front. Har uniform crisp-crisp, starched to perfect stiffness by har helper on ironing day. ―This is the Road Runner and the Coyote,‖ she say and she describe how this crazy coyote, weh look really look like a mangy dog, keep after this poor Road Runner which look to me like a crazy chicken.
―Don‟t worry‖, she say, ―he never catches the Road Runner.‖ and she open the book and show us shiny pictures of the coyote using something called a ACME bomb, coyote blow up and turn black, coyote hanging off a cliff, coyote stand up in mid-air holding a sign that read ―Help!‖... all in chasing after dis Road Runner. ―But he keeps trying.‖ and she smile that satisfied smile I see her mother give my mother every Tuesday morning when she turn up to do the washing - she wash those big, pretty sheets, table cloths and curtains and Joelene father‘s shirts and pants all because dem live-in helper, who dem call ―nanny‖ can‘t manage...Last week, I hear Mummy tell Aunt Maude she not going back ‗cause Joelene father when him come home fi lunch at lunch time ―taking step‖ and ―getting too friendly‖ and if Daddy find out ―him wi kill him and go back ah prison and this time it won‟t be no short sentence like what him get fi growing likkle weed and no money worth the in...the in-dignity of a man putting him hand up har skirt like she is him property‖... So after class, at lunch time, when Joelene was showing har friends the book and then go outside to play and watch the boys play cricket, I stay inside. I stay ‗cause Miss Christie, who usually give me lunch money or some of har lunch, have flu and never come school today. I notice Joelene leave the book under har bright green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle school bag and I only want to look...to feel the book in my hands. I notice the cover is hard and the pages thick. And it seem to me that if is hungry the poor mongrel dog hungry then it only right fi him catch the dutty Road Runner and nyaam him. Let me tell you straight, Miss. I put it back when I finish. Right back under har bag. So if the book missing, it wasn‘t me. Nobody see mi hold it and nobody see mi tek it. Everybody know sey mi hand nuh steady since mi was 6 when mi did climb up the mattress weh push up straight pon the wall and start cry out ―ki-ki-ki‖ like jungle monkey, so Mummy can look, and she see me for the few seconds before it tumble down pon mi and bruk mi right hand. Is not true dem always see mi hand steady when mi fling stone after Mr. Grant‘s old dog dem til dem run mi down. The shape at mi blouse back wey look like square is the back-brace Mummy get from the doctor fi mi use...sake ah pain from all the heavy lifting at the market. Daddy use one too when him haffi cut sugarcane at the factory... No, Miss, mi nah lift up mi blouse. Miss, mi ah beg yuh please Miss, do nuh call mi madda.
Eric Rose Autumn Afternoon in Beijing Silence Drifts across The mirrored surface Of the still Small pond Like the wind That playfully dances With the golden leaves That blanket The grassy hill nearby, As if protecting Each blade From the approaching Winter's Snow. Far off In the distance A middle-aged woman, Smiling to herself, Small in stature Yet full Of strength Sweeps away The errant leaves That have The misfortune Of landing on The graveled ribbon Of a garden path. Her broom, Crafted from branches, Is taller than her, But with a surety That comes from Generations of skill, She makes it Dance Across the graveled path Like the silence That drifts across The mirrored surface 51
Of the still Small pond …
Daisy Holder-Lafond The Art of Presentation 1) a steaming bowl of white rice a sprig of parsley green propped into its center pots scrubbed turned down a kettle whistles at a clean kitchen clothes washed folded enjoy their fragrant scent pants hang proudly on wire hangers white shirts starched shoes shine in waiting… tall willowy straight as a pole the boy they call nerdie sits at kitchen table homework done reading walter rodney ready for life … 2) a pot of old cold yesterday‘s rice inflicted with yesterday‘s burns & bruises sits on a crusty stove roaches romp in kitchen sink last week‘s laundry left to its own devices floors beg for attention dust laid-back comfortable within itself
tall willowy thin as a thief the boy they call soca sits at kitchen table tattoed arms folded doin‘ nutten pants‘ crotch wobble between bony knee bones music blaring / nobody‘s hearing a joint / a whiff of weed what homework? presentation tells the story
Breaking News when i was a child i didn‘t think as a child i shunned childish t‘ings ribbons bows barrettes puff sleeves peter pan collars ballerina shoes… i adored little black dresses high heel shoes cigarette holders my sin / perfume i wanted to be the lady in black light on my feet hands akimbo lounging on bar stools savouring snifters of brandy… when i was a child i didn‘t think grown women could be grown women without rum & coke johnny walker red jack daniel jim beam or captain morgan 53
didn‘t know stumblin‘ blocks could masquerade as pleasures didn‘t know the power of urbane sophistication of little substance didn‘t know that life too could be squandered that weed & booze boost an economy could separate a grown woman from growth from a clear head from troddin‘ down her own road finally i get it… when i was a child i thought as a child
Tia L. Clarke Forty Cents naked belly stretched filled by air cradled by harsh hands of your mother land dry dust
trapped under tiny toe nails half dead fly lands near your eye no strength to brush it away only water you had today they say for only forty cents a day your suffering will be taken away but tonight you play with human bones skull as ball femur as bat how can forty cents change all that
Arnulfo Kantun 3 Sightings and a Miss I glimpsed La Melinche Tripping about In a La Mafia Bar Mareâ€˜s breast Threatening To pop out Bright red sequined dress Matched with red rouge pasted On high cheekbones She was drinking beer Blowing Menthol smoke Through her MAC Ruby Woo lipstick The next time I saw her She was splotchy faced World wearied Queuing up at the Rice-missionary Summer time caring Christian tent She was trying to halt 55
A hawking cough That brought up Green-apple Colored phlegm While suckling A gaunt potbellied MartĂn I saw her trying To blend in With the Soca crowd On Lindbergâ€˜s field One foot laced up in Roman Gladiator Style sandals The other a broken Promise from Made in Korea Store with the Glitzy bottle bead anklets Displayed like Trophies in the storefront She was not allowed In Fort Street Tourism Village But her clothes Were there on sale The fine stitched Cross pattern Embroidered blouse Thumbed roughly By heavy fingered White women In their feel-safe mall Lathered from head to toe In coconut scented Banana boat SPF 50 sunblock
III OF GODS & SPIRITS
Yashika Graham Sun God The sun rises on a window sealed for dust; the crust of morning undoing its fibres against the skin of sleep. The man is all light, gathered in dreams; an ode to the waiting day.
Gerardo Polanco Beeswax Candles and the Dying. For my grandmother and her daughter. Her first task was to make the candles. Candles are important; without them, the spirits of the dead would be unable to find their way to the offerings. Making the candles however, requires a series of other tasks. Her first task was to harvest the honeycomb from the hollowed out tree trunks they kept as beehives. She then washed them clean of honey and put them to dry. At night, Luz Maria and her mother, Candelaria, would stay up and make candles for Finados. Luz Maria always wondered why the Mexicans called it Día de Los Muertos. It wasn‘t one day of the dead, it was two. She preferred the Belizean Finados. Still yet, she preferred the Mayan name Hana‘ Pixan, food of the dead, which was a month long celebration. After all, she would spend the next week and a half preparing large quantities of food for the dead. It had been twenty years since she partook in the entirety of the festival. Since she left Belize for L.A. she had to trim off bits and pieces of her culture. She no longer made candles from scratch; she merely made a pit stop at the store and picked some up. She found no point in cooking a smorgasbord of corn based foods; she merely cooked one particular dish and placed it on the altar. Luz Maria still observed Finados, but a much distilled version of the festival. Every first and second of November, she would light a candle, place a glass of water and a plate of food. The basics.
This trip back home was her first and only since she had left. The long stress-filled years of illegally living in the U.S. were not always kind to her. However, she managed to meet someone, get married and raise a family. Luz Maria regretted nothing about her life choices and was more than happy with the way it turned out. Despite not having legal status to allow her to return home, she managed to make a comfortable living. Comfortable enough to be able to send money for her mother to visit them regularly. Her children were never without the love and affection that only a grandmother could provide. In the last two months however, two things had happened that changed her life. The seemingly never ending process of becoming a citizen had finally ended with her becoming a legal citizen of the U.S.A. All she needed then was motivation enough to plan a trip back home. A trip to the doctor‘s office for a routine checkup would provide her with enough motivation. She remembered staring blankly at the doctor‘s moving lips, unable to fully grasp the magnitude of his words yet fully understanding the implications. It was as if she was listening to a foreign language for the first time, but still having a visceral understanding of it. Luz Maria at once began planning her trip back home. She would go two weeks in advanced and spend that time alone with her mother. Her husband, originally from Mexico and a legalized citizen of the U.S.A. himself, would follow with their two children. They would spend the rest of the year in Belize. She spent those two pre-Belize months with the force of a category 5 hurricane meeting land – full of rage, and intensity that hope kindles, then sputtering out of spinning determination upon hitting terra firma. Initially, whether driven by denial or determination, she delivered the doctor‘s prognostications to her husband and then her kids. The news was delivered in a flurry of hugs and promises that modern medicine can cure anything. Her children, Lucilo 14, and Estela 17, both knew that their mother‘s promises were burning veladoras at their wick‘s end. But when life rains sorrows and raises floodwaters, the only floating lifeline left is hope. So, Lucilo and Estela had no choice but to have faith in their mother‘s promises. Her husband, Miguel, on the other hand, was reluctant to hold on to that lifeline. Luz Maria would find herself in a constant state of argument with him. He refused to entertain the thought of her returning to Belize to spend October to December away from her treatment. ―There is nothing there for us. The hospitals there are a joke. This is suicide. If you go, you are sentencing this family to life without you.‖ ―Mira, Miguel,‖ she would respond, ―if I need more treatment, Mexico is half an hour away. You always say that you Mexicans are more advanced than us anyway. Amor, the tickets are bought. If you don‘t want to stay, at least take my children and then leave. I need them to see the land and rivers I call home, where I come from, where they come from.‖ It was like this every day until mid-October when she got on a plane and went home to see her mother. On the plane, all the magnitude of the past two months began to weigh on her. She fidgeted in her seat. Buckled then unbuckled her seat belt. Opened the AC vent then immediately closed it. She leafed through the magazines she found the in the seat pocket. Not that she read anything in it, the feel of the glossy magazine pages on her finger tips were comforting. Anything to stop her from coming to the cruel realization that she would never return to L.A. Pressing the button for the flight attendant to ask for her fourth cup of water, Luz Maria riddled over how she was going to tell her mother. She hadn‘t told Candelaria about her 59
condition; Luz Maria felt she hadn‘t the words or strength. In all her life, she had never found herself as wordless as she did now. In fact, she hadn‘t even been able to tell Miguel about her last checkup, two days before her flight. ―One thing at a time‖ she whispered to herself, inhaling slowly and deeply. Feeling overwhelmed, tired, and nauseated. ―Thanks a lot modern medicine.‖ She drank her water and rested her head on the tray table. She fell asleep so deeply, the flight attendant had to shake her awake. ―Ma‘am, please put up your table and your seat in its upright position. We are preparing to land.‖ Everything after that was a blur. Unreal. The checking at immigration, then at customs, at the car rental and even the hour long drive home felt surreal. Luz Maria was floating outside her body. She would not feel the reality of Belize until she was back home in her mother‘s arms. Luz Maria immediately reverted to her childhood self. The smell of fire hearth smoke that clung to Candelaria‘s hipil as they embraced reminded her of a childhood spent stoking the fire hearth, reminded her of the safety she felt in her mother‘s home, of the life lessons learnt stirring cauldrons of bubbling soup beans in front of the fire hearth. They held each other for an entire lifetime, tears flooding both their eyes. Luz Maria felt the stirrings of hope and happiness for the first time since that last visit to the doctor. Candelaria broke away from Luz Maria, gave her a smile, and led her inside. They sat at the kitchen table where, without asking, she poured her daughter a cool cup of agualoja. Luz Maria never did like the ginger juice, all that cinnamon and clove was too spicy for her. This time however, Luz Maria didn‘t complain and managed to drink it all down with a smile and even found it oddly refreshing. The two sat there, clacking away, catching up on their lives. They spent the entire evening talking. Mosquitos had begun their nightly feast, yet, undeterred, the two had supper and continued their catching up. As it always is in a conversation, a lull fell over them. Luz Maria wanted so bad to tell her mother ―Mamá,..‖ ―Si hija?‖ Asked Candelaria, all smiles and happiness on her face. Luz Maria, unable to break her mother‘s heart, decided to put it off yet again. ―It‘s almost Finados,‖ she said instead, ―have you started preparing?‖ ―Ay, hija, no. I‘m old and tired. I can‘t cook all that food alone. All that corn that needs to be ground to make the masa. I don‘t know why all our food has to be made out of corn. Making the masa alone is a lot of work. What were those Mayas even thinking?!‖ She chuckled dryly as she traced the patterns of the table cloth with her fingers. ―Mamá I‘m here now, I will help you. You know how I always loved Finados!‖ Luz Maria said with a sly smile sprawled across her lips. The old woman gave off a toothless chortle. ―Don‘t I know it?! I still remember that bad belly you got from eating too much candied pumpkin conserva. You had me lighting candles and praying for you instead of the poor dead ánimas‖ Luz Maria faked the fullness of her mother‘s laugh, but was stung by the image of her mother lighting candles for her as if she was already an ánima en pena. ―I‘ll tell you what, hija, I don‘t know how much years I have left, so I will show you how to prepare everything. Tomorrow we start with the candles. Candles are important, you know, they lead the way for the ánimas, especially for the ones in purgatory, the ones en pena. It is the only light in their darkness. You see, we die twice. Once, when our soul leaves this earth, and again when everyone we know is also gone, and there is no one left to pray for us. So, although Finados is for our loved ones, your father, your sister, your grandparents, it is also for those who have been forgotten, the ánimas en pena. 60
―But enough of that, you must be tired. I‘ll tell you more about every part of the festival later. Like why tamales are good for Finados but never for a funeral…‖ ―Mamá that‘s an easy one. Because tamales are wrapped and its bad luck for a funeral because it‘s like a body wrapped in winding cloth, but we don‘t even use winding cloths anymore.‖ Candelaria gave her one of her famous sideway glances and laughed. ―You think you know everything, verdad? Anyway, you know where your room is, get some rest. Goodnight hija, sleep well.‖ She gave her daughter a kiss on the forehead, and sent her on her way. On the following night, after a day spent prepping the beeswax and homespun cotton strings that would be used for the wicks, and preparing the corn to be made into masa which would then be made into tamales, tamalitos, pan de frijol, atole, hundreds of tortillas and a myriad other foods, both women had a shower and prepared to make the many candles for the two days of prayers. Making candles was a delicate process and could only be made at night, when all the commotion and work of the day was over. The women had to be showered, cleaned and well rested. Luz Maria remembered when she was a child, her mother would send her and sister to the bathroom before bed to make sure that their bladders and bowls were empty. If they ever woke up and had to use the bathroom when Candelaria was making the candles, the beeswax would never set and the candles would lose consistency and firmness, rendering them useless and hours of work, pointless. Luz Maria smiled with fondness at those memories. She missed her older sister, Estela, for whom she had named her daughter. She died of an asthma attack when she was fourteen years. Miguel was right, health care in Belize is the worse. She knew Candelaria had never really recovered from Estela‘s death. Their father had died when Luz Maria was still a baby. Tears welled up in her eyes, feeling the pain and loss her mother‘s heart felt. Knowing that she too would soon add to that misery and would be leaving her mother alone. How would she… ―Hija, have you used the bathroom?‖ Luz Maria caught herself before she went into an unexplainably fit of crying, clearing her throat, she answered ―Yes, mamá, you know I have.‖ ―Good, well let‘s begin.‖ Candelaria showed Luz Maria how to make a candle by making one herself. ―You hold the string over the pot of melded wax, then using your calabash, you drip the wax over it. You wait until it‘s dry, then you repeat until the candle is at least half an inch thick. If your wax starts to set in the pot, place it over the fire hearth to melt it, but not long enough to burn it. You aren‘t making black candles, I am. It‘s a long and tiring process, which is why you should never do it alone. You always need someone to gossip with.‖ Luz Maria smiled back in silence. ―As for me, I need to burn the wax a little so that it gets black. These are placed on the altar for the night we pray for the souls of adults. The white ones you are making will be used on the altar for the night we pray for the children, and on both nights of Finados for the ánimas en pena. We will place them in two rows outside the house, leading up to the door as a sort of pathway, inviting even the forgotten soul who has no one to pray for him, to come in and enjoy the food.‖ ―Mamá, how comes I don‘t remember any of this?‖ ―Ay, hija, the last time you were here, you were nineteen, still a child. You didn‘t care about anything but the food. And before that well you and your sister…‖ Candelaria fell into a silence that Luz Maria was too afraid to interrupt. They both continued pouring calabashes full of wax on their cotton strings, watching it become thicker with every pour. 61
The night outside was as cool as Luz Maria had expected. Every late October, a chilly breeze would blow. The breeze, starting in the open spaces of the savannah would roll on over to the river then make its way to the village. Moonlight and night breezes, a hot cup of cocoa: those were Luz Maria‘s fondest October memories. It was always her reminder that Finados was around the corner and that Christmas was next. She was enjoying sharing this silence with her mother. The only sound was the crackling of the fire, the dripping molten wax, and crickets outside. She was happy she would spend her last days here. Happy that she would return to the earth womb from which she was born. She was at least content that her life had brought her back here. There was no place she would rather be than with her mother making… ―Do you know why we use beeswax to make candles for the dead?‖ Asked Candelaria, breaking the silence. ―Because it melts slowly and evenly? Because that is how the Mayas used to do it?‖ ―No, hija. We use beeswax because bees store honey in it. And, even though we rinse out any trace of honey from it before melting it, you can never truly wash away the sweetness. It is this sweetness that we offer to the souls of the dead. It serves as a reminder that there is sweetness in both life and death.‖ Luz Maria stared off into space, processing her mother‘s words. Candelaria placed the pot of beeswax back on the fire hearth to keep it from setting. Without looking up she went on, ―Hija, I had a dream of you last night. I dreamt you were getting married. But your wedding wasn‘t in L.A., it was here back home. Your dress was made out of white satin and embellished with lace. I remember because instead of going to the church, you said you were going for a swim in the river. The last thing I remember, was seeing you floating in the river, that long floor length veil you were wearing, swaying in the water.‖ Candelaria, with an obvious catch in her throat fell silent yet again. Luz Maria, with a knot of her own in her throat was unable to answer. Both women knew what a wedding in a dream meant. In their world, to dream of death is to dream to prosperity and life. To dream of marriage, however, was to dream of ruin and death. Candelaria, murmuring a soft prayer to herself, finally spoke. ―Hija, why have you come back? Is there something I should know?‖ Luz Maria, feeling her mother‘s words hit her chest like the many tumors growing in it, unmovable despite weeks of chemo and radiation. ―Mamá, I have breast cancer. The doctor says it‘s one of the aggressive ones. I didn‘t even know there were aggressive and passive ones. I‘ve tried different treatments, but the tumors quickly grow back. On my last visit, two days before I came, he told me it had advanced to stage four. Having a mastectomy right now would make no difference. At best I have a few months more.‖ There was yet another silence. Candelaria saw the pot of beeswax bubbling and burning to a point of uselessness, but did nothing to stop it. Too deep in thought, she was no stranger to sorrow and bad news, but showed nothing but calm on her face. But deep down, she felt the pang of loneliness returning. That very loneliness she felt when she saw her husband die from a snake bite. That very loneliness and helplessness she felt as her daughter had an asthma attack and was unable to stop it. She felt that same insatiable wail at the pit of her stomach she felt when her she held Estela in her arms as life and light went out of her eyes. Luz Maria also felt the hurricane of grief rage inside, yet gave no visible sign of her affliction. Both were strong women, well learnt and versed in the tragedies of life. Luz Maria knew she would accept her passage to the other side with peace, knowing that life would go on. She knew her mother and her children would be at her side. Candelaria also took comfort knowing that those we love and lose, are never really lost to us. She had known many sorrows in her life, but still felt the warmth of her husband‘s and daughter‘s presence in her life. 62
Still in silence, the women reach over and held each other. Candelaria stroked her daughter‘s hair. With a smile, looking into Luz Maria‘s eyes, and stilling holding her close, Candelaria said, ―You know, hija, the beauty about candles is that although they burn out, they had purpose. They all give light and warmth, but only a few like these ones, not only give light, but guide. They guide the souls of our loved ones back home, even for only for two nights. They serve as reminder for both the living and the dead that we are always together.‖
Las Cabañuelas Alux. (Or, the Alux tells time.) Before the beginning, there was darkness and hurricanes. Gods planted Great Yax Che Tree , splitting earth from sky. Crocodile‘s back floating in pond, became mountains and earth. Corn was made into flesh and mankind was born. 1
In the beginning, there was fire, riverbank clay, blood, and prayers. There was Farmer‘s need and offerings of warm atole. At least that is how it is told we came to be. I was baked in a kiln and given life to serve Farmer. In return, he would feed me atole. I miss atole, that sweet, warm corn porridge and the way it would warm my clay-baked stomach. We had an understanding, me, Farmer, and the gods. I never learnt his name, nor did he give me one. We never spoke. We only saw each other that once, the day I was given life. I remember him being a giant, and me, barely reaching the height of his knee. Our only communication was through prayer, offerings, and me minding the crops in his milpa. In the beginning, there were full moons, when Ixchel returned the fullness of her light on the sleeping earth. In the beginning, there were full moons where we Alux2 would gather and feast. Bonfire dancing, flute music melting into wind, chicha as cool and intoxicating as dusk becoming night and then becoming dawn. Gathered around the bonfire, the elders, those who were made in the first baktun3, would tell us younger ones stories - stories of the great Yax Che tree growing, and breaking the great darkness that came before it into life; stories about milpas blossoming with corn; stories of mankind needing guardians for milpas and Mayan priests mixing clay with animal blood. Jaguar blood for strength; owl blood for agility; bat blood for night prowess; raccoon blood for cunning; and human blood for speech and reason. Stories of knee-high clay dolls being molded and dressed into human form, being placed at the foot of limestone temples, being prayed over and into life. In the beginning, there were nightly patrols of the milpa to chase away hungry raccoons from the growing corn. Chasing away other humans, too lazy to plant their own corn. Killing 1
Ceiba Tree, believed to be the axis mundi. Pronounced Yash Che. X is sh. Pronounced Alush, short u as in cup. 3 th Measurement of time in Mayan calendar equal to 394.26 years. The last and most famous baktun, was the 13 st baktun that occurred on December 21 2012. 2
all sorts of venomous snakes living under the carpets of dried corn leaves, wouldnâ€˜t want Farmer dying. Farmer dies, I go hungry, I go crazy. In the beginning there were more gatherings. During the dry season when Kinich Ahau burned in anger in the sky, heating up so much, earth would crack and plants would wither. We made ritual chanting and croaking like frogs to cardinal points, begging Chaac to strike clouds with lightening axe to bring rain. We had an understanding, me, Farmer, and the gods. My skin is made of baked earth. When the sun gets too hot, earth gets dry and cracked, so does Alux. When earth gets dry and cracked, corn dies. When corn dies, Farmer, also made of corn, dies. Then, no atole for me. When Farmer dies, no one left to make sacrifice to gods. No gods, no rain for corn. In the beginning, there were circles, cycles, and understandings.
After the beginning, there was darkness and silence. There were strange canoes driven by cloud colored humans. There were strange languages and even stranger gods. After the beginning there were arrows made of fire that rumbled like thunder when fired from handheld metal canon. After the beginning there was a lot of unholy blood, and even more darkness. The sacred cardinal point cross, marking the location of the four bacabs4 became cross on which strange god was killed. After the beginning, we Alux were lost. Farmer abandoned his crops growing in the milpa. Farmer left no more atole for me. Corn died out. Farmer never returned, and gods went silent. Stone temples became scattered pebbles, milpas became forest. Where crows once pecked kernel, there was now tall trees where macaws nest. After the beginning, I went hungry, went without purpose. We were left homeless and without atole. Some went to caves, others dug tunnels. We all went to sleep in darkness. The gods went to sleep; the bonfires and flutes were put to sleep, the Alux went to sleep. A second darkness came over floating crocodile.
After the second darkness, there was fire burning in outdoor fire hearths, new milpas blossoming with corn and canfields over-flowering with white. After the second darkness, rivers were once again filled with the sound of canoes breaking water. The old gods and new gods came to an understanding. Some came back, but others remained asleep. The stone temples were left to the care of forest spirits and new ones were built to the dying god on the cross. But, man still needed food, and food still needed rain to grow, so Chaac and his rain rituals remained. After the second darkness, New Farmer needed his milpa again. So he went to reclaim the old milpas from the forest. I was awaken by the drum like tapping of axe to tree. I saw New Farmer cutting down trees, and burning them to clear space for corn to grow. My clay heart 4
In Mayan cosmology, the bacab are the pillars of the earth.
quickened with happiness. New Farmer was back, milpa was back, atole was back, the Alux were back. But after the second darkness, New Farmer no longer made offerings to Yum Kaax before he cleared space in the forest to make his milpa or before he began planting in his milpa. Farmer no longer had need for Alux. Somehow, New Farmer had learnt to whistle to summon Hunraqan to bring breeze on hot days. New Farmer had somehow learnt Chaac‘s ritual frog croaking and chanting to four cardinal points to bring rain during the dry season. The other Alux and I, were woken from cave and tunnel sleep, but there was no atole or use for us. After the second darkness, New Farmer and new gods had an understanding, but they forgot about the Alux. After sleeping for what seemed like baktuns, we were no longer in the mood to rest. So, we ventured into the unknown, into his villages. We saw how much fun they had, so we wanted fun too. At night, when they went to sleep, we came out to play. While I pour water over their firewood so it will be too damp to catch fire in the morning, the others pull the tails of the dogs so that they bark and wake up the humans. While I stoke the dying embers of the fire hearth, so that the beans which was left warming, gets burnt, the others break into the storage room where New Farmer keeps the corn and then they nibble on it, making the humans think that rats had broken in. While I pick open the back door so that the cat comes inside and falls asleep on the table, after eating all the food, the others throw stones at the roof and walls so they can‘t sleep. Then, just before dawn, before they all wake up to the joyful chaos we created, we dance in the warm ashes of the fire hearth. It reminds us of the beginning and dancing around bonfires and the flutes. We dance under Ixchel‘s glowing light, until we hear them waking up, then we run and hide. From our hidden lives, we enjoy them scrambling to bring the homestead to normalcy.
After the second darkness, there was a new baktun of light. But there was no light for us, so the Alux had to make their own. We frolic among the remnants of the great temples, among the new milpas, among the New Farmer and his family, waiting for the next baktun of darkness to come. Just as certain as the macaw, feathered with the setting sun, turns day into night, we know the darkness will come again. We have been alive on floating crocodile for too long to not know that baktuns come and go, just as sun and moon set. Floating crocodile has given life to us for too long for us not to know the cycles of night and day. So, we wait in trickery for the next baktun, for the new gods and new ways of talking, for new humans, hoping that the Alux will once again have purpose.
Obediah Smith At St. Philip’s Church, in Kisii you feel yourself moved 65
like a piece on a chess board or a piece in a game of checkers and you don‘t know whose hand it was, whose move it was you feel yourself moved out of harm‘s way, into position to benefit, to be blessed for blessings in abundance to be outpoured upon you you feel yourself moved and you don‘t know whose hand it was or whose move it was know though that you were moved out of harm‘s way out of darkness into light out of what was wrong into what is right out of downright wretchedness into righteousness you feel yourself moved and you don‘t know whose hand it was or whose move it was you just feel and know that you are moved and know that you wereand that you are savedknow that you are safe
Long White Beard of Father Time is there any such entity, really, as God the Father, 66
God the Son and God the Holy Spirit with strings in hand, as it were preventing and causing what can and cannot happen what will and will not happen then again, what governs the structure, the order of what I have here thought of what I have just written and whatâ€˜s being added what has ordered and what keeps order in this universe that I am part of and participate in is this order holy is there something divine behind it all holding it together in spite of everything all the time being or seeming to be on the verge ofon the brink of exploding on the verge of coming apart what is at the heart of it all at the root of it all upon the roof of it all
BODY LIGHT There are two kinds of body light: sky on the left and fire on the right; and every breast and buttock that happens by is made to pay a certain priceâ€”so they sayâ€ŚDay or night, there are guards and keepers: watchmen whose sole earthly delight 68
is to be found between fire and sky, sky and fireâ€”and it matters little that bodies burn as time goes by.
Note: The picture is the result of taking a photograph of a coloured towel through a distorting glass block in the bathroom. The poem is the result of playing with the shapes, colours and forms discernible in the image.
IV FEATURED WRITER: RUOEN FAN
―You have a very old soul.‖ said Leandro Soto, the Cuban artist, to me on the phone one day last January. One day in January, 2008, Professor Daoming Zeng, a senior colleague who I respected very much, had said the same thing to me in Chinese. However, what Professor Zeng went on to say with a sigh was ―If you had lived in Tang or Song dynasty, you would have been a poet, carefree and joyful for all your life.‖ I understood why he sighed. Being an academic for twelve years at a top research university in China where most of the faculty members are busy with their studies, I have been used to people‘s scornful comments on the use of creative writing even though quite a few of them study and teach literature. I do too, and I also publish my critical research. But, always in my heart there is a voice that refuses to be overwhelmed by my academic ambition. I did not know what it was until one day I realized that it was the call for one‘s reunification with what he was once taken away from. ―Why not?‖ I said to myself when Leandro suggested on the phone that we collaborate to revive an old soul 70
who inhabits our bodies. Isn‘t it the first step to pay homage to where I was once and perpetually shaped and to return to it?
Seven Poems Composed on an Island Beyond the Ocean 《西牛海外洲》
1 兴亡千古一时感，江海寄舟半生疑。何处衔木悼帝女？日暮高台风正急。 Every rise and fall eventually become a shade, For half of life is the drifting soul puzzled in its voyage. Where to pay the drowned princess homage? Over the cliff only the wild wind echoes its word.
2 故国咫尺外，天涯独登台。 落照海烟里，相望不胜哀。 In a vision my country is from me one step away, On a rock in a corner of the world I stand astray. The sun is lingering over the sea, Gloomily, I stare at her, and she stares at me.
3 月如钩，勾离愁，尽识愁字怕登楼，深巷听更漏。 堤外柳，江上鸥，杳杳山河水东流 ，数声渡渔舟。 On the crescent moon hangs my nostalgia, I can‘t go to the balcony without fear, Only distant bells ringing in the lane I hear. The willow by the river whispers, The gull over the water hovers, My homeland is dissolving into a dream. With few sounds, a fishing boat is departing. 71
4 北顾中原路，南渡嗟日暮。 辰翁心所系，海上月明处。 My land in the north was vanishing from my sight, The southbound journey was beyond the sunset. I arrive at the moonlit ocean at night, Where another soul and I meet.
5 推窗惊见渔火黯，芦花胜雪沙鸥影。 Only the faint fishing boat lights came to her window, The gulls flew over the reeds casting their shadow.
6 落花满天蔽月光 （唐涤生） The falling flowers blurred the moonlight.
7 浮槎渡远客，西牛海外洲。 渐感离人意，山居月中秋。苏子怀兄弟，犹得在神州。桐叶 劳相赠，万里一曲收。 Here I am, in Barbados, an island beyond the ocean. I begin to feel lonely, when the full moon rises over the hill. Once a great poet missed his brother. Luckily they were still in China. Thank you so much for the music you sent Listening to one piece, we are together.
NOTE: The art works reproduced here were composed with mixed materials and techniques, using rice paper and Chinese inks for all the pieces. Drawings are displayed inside boxes combined with small objects and poems written in Classical Chinese by Prof Rouen Fan. Among the materials are cardboard, silk and cotton textiles, natural shells, glass bottles, rice grains, acrylic glass, metal coins, sand, and found objects. The main concept of this body of work is â€•a collection of poems written by a young Chinese emigrant to the Caribbean in the 19th Centuryâ€–. In the video installation of the work, the hand of the poet can be seen writing the poems. Neri Torres was the video editor, Mario Porchetta the photographer. (Leandro Soto, 2016).
V LANDSCAPES OF MEMORY
Gary Brocks Caribbean Fortress Munitions Room (1994) Goats eat and shit the grass of ramparts. Stupefied cannons sit, garrisoned sentries, primed for nights of buccaneers, seared by centuries of sun. Down shadowed cobblestoned tunnels fortified shutters covet rifle forend and barrel, wresting rumored slave rebellions from the locker of memory, while languid waves whisper indifferently a roll call of human chattel displaced by cargo, cast to the sea, as history sways to sounds of brown skinned children at play in breakers laughing, shrieking, thrashing buoyed by time to this vaulted brick reverberating chamber, where a windowâ€˜s light is cast beckoning vision past the beach, to seek the horizon Icarus like, to fly towards beauty in terror where an azure sky conjoins a turquoise bay.
Nancy Anne Miller House Visit My cousin tells me I can have my pick of china pieces on a mahogany table. They rise like rose corals, stuck to a reef. The house now has a deep sea feel, shafts of light bounce off of mirrors, surf crashes and slipcovers, bureaus are stripped of buttons, handles as if an interior life no longer exists, everything open, up for grabs. As if currents rushed 81
through, left books, drawers on floors. My great Aunt Susie took tea in the side garden. Harriet carrying the tray of silver, a game of chest where, each part is thoughtfully placed. I remember the rough image of Pearl, the lost family ship, etched into the side of the house, a childâ€˜s finger drawing or one drawn in sand by a stick, the ocean removes layer by layer as it polishes the sand into the sheen of a tidy housekeeper. Each ruffle of tide luminous as a shell where grit spins into a jewel deep inside an oyster.
Tia L. Clarke The Shack Cracks in this building reminds me of instability in which my household was built flooded in the filth of Floyd divided, only an earthquake could match such destruction It almost provides a twisted justification Provocation of why we're crumbling Perhaps they've been here long before they became visible the naked eye could not detect it, before eye sore Our hearts knew there was much more pain trying to build a mansion on quick sand marsh land, my Bahama-land, nothing could stop us though cracks are silent, were silent deadly now, Junkanoo loud we could try to rake n' scrape it together there's enough mortar in our veins to hold it just a little longer don't let it crumble, people will see people will talk and they will know 82
all this, was just for show a wedding with cow bells, and no ceremony just the parties baby shower, birthdays, another baby shower no power in pulling this carriage without a horse We started this family misguided by our parents They two, built houses without windows without doors, only floors, a shack, with just enough space for you to stand while you sleep A tin roof that leaked, a sign that even God felt sorry for us maybe a reminder that we were alive that we could survive this mess we've made Shacking up
Nancy Ann Miller Hot Water Bottle My laptop with a soft pink cover may as well be a hot water bottle I bring along. May as well be a baby the airport security officer hands me with her see through gloves as it comes out of the X-ray machineâ€˜s long birth canal, trails an umbilical cord. Like the small Cover Girl compact I opened, closed at Stratford College when my world was a small circle. But bigger than when I flashed light off mirrors to sailboats passing on South Shore, mimicked smugglers I read about in Enid Blytonâ€˜s Famous 83
Five. Twirled light like Gibbs Hill Lighthouse in Southampton, shafts spinning their helicopter propellors. I see myself in Dellâ€˜s glassy oblong screen, the shape of a rear view, pulls me into a horizon while I pump letters fast, fast. Push gas pedals to the floor, and am lurched forward.
Shakespearean We stare at the jaws of the white shark, teeth sharp as cut diamonds for a Harry Winston necklace. They must have had their own beauty, a tiara shimmering in the silk of the dark undersea. But we cannot look without seeing ribbons of red, the un-packaged human. Neither can we look at its snare without remembering the slaves harvesting bright jewels in a dark pit in Africa. Beauty and treachery so close, so much a part of the ocean where the lionfish, dazzling as a sequined evening purse, hordes and steals, floats in with its Shakespearean collar.
Althea Romeo-Mark Aqui Me Quedo “I Stay Here.” We looked down at the whorehouse from gorged out ledges on the hill where our houses sat, heard its cackling voices and thumping Jukebox tunes, that denied us late night quiet. We waited next to it at the bus stop, sign hidden by a flamboyant tree, and stood in hellish heat ‗til the irregular dollar-bus we flagged down, came to a halt. Though adolescents, instinct sensed a forbidden air in the coming and going of men from the dim-lit bar where we glimpsed them sitting on stools and cosying up to women. Aqui Me Quedo did not blare melancholic, slow ―fado,‖ but loud salsa and calypso that smothered the bass and soprano of escaping laughter, loud chatter. Its women, the vampires of wallets and souls, rarely sighted— petite and long-legged Latinas, lips moist, red roses, skirts that sculpted bones and flesh. The whorehouse scarcely mentioned as a temporary haven for hungry men, never spoken of as a home for ladies of the night. We nodded, shook our heads, and sighed when Aqui Me Quedo slipped from our lips while we relaxed on hillside verandas, 85
as we waited for late buses as we sought sleep as we stayed there in the din of its existence. *Fado is a form of Portuguese music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia.
Dorsia J. Smith
Ya Allaha wangu wana nimekupa ni amana watunde Mola Rabbana siwate kuwangaliya. O Lord God, my children I have given thee in trust. Protect them, O Lord and Master, cease not to look after them.
Returning to Soweto, July 25, 1992 When I first came to this land I did not mind the burning soil scalding my skin, making my throat ache— a smoker‘s cough. I did not see the half-starved weeds clinging to dung-dry rocks or the sun-picked bones of a dog. I could only see love-laughter in tawny skies and scattered blades of grass— that was my last green morning. The police kicked in the door and dragged Mzimkalu out by her wrists. They punched her hard on her legs and chest—kicked her in the head and beat her face with their sjamboks. Mzimkalu was unconscious when they threw her in their truck. You were only a child. They told us that you had attacked three delivery cars with petrol bombs. Lies. You did not return to tell me about your purple-stained back and shoulders, the rubber suit they made you wear for shocks, and the lights— bright ones to blind you. 86
They said, you killed yourselfâ€” jumped out of a window. Lies. Your body became the landâ€” blistered and scaly. There are no children here now. They have left this country. They have gone to find a well with a bottom.
Yashika Graham Synthesis I still wear you, seafarer, on all the skin you‘ve touched, still drift with the currents of an ‗us‘ warped by each other‘s blood, cutting contrasts to a nub. Asserting us simply, ‗I‘; a single solid.
Guidelines My intended; meet me by the river, leave shoes and all desire for talk, come bare and burdenless, or strip at the bank.
Still I still look for you in the square, see our children; heads knotty with rebellion and call it spring, the season of poui posturing earth into yellow reverie. Imagine our re-meeting, ages after its time; locks tarping cameled backs, eyes a catalogue of re-living, and limbs needing only to clasp, re-graft. I know now there is no getting over as memories re-pin to the edges of scents, colours, times of day. Each sequence, 89
a blossoming of you at best. But the fragments were never you, gypsy man, it was your skin; its scent of Jacks River washed down from the world. It was your eyes, how they plucked me from silences and returned me there without question. It was how laughter took things and made them whole again. It is why I see you in the beauty of others and know there is no getting over. For to each love, its own haunting.
Obediah Smith In Jinja on my 61st Birthday i. access after all success after all after all these years of collaboration look what has at long last been achieved you should have been here with me in bed with me, you and I together, actually celebrating my birthday here in Uganda, here in Jinja just your picture and it has to suffice it has enabled me to pick stars off the ceiling that the sky is oh, this morning, EYO, you raised me so high you lifted me up as high as it goes it was, I confess, as good as it gets 90
we have made magic after all you are, after all, all the woman that I had dreamed you were I want you again, my many assorted biscuits in a tin oh, I have been in love with you, EYO for a long long time if poetry I‘ve composed has offended you, I apologize, it was never intended to just celebrating life and beauty and wonderment and the wonderful woman that you are my pen or I got carried away my pen and I got carried away for our being carried away though, EYO, who is to blame I am to blame I acknowledge being culpable oh, I adore your every feature: ear, hair, shape of your head eyes, lips, nose, smile you reserve way your hair‘s brushed back from your forehead nappy head, nappy hair, hair I like best with what is it held at the back holes for two pairs of earrings you‘re wearing one 91
this deficit- should I fill it oh, God, that other deficit, Iâ€˜ve already filled even with you nowhere near even with you nowhere around arms around youwish I could get my arms around you unable to with access to you only in and only through this photograph my God, how I have been able to achieve what Iâ€˜ve achieved this morning is a miracle
ii and I thought we had separated, parted praise be to God, Olive, love, that we have notthat I have you still you can as well have all of me that you want I am so overcome by love for you this morning in love with you this morning and more even than I ever was before Oh, God, the thrilling feelings that you are causing to go through my body, mind and soul what blessings am I being blessed with this blessed Monday- happy birthday morning thanks for these gifts first gift that I have received today
or should I say, so far, the most substantive
iii crack of day crack of dawn crack of lightning though this seems like a poem someone or something had inspired me to write before OMG, Olive has me tingling all over all through throughout as if she was actually holding my stiff cock in her wet hot pussy
iv I can black out or I can whiteout write this out write this down go down Moses you know what to tell Pharaoh he knows whose messenger you are heâ€˜ll know who sent you you tell him what to do
v too much light coming in, coming on morning already, day beginning to dawn just getting into bed wishing for some night to be left, to lie down in, to hide in to sleep in peace in sun coming up suggests to everyone to everything get up get up nocturnal animal that I have metamorphosed into when the sun is coming up I am usually just going to bed though I do love the softness of darkness to sleep in peace in
vi dream you awake dream you away from this chair lovely, with legs crossed want them wide instead welcoming like arms 94
want to be wrapped up in your legs about me want to be deep inside you like something planted, rooted earth about it, clenching it you turn me on like a TV set when it‘s time to watch the news
Kavita Ganness River Lover The soft soil of the riverbank, he gingerly sifts, this master of small chambers, this restless crab. Like a picky leather-back turtle in Mathura, he digs, with palms that scoop and scour, with nimble fingers like forceful flippers. How the Corn-birds and Keskidees croon! How the moist loam throbs with fierce lust! Like frigid brides, the lotus flowers cringe when he finds an orifice that pleases him. River Lover intercourses the earth. Intercourses the earth! Intercourses the earth! He‘s unafraid of his wily organ being hurt. He‘s an earthworm that wriggles and wines in the dirt. His penis is a muddy screwdriver, sheathed deep in the bank of the Ortoire River. His sperm floats in the Gulf of Paria, all the way to Venezuela…
Daughter of Fire Her discerning eyes read secrets between lines I string, she‘s soul and symmetry, she‘s subject without predicate. There‘s no herb in the words of my dreadlocked muse. Her palate is particular; her poems – sophisticated. Cool like chilled Mauby, deep like Maracas chasm; she‘s down to earth, of the earth, as real as light and touch. Transport me to places I can‘t pronounce, send me to dictionary, love how you sharpen stanzas till they smoke. Deep, dark Daughter of Fire, you inspire, you subdue me. You call me wicked, but you blaze like Jouvert Jab Jab on page.
Obediah Smith Easy Come Easy Go is it that with these easy women their entrances and their exitscoming and goingentering as well as leaving your life is the flipping up or flipping down of the same switch just as easily as they are able to commence a relationship engage in sexthey can end a relationship switch to having sex to sleeping with 96
the other fellow with another guy
Stones Fake or Genuine for MMN ―These could buy your luggages!‖ she said peeved or pretending to be peeved in response to my suggesting that her pair of earrings each contained 13 bits of glass and not 13 tiny diamonds as she thought or as she claimed these she said were a birthday present from an old boyfriend the one she referred to as ―The Businessman‖ these to make me jealous these, I suppose to cause me to value her more not to take her for granted to cause me to realize the need to compete for her affection what did she say they were worth OMG I recall her claiming to have somehow seen the receipt I think it was 40,000 Kenyan Shillings which is 500 USD 97
an overestimate by far, I am certain and certainly insufficient to cover the cost of my luggage and what they contained a genuine diamond ring you see a single diamond set in platinum a ring of 14 karat, yellow-gold was in a pouch in one of my suitcases purchased in 1971, year I graduated from St. Anneâ€˜s High School first job after high school was behind me purchased it with money I earned Iâ€˜d have had it then for a total of 44 years what had I paid for it way back then six months ago it certainly had to have been worth 1200 USD, which is about 100,000 Kenyan Shillings when she said what she said I had to laugh what a case I thought of underestimation coupled with overestimation those though were the sort of moments that we shared that I loved what is interesting is that for several days following she absented herself from the house we shared from my bed we shared leaving her pair of what she said 98
were diamond earrings purchased by an old boyfriend for her birthday thrown or abandoned as it were in the lowest drawer in the night stand beside my bed she was even unaware that in each earring there were 13 stones totaling the number of years that she had lived birthday it was that she had just celebrated, her 26th her being away is what caused pain her not being there earrings with diamonds or with bits of glass seemed inconsequential after all I secured them, returned them to her when she did get back from Christ knows where with some story or other to explain where she had been story that was as reliable as the story about her earrings she was usually out to bullshit up to bullshit most of the time even her bullshitting though was fun sometimes at times though it hurt like hell and I suffered and complained
writing poems and banging doors
Once upon a Greasy Pole put your bone in me I want to play it like a trombone
Frog Pitching Back to its Pond merely that kind of girl one of those girls how much for the room how much for the fuck over and done with in an hour or half-an-hour I had to go and treat her like a queen I had to go and treat her like a human being treatment she did not knowcould not have known how to respond to like T.S. Eliot observed the fulfilled beast without fail shall kick the empty pail
Arnulfo Kantun Blue Mango I have shared one Blue mango with its Purple bluish palette Mixed in with red rust And thumbprint Like bruise Secret mollusks Flesh brooding Clotted blood hue Shadowed indigo For kings and queens Shiny white linen Dipped and tempered By patient tired Beaten hands I have reaped This sweet thing Rescued From its soured Green slumber Of forgetting Of force-ripening But instead I have left It alone To fruition Untouched By the fuss of My salt labor Now conjured Like a prized Pearled egg For you Yellow juice Runs down Your chin Sweet sticky stain Scent of sun and Patient draw of soil 101
Water sweeting in Light and air Turning to rich Resinous gasps Stirring slow time In bark and tree bole Secret covered passages Through hidden Wisps of water Towards desires hushed Away from light
Dorsia J. Smith Love Work We begin together with spades in hand. We kneel, then bend, digging into the earth like hungry birds. The soil becomes loose under our thrust of sweat. We spill seeds in the opening like lose words in a black pool. New dirt is poured to fill the thick holes. We pause to drink water like galloping air and begin again.
VII MAGIC, MYSTERY
Jane Bryce Shadow Boxing On Friday, I let down my hair Opened the tamper-resistant seal Took a good swig. I stood on the red carpet Wearing a ball-gown Eating thin pancakes flambéd in rum. On Saturday I cut my hair screwed the cap tight (after a good-measure sip) Rolled up the red carpet. Hell, I thought, one day is enough Celebration. Went to bed early. But when I turned out the light I dreamt that President J.K Nyerere was my father. So much for sobriety. Now, I don‘t even know who I am – and I‘ve cut my hair. I put on my trainers and went out Chasing reality. Tell you when I find it.
Philip Nanton Seeing is Believing You might doubt their existence our brown hares are rarely seen. Yet I‘ve heard their bewitching half-human early morning scream. One evening as I cycled by, a hare standing in a St. Thomas lane offered me a one-eyed stare. Stillness and camouflage its defence
Closer and closer I came Stillness and camouflage its defence Bugger that, no way It seemed to say and showing me a burst of speed took off turned sharp left into a cane-field and disappeared. I rolled on in third gear.
Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming Anti-Matter Soucouyant As a matter a fact Anti-Matter was not really there for we in the outer zone She was off voyaging gallivanting in black holes with all sorts of unsavory matter making ruction like in a Jouvert morning chipping in a steelband like a sailor man no matter when the cock crow and the sun show Anti-Matter will flash into she soucouyant skin seasoned with salt & hot pepper she will screech like a jumbie bird when the salt and pepper burn she raw as a matter a fact
Alyssa Quintyne Come Back And Sea Us Again
I arrive at the club at 9:32. It‘s a small building with a large deck that‘s right across the road from the beach. I promptly walk to the bar, order a drink, and sit down on the empty deck. Looking straight ahead, there are 20 tables. All empty. I sigh. Look left and there lies the bar with the bartender wiping the counter silently. Then right, the street that‘s usually bustling with people and honking cars is now empty and silent. The sea crawls onto the beach next to it, and it moans as it drags the sand into its salty depths. I check my phone and look at the time. 9:47. Another 15 minutes and the party will officially start, but no soul would dare come before 11. No one here is punctual, not even for a party. Pick up the glass, Drink. Swirl the glass. Drink again. Look straight ahead. Empty tables and chairs. Look left. The bartender is still wiping the counter. Look right. The street is still empty. The beach is still empty, the sea is still restless. The deck is quiet. Not even the black birds and whistler frogs chirp along with the slight howl of the breeze. The palm trees rustle as the wind blows overhead, adding an earthy scent to the warm, salty air. It‘s a nice night, peaceful, but boring. I check my phone. Look at the time. 10:24. Still no DJ, no music, no people, no Karissa. I sigh. Drink. Swirl the glass. My drink‘s almost gone. Drink the rest. Put the glass down. Look straight ahead. Look left. The bartender stands still. The counter shines under the blue lights overhead. He spots my glare and smiles. I can‘t make out all of his features from this distance, but his smile stands out. His teeth are pure white and shine brighter than the water droplets on his skin. As he smiles, a bead of water runs down his cheek and plops onto the counter. He looks down and continues to wipe. I return the smile reluctantly and turn back around. Suddenly, a white van speeds around the corner, screeching to a stop in front of the bar. 3 men quickly hop out and rush in, carrying black boxes and wires. The bartender shakes his head, ―You‘re late man! You need more time?‖ ―Yes please!‖ A voice calls out from the dance floor. ―Alrighty then,‖ he exclaims, shaking his head again. Five minutes later and the music comes on, slow-paced soca. At least they have good taste. As quickly as they came, 2 men rush from the dance floor into the van, and speed down the road. Look at the time. 10:24. What, still? That can‘t be right. I restart my phone. 10:24. I get up and walk over to the bartender. He towers over the counter, watching the water drop off his face as he wipes it away. As he looks up at me, his features are slightly blurry and wet. His skin looks swollen and it glistens under the blue light. His eyes are milky and dull. His smile displays pointed teeth, sharp enough to cut straight to the fear fogging my judgment. Or maybe that was the alcohol. ―Excuse me,‖ I muttered, ―Do you know what time it is?‖ He raises his arm and looks at his watch. Water spills from its face and a piece of seaweed is stuck under the band. He taps it, ―Sorry, it‘s stuck on 9:30,‖ he chuckles. And his chuckle was deep and gurgling, like water was in his lungs. I chuckle too as I walk back to my chair. I check my phone again. 9:30. That can‘t be right. Clocks don‘t move backwards, and it‘s not daylight savings yet. I get up again and walk to the dance floor, looking for a clock. I see the 106
dj‘s dancing while setting up the colored lights, but it‘s still too dark to see if a clock is there. I sigh, and walk over to the doorway. From there, I see the sea crawling onto the beach, moaning, dragging, clawing at it. I prop myself against the doorframe and watch it, checking my phone once again. 9:32…9:32? But that when I arrivJust then, a small woman washes up on the shore. She looks up and crawls onto the sidewalk, escaping the waves. She gets up slowly and walks onto the deck, then takes my seat. The bartender rushes over with a drink He places it in front of her and pats her on the shoulder, ―You‘re a little early. No one‘s here yet.‖ She doesn‘t say anything. She just sits there, soaking wet, staring at the sea. She must be distorted, so I walk over to the bar, grab a napkin dispenser, and walk over to her. But as I do, someone grabs my arm and pulls me aside. ―There you are!‖ ―Karissa?‖ I barely recognize her. Her face is painted like a cat and it‘s very convincing. ―Yeah, did I scare you?‖ She says, eyeing the girl on the deck. ―A little…‖ ―Well good, it‘s all in the hallow spirit, right?‖ ―Halloween spirit.‖ ―Yeah, whatever. Come on,‖ she pulls me past the girl, further onto the deck. As she walks, I see a tail…her tail, swinging back and forth. And her nails start to grow long and sharp, digging into my wrist. We sit down and talk, and as she talks, she starts to transform. Her eyes widen and her irises start to shrink into fine lines. Her headband snaps off, leaving behind twitchy cat ears. And the drawn-on whiskers pull from her cheeks and grown into fine, white wires. ―Why are you looking at me so weird?‖ ―I…your face…‖ ―What!?‖ she hisses, ―Is there something on me?‖ ―Yes! You-You‘re turning into a cat!‖ ―What? How much have you had to drink?‖ ―I‘m not kidding, look in the camera!‖ I shove my phone in her face. She takes it reluctantly, slowly panning it side to side, petting her whiskers. ―Wooow,‖ she purrs, ―I did a really good job!‖ ―WHAT?‖ ―Calm down, that‘s the power of makeup. Anyways, remember I was tellinBehind her, the girl shifts into my view. She‘s still sitting there, looking at the sea. I squint and look at her dull and lifeless eyes. I look back at Karissa who‘s still chattering on, and look back to the girl. Suddenly, there are three people sitting with her. Their wet skin is swollen, and they sit so quietly, the beads of salt water are as loud as the waves as they roll off their bodies. They glisten under the moonlight, but their eyes too, are dull and lifeless. The bartender comes over and severs them each a drink, patting them on the shoulders. ―HEY!‖ ―Huh?‖ ―Are you paying attention?‖ She hisses. ―Yeah yeah,‖ I pout. She stops and sniffs the air. She glances over her shoulder, and as fast as cat, she jolts onto the table. ―Karissa, what is wrong with you?!‖ ―I don‘t like salties!‖ She leaps of the table and scurries into the bathroom. 107
Feeling embarrassed, I get up and walk over to the group. ―Hi, I‘m so sorry about my friend. She‘s not feline herself lately,‖ I chuckle. No response. ―Nothing? Wow, dead crowd…‖ They just stare at the sea. ―Hey, are you guys ok?‖ I wave my hands at the group, but they‘re motionless. Even the bartender just stares blankly at the sea. I look at the sea, trying to spot what they‘re starring at. The sea‘s memorizing. It glistens brightly under the moonlight, and it moans and whistles as it crashes onto the shore. ―Hey,‖ I lean over and touch the closest person on the shoulder. His clothes are soaking wet, his skin is lukewarm and puffy. Eyes milky, motionless. I tap his cheek, foam leaks from the corner of his mouth. Immediately, I recoil, but I calm down and check his pulse. Nothing. I grab the bartender‘s arm, ―Can you call an ambulance? He has no pulse!‖ ―It‘s not time yet,‖ he mutters, still starring at the sea, ―More to come.‖ I scramble for my phone and try to call for help, but it cuts out. ―Dammit, stupid Flow!‖ I look around frantically for some to help, ―Hello? Anyone? We need help!‖ ―Calm down!‖ I spin around to see Karissa perched on top of a table, her tail twitching side to side, ―You can‘t do nothing for them anyways.‖ ―Karis…Help me! These people ar―Dead.‖ ―…dead.. wh―They‘re all dead, and wet.‖ She shivers. ―Karissa, that‘s crazy. Dead people can‘t go to bars and drink!!!‖ ―Says who? Even salties can have some fun before they go back.‖ ―Go…ba…Karissa, you‘re not making any sense! Just help me,‖ I say frantically, trying to pick up the man. ―Come,‖ she sighs, prancing across the street, ―And put that salty down!‖ I put him down and reluctantly follow her to the beach. ―Why am I here instead of trying to resuscitate those people?‖ ―Put your mouth on them if you want, but if you wait here, it‘ll make sense.‖ The waves start to crash onto the shore closer and closer, making Karissa hiss and retreat to the street. Then suddenly, the waves recede, revealing swollen bodies all over the sea floor. They rise and slowly limp onto the shore. I shriek and run over to Karissa, she growls and arches her back as they limp close. But they pass us and make their way to the deck. They don‘t even acknowledge us. ―…They just want a drink.‖ I mutter. ―Yeah. They just wanna swim in rum before they gotta go back again.‖ ―To the sea?‖ ―Yep,‖ she purrs, ―The sea might be jealous, but it understands people‘s desires. Some of these salties never got their last drink, so it lets them out for a night, now and again.‖ I wipe the salty tears from my eyes, ―…You know, this party‘s a bust. You wanna drink with them?‖ ―EW! You wanna drink with salties?‖ ―Why not,‖ I shrug, ―It‘d be nice to have some drinking buddies before they go off.‖ 108
She sigh, ―Fine…But if any of them touch me, I‘m biting them.‖ I laugh as I pick her up in my arm, petting her hair. We walk onto the deck and sit next to some of the sea‘s victims. They‘re silent, and none of them have touched their drinks. I check my phone, 10:59…11:00. And like clockwork, all of them take a drink together. I rush to take a sip with them, as Karissa laps hers up, growling softly. ―Oh stop it, ― I whisper at her. ―I‘m sorry,‖ she hisses, ―I just don‘t like wet bodies!‖ I laugh again as we drown ourselves with rum. Our time with the victims is peaceful. Soon, the deck is filled with silent drinking bodies, almost rhythmic with the music. And they‘re the perfect drinking partners too, even though they don‘t laugh…or talk…or breathe. As the night continues, the sea grows restless. Some of them look out to it, as if it was calling them. Others seem to ignore it and continue drinking. ―It‘s time!‖ The bartender shouts out. The people put their drinks down and slump back into the salty depth of the sea. ―Come back soon!‖ We call after them. As they leave, I help the bartender pick up the glasses and clean up the bar. And when we finish, he too walks back to the sea, waving goodbye and the sea cradles him back under its waves. With watery eyes, I slump back into my chair and finish the rest of my drink. Karissa leaps onto the counter and sits next to me, swinging her tail to the beat. ―Soooo….‖ She sighs, ―That was…fun… I guess.‖ ―Yeah,‖ I say, gazing upon the sea, ―Party was totally dead though.‖
Eric Rose Beijing Waltz Seven snow-white angels Flew past my urban window Making the Beijing morning sky Their private ballroom. Weaving and floating Turning and dancing Blending in with The cottony clouds Above them. Then they swirled And turned Becoming bluish-black Rotating like yin yang Balancing their dance So cleverly. Then five more angels Joined their quadrille 109
Making 12 ballet dancers Making 12 points of wonder Soar high above my head. It did not matter to them Nor did they seem to care That an earthbound spectator Watched their magpie ball And wonder at Their beauty Their balance Their timeless soiree, Following the 12 Disciples of Dance As they soar Higher and higher, Disappearing Into the heavens of The early-morning sky.
VIII WORDS INTO ART
Mark McWatt A Triptych for Tomorrow 1 Sun dials have no concept of tomorrow There is only that slanting brass rod, like a middle finger, pointing rudely at today‘s sunshine and walking its shadow through those unevenly spaced lines that measure its movement towards darkness— a little like you and I glancing at the sky for temporary light relief—as if night cares about our sense of grief at another day dying.
2 Night swims ashore from somewhere beyond the reef, like waves the surfers ride at sunset to remind themselves that even if tomorrow exists, who knows if it will remember to bring waves like these… And when today takes us all into sleep we awaken to find that another today has kicked tomorrow beyond the reach of our human experience…
3 Yet we let all our hopes and dreams wash up on that wild, uncluttered, unpeopled beach we name ‗tomorrow‘—and make vain plans to claim its windswept, sunburnt wonder and write our name in its wet sand…I take your hand and promise you tomorrow and tomorrow, and although tomorrow will never come, we think we can hear its wild sea-breeze and breaking waves sing the song of our love louder than all our funeral hymns.
Kamran Mir Hazar Sixteen poems from the Hazaristan with Haiku Body and a Yellow Mandala شاًشدٍ شعز اس ُشارطتاى با پیکز ُایکو و یک هاًذالی سرد 1 :با پیکز ُایکو اوغو غغ غغ َهٌَِ غژغو گٌجشک، گٌجشک،گٌجشک ٍَگٌجشک َم َد راٍ َهٌذ With Haiku Body: In a big copper pot, the Afghan barks Sparrow, sparrow, sparrow The Afghan has blocked my sparrow‘s flight.
2 :با پیکز ُایکو پیالَ ی چای در جایی کَ دهوکزاطی آُي هشٍ را دیجیتالی کزد ًوطتالوژی هذام کظی کَ اس خود طی او دو هولوکول هی پزاکٌذ With Haiku Body: The cup of tea where democracy digitized the smell of iron Unceasing nostalgia for a body streaming molecules of CO2
3 :با پیکز ُایکو دو کلوبیایی و طَ کلوبیایی،یک کلوبیایی دیگزی اس هذژیي و طوهی ُن هذژیٌی،یکی اس بوگوتا With Haiku Body: One Colombian, two Colombians, three Colombians One from Bogotá, another from Medellin and the third from Medellin too
4 :با پیکز ُایکو آیا هی تواى تزا باالتز اس تگ شزوع ًوشت و >پی اچ پی را بظت؟ With Haiku Body: Can I write you over the start tag and close PHP?>
5 :با پیکز ُایکو گزگ اس غٌیوت وحشی هتوذى گزگی خیش سد بزای یک یُویک دیگز With Haiku Body: Wolf from the chance of a wild civilized west A wolf leapt to grab another joik 6 :با پیکز ُایکو آلی َهَ بَلَی بورتو شوًوم ٍ اس کوتل تو شیو،ٍدریا دریا شود With Haiku Body: My friend, I die for you I become rivers falling from your mountain 7 :با پیکز ُایکو ها طٌگ را بَ گیاٍ تبذیل هی کٌین اگز بخواُین ًوشتي قاًوًی اطاطی ُشارطتاى With Haiku Body: We convert stone into plant, if we want Writing Hazaristan Constitution
8 :با پیکز ُایکو !َُز کض عاشق هوش !بَ َکلَ چار عاشق شُود With Haiku Body: Everyone becomes a lover My grandfather became four lovers 9 : با پیکز ُایکو ََگشتَ َگشتَ اس یگ آی پی َد دیگ ًَ هوکو8.4.84..74.47 اشارٍ خورٍ طوى With Haiku Body: Looking and searching from one IP to another She points to 22.214.171.124. 114
41 :با پیکز ُایکو گوسى شوالی دویذ و گوسًاى پزاکٌذٍ شذًذ بزف گزهایی جش آتش خود ًذاشت With Haiku Body: A reindeer ran and reindeer disappeared Snow had no warmth except its fire. 41 :با پیکز ُایکو رطا و بزخواطتَ اس دُاًی جواى،آوایی ًزم تابظتاى خزبوسٍ و اًگور هی پخت With Haiku Body: A soft voice from a young mouth While summer cooked up melons and grapes 4. :با پیکز ُایکو ٍآسادی رٍ چای ُوری دم کذ ًَپِیلََ رٍ پیش هوکو
With Haiku Body: Boiling liberty like tea She offers a glass 41
:با پیکز ُایکو یک دطت طٌگ یک دطت بش 49 ًیوَ ًخظت قزى هیز یشداى بخش اس کوٍ بَ داهٌَ آهذ With Haiku Body: In one hand a stone, in another a goat It‘s the middle of the 19th century Mir Yazdan Bakhsh has descended from the mountain
4. :با پیکز ُایکو َاَهی بچَ داهات شوهو هوش ًَ روسگار خورٍ آباد کو،بِل دیل خورٍ َر طاهودلجی With Haiku Body: This boy will be your son-in-law Let his heart be a fortress
45 :با پیکز ُایکو طگی هذاب پیش اس الفبا در یویکی طاهی With Haiku Body: A molten dog before the alphabet In a Sami joik
46 :با پیکز ُایکو چای بزف اس کوٍ ُای پاروپاهیظوص ٍاس کوٍ ُای ُشار With Haiku Body: Snow tea From Paropamisus Mountains From Hazara Mountains
Yashika Graham Retrieval You cast the eye to recall the positions of things and the image is returned, in-process. Fragments of night upon night Scattergraph… flooding memory with its own lacking. It has been too long… You let the lagging set in, a pasty descent towards fine freedom, a raised metaphor for healing…
Tales from Detention The bell rang signaling the start of our lunch break and I was on my way to The Woodz Cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. I was starving, hadn‘t eaten anything since breakfast, porridge could only satisfy the appetite for so long. On my way down the corridor I passed Peter in the hall, he seemed upset about something but I really didn‘t want to deal with his problems, I was too hungry, so I hustled past him. ―Nice I‘m almost to the door now I ca…‖ ―Jack, is that you?‖ Peter called out with his squeaky voice. ―Shit, he caught me!‖ I thought as I slowly turned to face him, clenching my jaws. ―Hey Peter what‘s up, I didn‘t see you there… what up?‖ ―I have a serious problem‖, he said staring at me, with his fat face and round eyes. ―Of course you do‖ I thought. ―Oh sorry to hear that‖, I said hoping to just end the conversation there, but Peter just stared at me. He just kept staring and staring, I began to become extremely uncomfortable, ―What‘s the problem Peter?‖ I asked reluctantly. 117
―Wolfie took my golden pen…well my father‘s golden pen; I took it from home without his permission and was showing it to Red. Wolfie came around the corner doing his usual morning shake down and snatched it from me, now I need to get it back… hey you could help me get it back!‖ Peter said with a new found hope in his voice. ―Why would you think I could help you?‖ ―Cause I know you‘re fast, you sprint for sports every year and you win. I hear them chanting for you Jack be nimble Jack be quick, Jack…‖ ―I know the chant. Thanks for the compliment but I‘m still not going to help you…hope things work out though‖, and with that I began to walk away. Now it wasn‘t that I was just being a jerk to Peter, I mean he was annoying at times but he wasn‘t the problem, the problem was Wolfie. His actual name was Ashley Wolfgang, but he didn‘t think having the first name of a girl and last name of a classical pianist were intimidating enough so he made everyone call him Wolfie. He was the captain of our Rugby team, The N. Chanted Giants. A senior two grades ahead of us, but if he weren‘t in uniform could pass for a teacher with all that facial hair… and arm hair… and leg hair, guy was just so hairy. He was big for his age too and not too bright, with anger issues. He‘s the reason we can‘t have wooden doors anymore. I was not going to mess with him. ―Come on Jack! My father will kill me if he finds out I lost his pen,‖ Peter pleaded. ―Are you insane, you want me to break into Mr. Huntsman‘s class, go in Wolfie‘s desk and steal your stuff? No, not going to happen‖ ―Would it be stealing if you‘re taking back something which was originally stolen from you without the original stealer‘s knowledge? … Reverse Stealing‖. ―Reverse what?‖ ―Come please, I‘ll share my lunch with you, I have pickled peppers and pumpkin‖ ―Ew no, is that what the smell is?‖ ―I‘ll give you my pipe.‖ ―Peter I can‘t play the pipe, you‘re the only piper in the school why would I want that and I don‘t eat pickled peppers. Sorry I can‘t help you, I‘m going for lunch.‖ ―I‘ll get you a pie from Simon‘s Simple Pies.‖ ―Peter it‘s training season the coach said I can‘t use anything with fat.‖ ―Oh… I know what will change your mind; he also took Red‘s hoodie.‖ 118
―So… why is that my problem?‖ ―Cause Red‘s best friend is Jill, and if she told Jill that it was you who got her hoodie back maybe Jill will forgive you for what happened on the hill.‖ ―It had been raining I slipped and didn‘t mean to grab and pull her down, it was an accident, she‘s overacting. Why does everyone know about?!...You‘ve convinced me though, I‘ll get your stuff, but the classes are locked, we‘ll need to get a key.‖ ―Let‘s go ask Dumptee then, he should be chilling on the wall at this time.‖ Mr. Dumptee was the school‘s janitor, a short fat man with a round belly which matched his round face, and every lunch hour sat on the school wall and smoked a cigarette. ―Give you the key to Mr. Huntsman‘s class room? I could lose my job for that… unless you have something I might want‖, Mr. Dumptee said. ―What do you have in your bag Peter?‖ I asked. ―Just my lunch, pickled peppers and some milk, please don‘t give him my peppers it‘s all I have to eat.‖ Peter pleaded. ―Ew no!‖ Mr. Dumptee said ―Those things are disgusting but I will take your milk, it so hot I feel like I would faint and just roll off this wall.‖ ―Deal!‖ I said snatching the milk and throwing it to him, Mr. Dumptee tossed the keys at us. We were off. We rushed up the stairs, till we reach the senior hall way, on the highest floor. We knew which classroom was Mr. Huntsman‘s; at the end of the corridor. ―Okay Peter, stay out here and stand guard if you see anyone coming just let me know and then I‘ll stop and we‘ll get the hell out of here.‖ Peter nodded his head. I unlocked the door to the class room and made my way in. The walls were grey and unpainted, and smelled like sweat, feet and body spray. It didn‘t take me long to find Wolfie‘s desk, it was the once covered with graffiti of all kinds of crap. ―Of course it is‖, I mouthed to myself. I found the gold pen, Red‘s hood, also some money, Rapunzel‘s hair brush, Cinderella‘s shoe, Snow White‘s bow. ―Wolfie stole some weird shit,‖ I thought. ―Jack run Wolfie‘s here!‖ Peter shouted. I knew that was my time to move, so I threw everything in my bag and ran straight to the door. To find Peter laughing on the floor, ―Wow you really are fast; you should have seen the look on your face, priceless.‖ ―You‘re really choosing now to be an asshole!‖ I shouted chucking the bag at him. ―Here I am trying to get you back your shit to save your ass and you wanna play games!‖ 119
Peter‘s smile quickly dropped and he slowly pointed and with dead eyes he said, ―Wolfie is behind you,‖ and took off running. ―Still with your shit?! No one is behind m…‖ ―Actually I am Sprat,‖ a voice called out behind I felt my fingers grow cold and my knees weak as I slowly turned around, to see Wolfie standing behind me huffing and puffing. Apparently he would spend lunch time chilling in the bathroom, and that idiot Peter forgot to tell me. He looked like he was ready to kill me. I saw why he was captain of the rugby team though, up close he was enormous. I‘m sure he was held back a couple years; he looked too damn big just be a senior. ―Hey Ash... I mean Wolfie how‘s it going?‖, I whimpered Wolfie began to sing, ―Jack be nimble Jack be fast guess who‘s going to kick little Jacks ass, be he alive or be he dead I‘ll grind his bones to make a sandwich‖. ―It‘s bread . . . so stupid.‖ I whispered but he heard me with his giant ears and charged at me. I quickly began to run in the opposite direction. I could hear his feet pounding behind me, for a big guy he was pretty fast but not fast enough. I ran down the stairs. I could hear him growling behind me. ―I‘m going to kill you!‖ he shouted. With every flight I could feel myself slowing down and running out of breath it was only the sheer will power to not have my ass beaten to death that kept me going. ―I‘m never helping Peter again‖ I thought. With only one more flight to go I could hear him catching a second wind and moving in closer and closer. I was a goner. Just then the narrow steps caused Wolfie to trip and gravity did the rest. He rolled down the steps; he even rolled passed me and all the way to the bottom of the flight, where we found an out of breath Peter and Mr. Huntsman, waiting for us. Well, long story short, Wolfie was expelled for all the stealing and bullying he did. Peter‘s father still found out he took the pen, and he was punished for that. I got detention for a month for taking Mr. Dumptee‘s keys. I never told them he gave them to us just we took them while he was asleep, oh and Jill still wouldn‘t talk to me… so why are you in here?
Obediah Smith Soft Pillows White Sheets asleep upon steps I descend reluctantly to visit the wash room 120
steps I certainly would not climb or descend with my shoes off uncomfortable going up and down them even with shoes on uncomfortable about the air in that wash room and on the way to it and from it with which I cannot escape having to fill my lungs grown man now, as filthy as could be chokora, street boy, here in Kisii, shut out for as long or almost as long as he has lived ascended into manhood but not from his station my God, lower than a human being should ever be fallen lower than man fell when he fell from Grace, from that station once held in the Garden of Eden how far, how high is he above the rats in the sewers, in sewerage running in filth like this to rest his head on cold, stone steps is where he has laidis where he lays his head I make the sign of the cross across him as I pass, coming up and going down I am writing this poem to contain him for him to lie in like jewelry in a jewelry box a cleaner and a more comfortable place than those filthy steps everybody passing having to be careful to avoid stepping on him
Underbelly of the Beast maybe not-whores are not right for me coming from and belonging to the good side of the city the good side of society identify with the sleazy side the underside the underbelly of society whores, writers, paintersall artists, I suppose, have something in common maybe being ready to do it now and not put it off needing to strike the iron while itâ€˜s red maybe a lack of fear of hell a lack of fear of going there penalty promised for our sins oh, the acts that are crimes the gestures that we make that are sins, that we engage in that we are in aggressive pursuit of without end
Althea Romeo-Mark Carte Blanche Spare time is a canvas to be painted on, a canvas on which 122
bucket-lists become masterpieces of joy. This freedom so terrifying a venture for some that the paint brush becomes a herculean weight never lifted.
Dorsia J. Smith Open Door When the n-word entered the classroom, I stared at this strange fruit and thought it had gotten lost. Surely, these 2 syllables would step aside and stop calling attention, luring both black and white alike. But no such thing. These six letters strode to the blackboard and demanded recognition, palpable like a tattooed alphabet. Someone wrote the name in blue chalk, dust flowing like blood veins. Who will erase it? Send it back to yesterdayâ€˜s dictionary? I tried to blink out its existence, close off the light to block growth, break the fixtures of lily-white position resting comfortably against black slate. I suffered martyrdom, scratched the n-word beyond its scalding fragments, leaving bullet holes in the pulp.
Tia L. Clarke Up in Smoke There's an affliction between us an infection, bigger than any 123
addiction to the heroine you made me you inject into my veins with your big black pen ink stains on my dress abreast of your movement tongues wag like dog tails the tale between two lovers who've never made love beneath moonlight poets write above all wrongs age separate seas sweeter than honey ants will lick off the coffee table on the side of a pack of unopened cigarettes issue is, neither of us smoke
And We Made Love worst enemy best friend best poet high expectations trying all she can to make him climax explode his ink onto her paper tied together by what tears them apart a heart, a pen a paper, crumpled together between the thighs of an innocent girl beautifully corrupted by a poet, fiddler on the roof proof that she has learned something however minute the hours at Sine Qua Non grew in two, years of nurturing the writer
she is finding her voice a strong whisper between these sheets of paper
Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming Black Hole Midnight Robber I was born from the belly of the bass forged in an oildrum furnace and sent into outer space on a booming big truck rocket I pin the Andromeda Galaxy like a rosette in my hair wrap my shoulders with the Milky Way shawl streaming from east to west I am the Great Scorpion juggling Saturn Jupiter Mars like balls between my claws I snack on pulsars and quasars as I chip across the Event Horizon of the black hole at the center of the savannah and jump into another universe belching electromagnetic radiation I squash the red devils under my moonrock boots slice up the liars and haters with Orion‘s sword I suffuse the innocent dead with blue maljo light and steel pan riddums in the belly of the bass
Wet Crix with cheddar and chutney wash down with jelly coconut water The lioness calling ―Meet me on the road‖ rolling up the tassa thunder
Watermelon glistening red push up yuh face and take a bite sweetness never taste so nice on a hot hot pineapple chow day curl up like congoree dripping like a mango Julie
Ellen Taylor No Regrets For John It is regrettable, that so many of us live our lives in the company of regrets. Regretfully, we inform you; we regret to inform you; regrets are in order; it is with regret to spend a life with such remorse; to not love the rain and the coffee cups and the broken glass on the floor; to dwell in the empty womb of sadness with no company but your own wishful thinking – How much better to use the broken umbrella, raise the cups and sweep up the glass still humming the last song of the night before even as morning light peeks under the door washing the floor with hope.
Kavita Ganness Flour I was naked making roti and flour fell upon my pussy. (Yes, flour fell upon my pussy…) I got my pubis, oh so dirty! I made my forest very dusty. I remember the heat of that special day. I was naked, sweaty and rolling away. I used my Bailna, or ‗Rolling-Pin‘ and flour fell upon on my skin. 128
(Yes, flour fell upon my skin.) I made a mess upon my mound, an exciting thrill I suddenly found! It was winter here in Trinidad! A white blanket didn‘t look bad. How I laughed with such sweet glee, to see the flour upon my pussy! For a moment it was Carnival Monday! For a short time I celebrated Jouvert! Soca and steelpan music got louder, I played Sailor Mas with white powder. I started to dance naked in my kitchen, my pussy hairs looked like white stitching. I twerked my waist and the flour fell, I shook my voluptuous vulva very well. This way and that way, I began to sway – I turned into a white spirit that day. Soon I made a huge flour-storm. I became a fog with my dancing form. I watched the flour fall to the ground, I made my rotis perfectly round. They all swelled and gave me a thrill, I had roti for days and I ate my fill… Don‘t be afraid to strip naked and cook. It‘s alright if flour falls in every nook. Who knows what else you might cook up? Inspiration is everywhere – suck up every drop!
We Piss We piss and the sea-gust blows our clits like flutes, we piss to claim footpath, to make golden stream, to slake thirsty grass; we piss to mark our territory with the shimmer-ink of our pink orchids. Oh, the sweet splashes and sprinkles of pee-mist on ankles and calves! We piss, our pussies hiss, our urine combines, there‘s peace in our pee, a urine unity ; 129
we piss in the night, we gush with delight in yellow surrender of vulvas! We piss and write poetry in darkness, our pointy tips hone a soulful spot to meditate and watch the sun rise. We piss for we are free to pee, free to be, we make the place holy with the pure essence of ourselves.
Eric Rose The Burn As the man sings Of ―Stealing Love,‖ She moves closer To the flame She dances with, As if this was Her first time. Husband and children Are but thin wisps Of bitter smoke Blown by the lonely Prude called memory. On the dance floor Nobody cares that The flame she‘s About to fan Is not her own . . . And the flame Only wants to burn, If just for one night. He could care less About lighting her way Back to her empty home. He only wants to be fanned And fanned and fanned tonight
Arnulfo Kantun Carnival Creator He pulled immense monsters From the deep oceans The intimate nature of Stuck barnacles On their whitish-yellow Snake belly Unremarkable when seen Up close The vapors from their breath Corroding my teeth In the assembly line Of sequence, pins, and gaudy feathers Trapping them Urgently with the spell Of heating glue guns The unlikely dragons Stalking the neighborhood dogs In the resting noontime hours Solemnly watched by The large pensive face of St George staring bleakly Through one good eye While brandishing His clothesline sword That will be sheathed In silvery metallic cloth Further menacing The other dragons to be birthed Soon in the mish- mash Yards of neglected kings Another king dozing Like a tired hound After its nightly haunts In the littered graveyard of Provincial heroes Relinquished his ribs Bravely like Adam To create the spine for the Primordial fish monster 131
Already bedecked in Resplendent scales In jeweled tones Of icy blues and bottle greens Beaded and sequined With all manner of Bedazzling thing
CONTRIBUTORS Gary Brocks: is a professional musician, lyricist/songwriter, and educator. His lyrics for jazz compositions have been published by Second Floor Music. His performance history includes Jazz, R&B, Rock, Latin and Haitian music. Gary is currently working on a manuscript of poetry and short stories, and has recorded the first half of an album to be released under his name. Gary has taught at the elementary, secondary and university level. Jane Bryce: born and brought up in Tanzania, and educated there, the UK and Nigeria, she recently retired as Professor of African Literature and Cinema at UWI, Cave Hill, where she also taught Creative Writing: Fiction. She worked as a freelance editor and journalist before becoming an academic, and still contributes to newspapers and journals. One of the founding editors of POUI, she has published a collection, Caribbean Dispatches: Beyond the Tourist Dream (2006). She is working on a memoir. Tia L. Clarke: is a graduate of the Bahamasâ€˜ leading tertiary education institution, The College of the Bahamas. As an aspiring journalist and lover of all things creative her Associate Arts degree in Mass Communications steered her even more into her passion for writing. She currently works at a telecommunications company in the Bahamas and has an active blog page where she shares her experiences through prose as well as poetry. Lafleur Cockburn: is an emerging Vincentian writer. She is an MPhil student in Literatures in English at the UWI and a former member of both the undergrad and graduate Creative Writing classes. She uses writing as a memory bank for her experiences, with her grandmother as her biggest inspiration and muse. She is currently working on her first novel. When Lafleur is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her son in an effort to learn, or at least understand, the secrets of the Caribbean teenager. Ruoen Fan: a poet, essayist and Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Fudan University, China. He is teaching currently as a visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Languages, Linguistics and Literature, UWI, Cave Hill. His critical and literary writings have been published in several top journals and newspapers in China. The poems that appear here are part of his collaboration with the Cuban artist Leandro Soto. Their idea was that Ruoen Fan should compose poems in Classical Chinese in the name of an imagined/imaginary Chinese poet who travelled to the Caribbean in the early 19th century, while Leandro would paint to match his poems. Their collaboration was exhibited at the Central Bank Museum, Barbados from 12th-25th February 2016 as part of the Chinese New Year celebration in Fanâ€˜s homeland. Ruoen Fan composed all the poems (except Poem 6) and translated all of them into English. Professor Jane Bryce at UWI and Professor Wen Jin at East China Normal University helped with the revision of the compositions and translations with their warm-hearted feedback and suggestions.
Kavita Ganness: is a literary and visual artist, who has a BA Degree in Communication Studies and Literatures in English (Double Major) from the University of the West Indies. She is a member of the Writers‘ Union of Trinidad and Tobago (WUTT). Her compilation of poems, Emerald Journey, was published by the New Voices Press. She has been published in Generation Lion Magazine, the Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, She SEX: Prose & Poetry, Sex and the Caribbean Woman, as well as Susumba's Book Bag and Moko Magazine. She was a participant of the Cropper Foundation‘s 8th Residential Creative Writers Workshop in Balandra, Trinidad, and has been mentored by renowned Caribbean writer, Earl Lovelace. Yashika Graham: is a writer and poet native to Westmoreland, Jamaica and an Executive Member of the Poetry Society of Jamaica, serving as its administrator and the moderator of its monthly Poetry Fellowships. Her work has been showcased in Jamaica, the United States, and as part of Jamaica Rising and the Bristol Festival of Literature in the United Kingdom. Her poems have been published in The Caribbean Writer Volume 27, 2013, and her poems and flash fiction in Susumba‟s Book Bag Issue 4, April 2015. Her chapbook will be released in 2015, to be followed by her first full collection of poems. Daisy Holder Lafond: born on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, lived in New York, Trinidad & Tobago and Toronto, Canada, where she studied Creative Writing and Magazine Journalism. She is a former newspaper editor, columnist and magazine publisher whose work has appeared in various publications. She is also co-author of All This is Love—a Collection of Virgin Islands Poetry, Art & Prose and she is The Caribbean Writer‘s 2012 winner of the Marguerite Cobb McKay Prize. She considers herself a late bloomer; she was thirty-something when she wrote her first poem and attributes her late flowering to her late discovery of Caribbean writers who introduced her to the richness of her own heritage and language and inspired her to write. She lives on St. Croix, and has two sons and one granddaughter. Arnulfo Kantun: is a Belizean based Project Manager with a keen interest in Maya Archaeology and History. He has worked in Jamaica and Guyana in areas of Public Health. Lindsay Kroes: lives on a farm in Ontario, Canada. She studied Literatures in English at the University of Waterloo, spending her final term at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill on an academic exchange. She loves reading books, going on long walks, and singing. Mark McWatt: is Professor Emeritus of West Indian Literature at UWI Cave Hill, where he taught for more than thirty years. He is a founding editor of POUI. He has published three collections of poetry: Interiors (1989), The Language of Eldorado (1994) and The Journey to Le Repentir (2009). He is joint editor (along with Stewart Brown) of The Oxfprd Book of Caribbean Verse. His collection of short fiction, Suspended Sentences, won the Casa de Las Americas Award and the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book in 2006. Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming: is a Trinidadian Bahamian Mechanical/Building Services Engineer, poet, fiction writer and artist. Lelawattee has won the David Hough Literary Prize (2001) and the Canute A. Brodhurst Prize (2009) from The Caribbean Writer. She has also won the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association 2001 Short Story Competition. Her first book of poetry, Curry Flavour, was published in 2000 by Peepal Tree Press. Her second 134
collection of poetry, Immortelle and Bhandaaraa Poems, which was shortlisted for the inaugural Proverse Literary Prize (2009) and which contains some of her artwork, was published in 2011 by Proverse Hong Kong. In 2013 Lelawattee was shortlisted for the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writer‘s Prize for Fiction. Nancy Anne Miller: a Bermudian poet with three books: Somersault (Guernica Editions), Because There Was No Sea (Anaphora Literary Press), Immigrant‟s Autumn (Aldrich Press). Both Water Logged (Aldrich Press) and Star Map (Future Cycle Press) are forthcoming in 2016. She is a MacDowell Fellow published in Edinburgh Review, Agenda, Magma, New Welsh Review, Stand, The International Literary Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, The Dalhousie Review, The Moth, The New Ulster, The Caribbean Writer, Bim, The Arts Journal, Wasafiri, Poetry Salzburg Review and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing among others . She teaches poetry workshops in Bermuda. Kamran Mir Hazar: born in 1976, hails from Hazaristan/Norway. Kamran Mir Hazar is an exiled Hazara poet, journalist, activist and webmaster. After escaping as a boy from war-torn Afghanistan, he grew up a victim of ethnic prejudice in Iran. After the fall of the Taliban, Kamran returned to Afghanistan (Hazaristan), hoping to write and publish freely. It brought him praise from liberated people, but attacks from fundamentalists and arrests by the government. He fled with his wife to India, but was forced to leave, and finally granted political asylum in Norway. Kamran Mir Hazar has published several poetry books in English, including the anthology Poems for the Hazara (125 poets from 68 countries), The Cry of a Mare About to Become a Butterfly, and Stream of Deer. His new poetry book Hazaristan with Haiku Body and a Yellow Mandela will appear in Hazaragi, English and Italian in 2015. Kamran‘s poems have been translated into English, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Japanese, Italian and Romanian. He has been invited to several international poetry festivals including the International Poetry Festival of Medellin and the Poetry International Poetry Festival Rotterdam. Mir Hazar is the author of the non-fiction book Censorship in Afghanistan. He has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of the on-line news site Kabul Press for ten years. Philip Nanton: born in St. Vincent and resident in Barbados, he is a cultural studies lecturer, literary archivist, radio presenter and freelance writer and performer. He contributed to Caribbean Dispatches: Beyond the Tourist Dream (2006) and has contributed consistently to POUI since the second issue. In 2008 he wrote and produced a spoken-word CD, Island Voices from St. Christopher & The Barracudas, which he has performed regionally and internationally. His most recent book is Canouan Suite and Other Pieces, published by Papillote Press in 2016. Danielle Norris: is a literature and theatre enthusiast. She is interested in all aspects of performance: acting, dancing, singing and recently, spoken word poetry. A fashionista, selftaught makeup artist and budding entrepreneur, Danielle is currently the co-host of one of FLOW TV‘s newest shows, ―Dishing It with Dani‖. ―To Save a Life ―is her first published piece of fiction. Kenny Parris: a graduate of the Barbados Community College (BCC), Kenny J. Parris was formally known for his skill in the musical arena. Upon entering the University of the West 135
Indies Cave Hill Campus, he focused his creative energy in the field of English Literature; this is where he found the creative writing course. Encourage by his tutor Prof. Jane Bryce, Kenny stretched his creative muscles in writing. Currently completing his final year, Kenny‘s plan for the future is to dive deeper into the world of speculative fiction and to expand the range of comic literature in the Caribbean, with Caribbean characters and myths as the main themes of the stories. Gerardo Polanco: was born in Belize, where he did his undergraduate degree. He is currently doing his MA in Caribbean Studies at UWI, Cave Hill. Influenced by poets like Pablo Neruda and Walt Whitman, his writing echoes the contours of the landscape and cultures of his country. Vestiges of Mayan memories held by the collective are given new voice and new purpose. Alyssa Quintyne: is a 21 year old Bajan-American artist. Born in Nashville, Tennessee and raised on a military base in Kentucky, she had a mixed upbringing filled with Bajan and Southern American influences, which she tries to convey through her art and writing. At the age of 6, she and her family were stationed to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she still lives. She recently graduated from the University of Alaska with a Bachelors in Political Science and Violin Performance. When she‘s not volunteering for multiple non-profit organizations, she‘s usually painting and drawing. She hopes to pursue a career in the arts in the near future. Althea Romeo-Mark: Antiguan-born educator Althea Romeo-Mark grew up in the US Virgin Islands. She has lived and taught in the USA, Liberia, the UK and Switzerland since 1991. She was awarded the Marguerite Cobb McKay Prize by The Caribbean Writer in 2009. If Only the Dust Would Settle, is her most recent publication. Her work has been published in The Caribbean Writer, The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, St. Somewhere Journal, Tongues of the Ocean, Calabash, Off the Coast, Maine‟s International Poetry Journal, Sisters of Caliban: Contemporary Women Poets of the Caribbean, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review: Poetry of the Caribbean, Seasoning for the Mortar: Virgin Islands Writings, Revista de Poesia Prometo: Memoria del XX Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin, among others. Eric Rose: born in Nassau, the Bahamas, in 1974, Eric Demond Rose studied mass communications and journalism at The College of the Bahamas (COB); print journalism at Clark Atlanta University (The Panther's Editor-in-Chief); and recently attained an International Masters in International Communications at the Communications University of China -- serving as Class Monitor-President and representing the Caribbean throughout China. He received the Bahamas‘ National Youth Achievement Award in 1992 and the COB Caribfest Award for Excellence in Literature in 1994. He is the father of Antonio Carlos, internationally award-winning photographer, cultural journalist and stage actor, and has shared his poetry at festivals and at two Carifestas. Kristine Simelda: Born in the US, Kristine Simelda has been a citizen of Dominica for the past twenty-three years. During that time, she has written three adult novels, a novella, and two novels and a collection of stories for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in St Somewhere Journal; ProudFlesh; Jewels of the Caribbean; Poui: Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing; The Caribbean American Heritage Literary Magazine, Interviewing the 136
Caribbean; WomanSpeak, Short Fiction in Theory & Practice: Caribbean Women‟s New Voices, Emerging Perspectives, and twice on Akashic‟s Duppy Thursday. Her debut novel, A Face in the River, was published by River Ridge Press-Dominica in 2015. The sequel, River of Fire, was officially launched in December 2016. Dorsia J. Smith: is Associate Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. She is the co-editor of the Caribbean without Borders: Caribbean Literature, Language and Culture (2008), Critical Perspectives on Caribbean Literature and Culture (2010), and Feminist and Critical Perspectives on Caribbean Mothering (2013), and editor of Latina/Chicana Mothering (2011). Her work has appeared in several journals, including Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, Journal of Caribbean Literature, POUI, and Sargasso. She is currently working on two book projects about mothering. Obediah Smith: was born on New Providence, in the Bahamas, in 1954. He has published 17 books in English. El amplio Mar de los Sargazos y otros poemas, was published in Costa Rica. This and a bilingual collection, Wide Sargasso Sea & 62 Other Poems, were published in 2011. In 2015, Gato en el tejado, published by UNEAC, was launched at the book fair in Havana, Cuba. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dramatics and Speech, from Fisk University. He has lived and has studied French in Paris, France. At Universidad de Costa Rica, in 2011, he studied Spanish. His poems in English are included in literary journals and anthologies in the Caribbean, in the USA, in England, in Kenya, and his poems, translated into Spanish, are included in anthologies in Colombia, in Mexico, in Peru, in Venezuela and in Spain. In 2011 and 2012, he lived in Mexico City. He attended Kistrech Poetry Festival in Kisii, Kenya in 2014. Since the festival, he has remained in East Africa and has lived in Kenya, in Uganda and is at present, for a time, staying in Tanzania. Karen Smith-Miller: was born in Nassau, the Bahamas, on January 13th 1975 to Kevin and Jane Smith. She graduated from St. Anne's Anglican School in 1991, and is now completing her doctoral degree in Special Education. Karen, a published poet, is immersed in the arts as a dance studio owner, the principal of her arts school, Revere Academy of Excellence, as a former member of the National Dance Company (Bahamas) and the Caribbean Christian Dance Network and as teacher and mother of two performers, Hubert-Joshua and Jonathan. Karen‘s inspiration began under the tutelage of her teacher, Mrs. Nicolette Bethel, and she attributes her success to mentoring from Obediah Smith, her uncle. She is inspired by music and movement. Her themes include love, winning and loss. Leandro Soto: was born in Cuba, obtaining a BA in Painting and Engraving in 1976 and an MA in Scenic Arts (Scenography and Costume Design) in 1982. Has been consistently involved in the art world for the past 40 years, participating in numerous group exhibitions and solo shows in museums, art galleries, and alternative art spaces in various countries: Spain, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Peru, Japan, Barbados, Jamaica, Italy, Cuba, India, and the United States. Soto is one of the leading figures of ―Volumen Uno‖, a
renowned art movement of the 1980s that changed the course of Cuban Art in the 20th Century. He is also the first artist of his generation to have worked with Afro Cuban heritage. As an artist/anthropologist, his main focus is to research the sources of Caribbean cultures and their influence around the world. His areas of expression include painting, installation, performance art, scenography, cinema and new unpredicted art forms. Ellen Taylor: has two collections of poetry from Moon Pie Press in Maine and has published a number of poems in regional and national journals. In 2010 she also published work in POUI. Sharma Taylor: is a Barbados-based Jamaican attorney-at-law. Her day job is advising a major Caribbean bank but her passion is writing. Her work has been published in Jamaica's Sunday Observer Literary Arts magazine and in the Jamaican Observer's Literary Arts anthologies. She recently completed a postgraduate creative writing course at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill with eminent writer, Professor Jane Bryce.
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