CAVE HILL JOURNAL OF CREATIVE WRITING
A PUBLICATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LANGUAGE, LINGUISTICS AND LITERATURE THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES, CAVE HILL CAMPUS
POUi CAVE HILL JOURNAL OF CREATIVE WRITING NUMBER XVIII, 2017 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, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. POUi welcomes submissions of previously unpublished poetry and fiction (see last page for details). Â© 2017 by POUi, CHJCW, Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature.
FOREWORD Welcome to POUi XVIII. Putting together this issue of POUi has been both exhilarating and daunting. We wanted a structure which would showcase the diversity and ingenuity of the works we’d selected and which would at the same time celebrate (albeit belatedly) George Lamming’s 90 th birthday on June 8th 2017. After some thought, we hit upon the idea of acknowledging Lamming’s immense contribution to West Indian literature and criticism by using some of the titles of his publications and conversations for this issue’s section headings. Lamming’s words, and those inspired by him, are applied here as thematic threads to suggest links that we hope will foreground the quiet daring, perplexing beauty and touching simplicity found in these selections. With the legacy of his words as a framing context, we look toward the possibilities offered by the creative spirit of contemporary writers. In a sense, Lamming’s texts act as the backbone of POUi XVIII. They symbolically gesture to his seminal importance for us as Caribbean and global citizens, giving voice to our sense of identity, location and community through the imagination. As a nice congruity, we are pleased to have Ian McDonald as our featured writer for this issue. Through his editorial work, McDonald has also helped to bring recognition to Caribbean literature, especially to its poetry. The Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry, for example (co-edited with Stewart Brown), is still a massively influential anthology twenty five years after its publication. But it is McDonald’s own poems which form the centrepiece of this selection. With George Lamming as the backbone, Ian McDonald as the heart, we present with them a cadre of writers whose exciting works make up the body of POUi XVIII. As always, we thank our contributors for making this issue possible and our editorial team for being part of the process. From the editors: Nicola Hunte Rob Leyshon
TABLE OF CONTENTS Foreword …..……………………………………………………………………… 4
FEATURED WRITER: IAN MC DONALD ……………………………………………………… 12 Stewart Brown Channelling Ian McDonald ………………………………………………………. 14 I
THE EMIGRANTS Dee Horne Tangerine Sky……………………………………………………………………. 17 Twanda Rolle Dream Place……………………………………………………………………… 17 Philip Armbrister Returning to Stanyard Creek……………………………………………………… 18 Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming Counter Attack……………………………………………………………………. 19 Althea Romeo Mark Now Boarding…………………………………………………………………… 19 Shedding My Cocoon……………………………………………………………. 20 Obediah Smith Warm Cab In Havana…………………………………………………………….
OF AGE AND INNOCENCE Miriam Austin Kelly and the Earrings…………………………………………………………… 25 Jason Allen-Paisant 5
Love Suddenly…………………………………………………………………… 37 Nadine Rogers Pearlie …………………………………………………………………………… 37 Child Marriage ………………………………………………………………….. 38 Wendy Fulton Steginsky Island Sonata…………………………………………………………………….. 39 1967’s Summer of Love…………………………………………………………. 40 Althea Romeo Mark Manchineel……………………………………………………………………….
L N Little Melda, Oh!.............................................................................................................. 42 Victoria Sarne Darkness………………………………………………………………………….. 49 Ian McDonald Pots……………………………………………………………………………….. 50 Mezan Morrison Greenhouse……………………………………………………………………….. 51 Alicia Valasse Zafè Bitasyon…………………………………………………………………….. 52 Tanesha Baptiste Fading Colors…………………………………………………………………….. 56 III
SEASON OF ADVENTURE Dahlia James-Williams I Going Get Myself a Pit Bull……………………………………………………. 60 Eric Rose Stay At Home…………………………………………………………………….. 61 Wendy Fulton Steginsky Coot Pond: A Fine Still Life……………………………………………………… 62 Ian McDonald Red Moon………………………………………………………………………… 63 6
Jody Rathgeb Look Away……………………………………………………………………….
Mezan Morrison Wet Fields………………………………………………………………………..
Yesha Townsend The Rock of Angels……………………………………………………………… 74 Obediah Smith Voices of the Living Voices of the Dead………………………………………… 81 IV
THE PLEASURES OF EXILE Jason Allen-Paisant Venice, My Africa………………………………………………………………… 85 Philip Armbrister Elegy for the Memories of Her…………………………………………………… 86 Jason Allen-Paisant Under the Duppy Tamarind at 6 a.m. …………………………………………… 87 Debarun Sarkar Bengali I………………………………………………………………………….. 88
NATIVES OF MY PERSON Jason Allen-Paisant Fear No Men……………………………………………………………………… 90 Rajendra Shepherd Hi Mom, bye Mom……………………………………………………………….. 90 Alan C. Smith Day 1: Again……………………………………………………………………… 96 Day 9: Can’t Give It Up Today; It’s Odd………………………………………… 97 Day 10: The 1 Who Cooleth the Knife …………………………………………... 98 Nancy Anne Miller Boiling Hot ………………………………………………………………………. 99 Victoria Sarne 7
The Rasta Man …………………………………………………………………... 100 Ian McDonald Smell of Basil…………………………………………………………………….. .101 Obediah Smith Galloping Hooves Galloping Home……………………………………………….101 VI
COMING, COMING HOME Henry Fraser The Reverend MacKenzie’s Daughter …………………………………………… 105 Anthony Kellman The Guest House…………………………………………………………………. 111 Wendy Fulton Steginsky Let’s Get Together and Feel All Right …………………………………………... 127 Nancy Anne Miller Rudder……………………………………………………………………………. 128 Carol Mitchell Adverse Possession………………………………………………………………. 129 Ian McDonald Gone to Get Ribbons……………………………………………………………… 140 Black Forest………………………………………………………………………. 140 Ayanna Gillian Lloyd Homegoing………………………………………………………………………… 141
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE IMAGINATION Rashaun J. Allen A Melody on Repeat………………………………………………………………. 149 Ian McDonald Poetry……………………………………………………………………………… 149 Ernestia M. Fraser Saying Goodbye to Elijah’s Chariot………………………………………………. 150 8
Bryanna Valverde-DeBartolo The Sound Cloud………………………………………………………………… 151 Lazzari…………………………………………………………………………… 151 Nadine Rogers Priestess…………………………………………………………………………..
Dorsia Smith Silva Jonquil Yard……………………………………………………………………… 152 Alan C. Smith Red and Hiding…………………………………………………………………… 153 Debarun Sarkar Interview with a Working Class Poet 1………………………………………….... 154 Obediah Smith Jackson Pollock…………………………………………………………………… 155 VIII
THE NEW WORLD IMAGINATION Jerome Teelucksingh La Vega Estate……………………………………………………………………. 158 Divali Celebrations……………………………………………………………….. 158 Ian McDonald The Great Tree…………………………………………………………………… 158 Stravinsky’s Fingers……………………………………………………………… 159 Master-Spirits of Guyana………………………………………………………… 160 Nancy Anne Miller Swimming Lessons……………………………………………………………….. 164 Yesha Townsend Of the Water ……………………………………………………………………… 165
ON THE CANVAS OF THE WORLD Mezan Morrison
“Interview with a Working Class Poet” was first published in Dryland: Los Angeles Underground Art & Writing (Issue/Vol.7, 2017) pp21-22
Under the House: Dinner…………………………………………………………. Lunch……………………………………………………………………………… Dessert…………………………………………………………………………….. Breakfast…………………………………………………………………………...
174 174 174 174
Dee Horne Hearing Langston Hughes………………………………………………………… 175 Philip Armbrister The Vagrant……………………………………………………………………… 175 Nancy Anne Miller Antique Star Map………………………………………………………………… 176 Seahorse………………………………………………………………………….. 177 Wendy Fulton Steginsky Day-O…………………………………………………………………………….. 177 Alan C. Smith Something I Saw While Walking the Dog ……………………………………… 178 Debarun Sarkar A Lake……………………………………………………………………………. 178 X
A FUTURE THEY MUST LEARN Bryana Valverde-DeBartolo Touched…………………………………………………………………………… 180 Untouched………………………………………………………………………… 180 Richard Georges Proverbs – Death’s Ladder Is There For All To Climb…………………………… The One Who Asks Questions Doesn’t Lose His Way…………………………… Dead Man Can’t Carry Dead Up De Hill…………………………………………. Rock Stone Down River Bottom Don’t Know When De Sun Hot……………….. Nicknames Are Used In Case The Devil Comes Asking………………………….
181 181 181 182 182
Twanda Rolle Paper Love………………………………………………………………………… 183 Obediah Smith How Heavy Was My Suitcase In My Two Arms ………………………………… 185 Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming 10
The Last Washerwoman…………………………………………………………… 185 Ian McDonald What We Want of Love…………………………………………………………… 186 Contributors …………………………………………………………………….. 187
IAN MCDONALD Born in Trinidad April 18th 1933 and educated at Queens Royal College. Honours Degree in History at Cambridge University. In July 1955 he joined Bookers in British Guiana as it was then and spent 52 years in the sugar industry. Rose to be Director of Marketing & Administration in Bookers Sugar Estates and after nationalization in 1976 continued in that post with GuySuCo until 1999. Between 2000 – 2007 he was Chief Executive Officer of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean. He was Editorial Consultant with the West Indian Commission from1991-92. In January 2009 he was appointed Chairman of Guyana Publications Inc., publishers of Stabroek News. Director of the Hand-in-Hand Group of Companies since 1988. As a lawn tennis player he played at Wimbledon, captained Cambridge, then Guyana and also captained the West Indian Davis Cup team in the 1960s. He was Guyana’s Sportsman of the Year in 1957. A novelist and poet, he has published short stories, six poetry collections (Mercy Ward, Essequibo, Jaffo the Calpysonian, Between Silence And Silence, The Comfort of All Things and River Dancer), a collection of essays and speeches A Cloud Of Witnesses and a collection of essays A Love of Poetry. His novel The Humming-Bird Tree was first published in 1969; in 1992 it was made into a BBC film. In 2004 Macmillan published a new edition. He won the Guyana Prize for Literature – poetry – in 1992, 2004, and 2012. He edited the magazine Kyk-Over-Al from 1984 to 2000. He has edited the following: AJS at 70; The Collected Poems of A.J. Seymour jointly with Jacqueline de Weever; The Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry in English jointly with Dr. 12
Stewart Brown. With Lloyd Searwar, Joel Benjamin and Laxshmi Kallicharan he compiled and edited They Came in Ships, an anthology of Guyanese East Indian Writing; The Bowling Was Superfine, an anthology of West Indian Cricket writing edited jointly with Dr. Stewart Brown. In 2008 Macmillan published his Selected Poems, edited and with an Introduction by Professor Edward Baugh, in honour of his 75th birthday. Selected Poems was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Literary Prize in 2009. His one-act play, The Tramping Man, first produced in Guyana in 1969, was published by UWI’s School of Continuing Studies in a collection of eight Caribbean plays entitled… a time and a season... He has written extensively on cricket and in 2005 delivered the inaugural lecture entitled “Cricket: A Hunger in the West Indian Soul” at the London Metropolitan University in the prestigious Sir Frank Worrell lecture series. Member, with P.J. Patterson and Sir Alister McIntyre, of panel set up by the West Indies Cricket Board in 2007 to report and make recommendations on the governance of West Indies Cricket. Assisted in compilation and production of Cricket At Bourda, celebrating the Georgetown Cricket Club, in time for the World Cup, March 2007. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1970. He is a recipient of the Golden Arrow of Achievement Guyana national award. In 1997 the University of the West Indies conferred on him the Honorary Doctorate of Letters for services to sugar, sport and literature. In 2013 he received the Theatre Guild of Guyana Lifetime Achievement Award. He is consulting Editor for the Guyana Classics series being published by the Caribbean Press. Contributed, with his sister Robin McDonald, to the publication of their mother’s Memoir – Beloved…., Memoir by Thelma Seheult – published by Paria Publishing in Trinidad, 2016. An Abounding Joy, a collection of essays on cricket and sport, edited by Professor Clem Seecharan, to be published by Hansib in 2017. He and his wife Mary Angela have two sons, Jamie and Darren, and he has a son Keith from a previous marriage.
Stewart Brown Channelling Ian McDonald In late November 2017, POUi held an evening of readings in the Humanities Courtyard of the UWI Cave Hill Campus. We asked Stewart Brown (who happened, luckily for us, to be on a return visit to Barbados) to read a selection of Ian MacDonald’s POUi XVIII poems. What follows is Stewart’s preamble to his memorable performance… It is a privilege to be invited to represent Ian McDonald this evening and to read these poems that are to be featured in the upcoming edition of POUi. As I mentioned to Rob Leyshon when he asked me to do this, I am thinking that I might take it up as a career move, like those surrogate Michael Jacksons or stand-ins for the Queen. I had to do it once before, when Ian couldn't make it over to the UK for the launch of one of his collections at the Festival Hall in London, so because, I suppose, I'd had a small hand in getting the poems to their eventual publisher, I was asked to read them at the launch. It was rather surreal! This fascinating group of new poems - from which I’m about to read a selection – explores several of McDonald’s established themes, including the complex nature of love, the innate beauty of both people and landscape, the wonders of human creativity and meditations on mortality. But while they explore familiar concerns, these poignant and memorable poems are written in a style that is in some ways quite uncharacteristic of McDonald’s work as a whole. As most of you will know, having almost certainly read and studied some of Ian McDonald’s work during your school careers, his early poetry was characterised by a concern to ‘tell a story’, a particular story often focused around a memorable character. As an accomplished prose writer – best known of course for his novel The Hummingbird Tree – he knows how to structure develop and control that way of telling, albeit within the measure and patterns appropriate to poetry. Ambiguity was to some extent the enemy of clarity in that agenda, so poems like ‘Jaffo the Calypsonian’ were grammatically sound and punctuated in the conventional ways that narrative is structured. Many of those early poems (for example, ‘Jaffo….’, ‘Yusman Ali, Charcoal Seller’, ‘On an Evening Turned to Rain’ and ‘The Stick Fighters’) have become minor classics of Caribbean poetry and staples of many a school anthology, catching in a unique way something important and otherwise untold about the time and cultural world in which they were written. However, over the decades of his writing career McDonald’s poetic style has loosened up, become emotionally a little ‘freer’, formally less controlled. As if he gradually – with each successful collection - comes to trust his words and his poet’s instincts more, and perhaps to trust his readers to find the poem among the relatively unfettered possibilities of language. In the much praised collection Between Silence and Silence, published in 2003, we discover poems which embrace ambiguity and formal uncertainty as the poet grapples with subjects and 14
perspectives – especially around aspects of mortality – that defy the constraints of a ‘straight line’ narrative approach. Then, in his remarkable recent collection River Dancer, published in 2016, McDonald takes that process of loosening even further, resisting the urge to tinker, to try and limit or constrain the poems as they appear/occur/materialise on the page. These are poems that he describes as having “emerged as blood emerges from a cut vein”, they flow onto the page unimpeded by poetic or grammatical conventions, unfettered by punctuation, full of the possibilities of words shadowing each other, of language and emotions deeply felt. But all held within the vision and sensibility of the octogenarian poet who has learnt his craft and honed those instincts over many years. The group of poems set to appear in POUi XVIII and which I have the privilege - and audacity to read tonight, belong in the same “unlikely flowering” (as McDonald has referred to these latest poems) as the poems included in River Dancer and share a similar stylistic approach. There is little in the way of punctuation or linguistic guidance for the reader, questions of ambiguity, emphasis and tone are left open. When engaging with poems on the page as a silent, private reader, such openness is a kind of richness, a playfulness, a literary delight. But for someone who has to read the poems aloud to a gathering like this - invited to “channel Ian McDonald” as Nicola said in her introduction - such freedom is daunting, a real challenge and one that must inevitably result in a closing down of the poems to some extent, a choosing of a particular line through the poem, one way of saying at the expense of other possibilities. I have, with a great sense of trespass, ‘marked up’ my copies of the poems, inserted punctuation etc., to enable me to voice these poems at this presentation. I apologise to Ian and I urge you to look out and read the texts for yourself as soon as the journal is available. As I said, these poems are each moving and memorable in their different ways but I would draw your attention especially to ‘What We Want of Love’, which is a poem of such force and power but also of such tenderness and compassion. It makes me shiver to read it on the page, even more to read it aloud. Yet what does it tell us that we don’t already know? It is the particular utterance of that dread/wonderful knowing that is so powerful, said so beautifully and so terribly truthfully. It is Ian McDonald’s story to tell but we know it is also ours; they are his words but they are also ours, if we could find them. ‘As blood emerges from a cut vein’, indeed.
I THE EMIGRANTS
Dee Horne Tangerine Sky Tonight the sky is tangerine too tropical is this northern light as if to say enough already stop wishing you were there pay attention here, imagine, just once a tangerine turned mango moment. Picture monkeys playing in the branches chucking mangoes at feral dogs and then awaken, appreciate this night.
Twanda Rolle Dream Place the tilt of the houses beaten roads this is no place to dream. and stifling nights the night is darkest creating spaces thatâ€™s left these spaces dreamless are vacant cracks. longing for a place to dream
now the ships going by asea 17
and the persona is looking inspired pining for long travels to go as far as the ships Wanderlust. He could not dream there the bushes crowded Inspiration, dense and clogged now he dreams.
Philip Armbrister Returning to Stanyard Creek When I return to Stanyard Creek it will be early morning and quiet. The all age school classroom, auditorium, town hall will be locked. A radio in the principal’s office will play Ronnie Butler’s “Gern down Burma Road” louder than it should. Only the sea as it lays flat will be calmer than the rest of the village. Bouker will lock his small store Bouker will open the school house I will want to buy breakfast. Harrington Fraser and his wife’s house will be shut tight as if a storm were travelling; not even a whiff of last night’s fried mutton fish will escape the clamp of their front window louvres. For the first time I will venture further along their desolate street. Cats will be everywhere! 18
A single dog, as if afraid, will sit high on a balcony floor. His lack of interest in me will foretell of the impending decrepitude. The only sign of modernity will be a government water tap opposite a rejected concrete well, a discarded vacuum cleaner in six inches of water at its bottom. I will learn after thirteen Saturdays that I know this place as well as I do Kandahar, Afghanistan. At that moment I will commit to listen with my heart when I return to Stanyard Creek. Lelawatte Manoo-Rahming Counter Attack The Limpkin arrives in late spring with her screaming cry she will sing across the neighbourhood all night. I saw her once preening her wing. She rested in the fading light, soft brown feathers spotted with white but flew away as I ran past, somewhere beyond my line of sight. The metal crane rises unsurpassed, above the trees, like a great mast. At night, with belly full of snails, Limpkin shit-bombs crane with a blast.
Althea Romeo Mark Now Boarding 19
The airport in Greece is full. The waiting passengers are hoping to escape from wars they did not start, wars escalated by foreign powers intervening on behalf of rebel factions that believe their cause is more righteous than their enemies’. Success is measured by soulless, bomb-scarred buildings and bodies forsaken on sidewalks, in streets, along roadsides. Flights now boarding for London, Paris and Berlin the monitor says. But arrivals and departure times stay frozen on giant screens. There is no landing, no taking off. The country, stifled by a failing economy, is trapped in its own purgatory. Marking time, folks do not linger in waiting rooms. They overflow onto jagged runways. Confined to tents, they stare through barbed-wire fences that hold them in limbo. Unwanted, they await their fate. Shedding My Cocoon “The Rock,”* my island, now a smothering snugness, I am ready to escape. The US tasted through a smorgasbord of cities— New Haven, Cleveland, New York…, my palate yearns for pepper, new adventures. On arriving in Liberia, I book into a small hotel and bar. They tell me the spoken dialect is Bassa. The only familiar voice is that of Jimmy Cliff. The song, Jimmy C sings, “Many Rivers to Cross,” now someone’s mantra, blares non-stop on a Jukebox. 20
“…and this loneliness won't leave me alone It's such a drag to be on your own.” The words sit in my stomach like heavy, spicy meals. *“The Rock” - refers to St. Thomas (USVI). It is a name given to the island by locals.
Warm Cab In Havana for S.H.
not so sure any more about the smallness of the hands of the rain of the physics of this of its mathematical correctness over dinner last evening, enjoyed recalling this line recalling it actually from Woody Allen's film, "Hannah and Her Sisters" what a mutual delight it was for my dinner date and me knowing this sweet additional bit of e.e. cummings, loving it equally out of cold El Roca Restaurant, into Havana rain instead of holding up it commenced to pour going pass Copellia, along calle L, just after 10 p.m., with nowhere convenient to run to or run into or run under and take shelter 21
contigo and without umbrella, we went to where, near 23 y L, we could take a collectivo to 6 y 23 - most convenient stop to both our houses when we were seated, comfortable in our cab, with our driver, with two other passengers we were soaked, dripping wet Susana was shaking, she was wet as well as cold it was her idea though that we bravethat we venture out into the rain suggestion she was soon after regretting I was left wondering as I am wondering still does the rain have hands at all with dainty, slim fingers or does it have paws, with claws or has it trampling feet how it beat down upon us how, with shoulders bent, and arm-in-arm, we went and then waited in what was for sure a merciless downpour I know the rain has many faces many features, many paces what rain, with what characteristics I wonder, inspired e.e. cummings' "not even the rain has such small hands" and then again, rain, watched from a window, by one, warm and dry indoors, 22
is one wonderful experience or can be out in it, with flu medication Agrifen and Panadol, flowing with your blood through arteries and veins rain seems cruel not like a woman's hands at all as cruel almost as claws, drawing blood or am I being extreme as inaccurate as e.e. cummings in the direction directly or exactly opposite I make a beast of rain e.e. cummings made a lady of can we agree though that rain fills the air with silver strands or that rain is like so very many million nylon lines, hanging down upon the earth through holes in heaven
II OF AGE AND INNOCENCE
Miriam Austin Kelly And The Earrings
“I just remembered,” Nolan Taitt declared, pulling his black Vitara to a stop just beyond the entrance of St. Theresa’s Secondary School. “I can’t pick you up this evening. I have a meeting.” “Dad!” His daughter paused in the act of opening the SUV’s door, afraid her plans for later would be going up in smoke. “What is it?” “I want to - I need to go to town this afternoon.” “Why?” “Pardon me?” “Don’t start being silly, Kelly,” Nolan admonished. “What are you going to town for?” “I’ve got to buy some things for the pageant.” “Pageant? What pageant? When is it?” Kelly turned her head, dropped her chin, compressed her lips and underlooked her father. “The school pageant is tomorrow night. Don’t tell me you forgot.” “Girl, I have lots of things to think about. Pageants aren’t one of them.” “Well, please remember you’re giving me a ride and don’t schedule a meeting.” 25
Her father groaned. “How come you teenagers have so many activities? It’s a good thing your mother will be back in a couple of days. These chauffeur duties are driving me – oh shoot!” “What’s wrong, Dad?” Kelly asked in alarm. “Did something happen to Mummy?” “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. No, nothing has happened to your mother but something just might happen to me.” Her father fished in his pocket for his wallet. He extracted a wad of papers which he rifled through before selecting one and extending it to Kelly. “Your mother asked me to pick that up and I haven’t been able to find the time. Since you’re going to town you can do the honours.” “And here I was thinking you were giving me money.” Kelly took the receipt from him and perused it. “Earrings?” “The ones she’s always fussing over. I think she had them cleaned.” “Ok, one good turn deserves another.” She thrust out her hand, palm up. “What’s this for?” “Money? Cash?” Kelly wiggled her fingers, wearing what she hoped was a pleading expression. Nolan gently pushed her hand away. “You’re the one who made the plans to go shopping which means you have enough money already.” “A little more wouldn’t hurt.” “Wouldn’t hurt you, you mean. You have an allowance. Use it.” “And how am I supposed to get to town?” “Buses pass here all day. Take one.” Kelly made a face at him but didn’t say a word. There were some arguments she knew 26
she couldn’t win. She opened the door but before she could step out her father spoke again. “Look, I should be finished by five-thirty. You’d better come to my office. I will take you home.” “But I don’t know if I can get through by then.” “You heard what I told you?” She frowned. “But –“ “Don’t start, young lady, I’m not in the mood. Five-thirty!” “Ye-e-es, Da-a-ad.” Kelly drawled the words, her submission an obvious pretense. “It’s four-thirty already.” Kelly complained as she and Natasha Browne hustled across town heading for Gem Stone, the jewelry store from which she had to collect her mother’s earrings. “Well, it did take you over half hour to find the nail polish. Who’s giving you the mani and pedi?” “Nothing so formal. I’ve got a nine o’clock with the hairdresser tomorrow morning. After that I’m going to Gillian’s house so she can paint my nails.” “She’s alright.”
Gillian was a member of their form who possessed real talent when it came to nail technology. However, she and Natasha didn’t get along. “Could you be a little less enthusiastic?” Kelly responded sarcastically. “Come on, you know she’s better than alright.” Natasha waved her hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah.” 27
“So, who’s doing yours?” “Me, nuh. And I’m doing my hair myself too.” “How come?” “My father sent some money but I blew it all on the dress.” She gave a short, mirthless laugh when Kelly glanced at her sharply. “Don’t worry. My curling iron works.” Kelly surveyed her image critically. According to her full-length mirror the red cocktail dress fitted perfectly, hugging her slim frame to the waist before flaring gently to the knees. Her curly shoulder-length black hair had been flat-ironed and pinned into an elegant upstyle. Gillian had even showed her how to apply her makeup and she was thrilled with the effect that she had achieved. She wasn’t so happy with her accessories, though. Around her neck she was wearing a delicate double- strand gold chain, a fifteenth birthday gift courtesy of her grandmother. Somehow, compared with the chain, the earrings she had purchased seemed exactly what they were – cheap costume jewelry. She twisted from side to side but, regardless of the angle at which she held her head, the effect was unchanged. Exasperated, she removed the offending pair.
As if drawn by a magnet Kelly eyes focused on the black box sitting on her bureau. Fleetingly, she wondered why she had not placed it in her mother’s room as yet. She reached for the box and opened it. As she stared at its contents she remembered how she had searched and searched unsuccessfully for the right style until she had finally conceded defeat and apathetically purchased the earrings she’d been considering at the time. Natasha’s voice invaded her memory. 28
“Kel, you sure you want to wear costume jewelry?” “I just bought some, didn’t I?” ”Uh-huh, but you aren’t very excited about it.” “Well, I didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find the right thing. Anyhow, that’s all I can afford.” “All you can – girl, where’s your head?”
“What on earth are you talking about? “I’m talking about that box of bling you just picked up.” “Are you crazy?” Kelly was aghast. “I can’t wear my mother’s expensive earrings without her permission. She would hit the roof!” “Well, she isn’t here for you to ask her.” “I suppose I could text her or email her or something.” Kelly had offered doubtfully. “Or nothing. If you ask her what is she likely to say?” “Probably ‘no’.” “So why bother? It’s not as if you’re lending them out. When is she due back?” “On Monday but –“ “See? You’d have lots of time to put them back and she’d be none the wiser.” “Tash, we are not having this conversation.” Now, as she continued to regard the beautiful gold filigree twin, Kelly’s resistance to temptation began to totter. She wondered if it would be so terrible if she were to borrow the jewelry. Perhaps Natasha had a point after all. It would be for only a few hours and her mother need never know she had taken them in the first place.
She picked up one of the swirl drops and tentatively affixed it to her right ear. The jewelry gleamed, causing her face to come alive. Lured by the transformation the earring effected, she attached the second one to her left ear. “Whoa!” she gasped as she gazed at her reflection one more. She looked as stunning as a runway model. She could just imagine the admiring glances that would come her way if she went to the pageant like this. But maybe she shouldn’t, maybe she was taking too big a risk, maybe… “Kelly, you’re not ready yet?” her father’s voice intruded on her rumination. “Coming!” she shouted. She took off the earrings and was about to return them to their box when a thought struck: Perhaps they will cause Ruel Anthony to notice you tonight. The last vestiges of her resistance shattered beneath the onslaught and Kelly reached for her black clutch and slipped the jewelry inside. It was intermission and Kelly’s good mood was being threatened. She, Natasha and another friend, Paula Sobers, had sat together during the first half of the pageant and were now awaiting the return of the latter’s boyfriend, Dwayne, who’d gone off to buy drinks. “Wait, wunna see how good Joelle looking?” asked Paula. “You only saying so cause she in you form and she is you bes’ fren,” observed Natasha . “So what? Who look better than she?” “English!” remonstrated Kelly. “Oh, chill, Kel! Why you don’t learn to speak Bajan? Yeah, Paula, I pick Renata.” 30
“Re – who?” “Don’t mind me, I just kicksing.” chuckled Natasha. “At least she look better than Christine. Wha’ bout Tanya?” “Tanya fail. Chad, too. Wha’ you think, Kel?” Kelly had barely heard the banter being exchanged between the two girls and only focused on them when Natasha gave her a nudge. “Huh?” “Wait, what up with you?” questioned Paula. “All the notice you been getting all night, thanks to me, you oughtta be on cloud ten by now,” stated Natasha. “Cloud nine, you mean,” murmured Kelly, still distracted. “Whatever! The point is, who you backing?” “I’m not backing anybody ‘til I see the talent section.” “Wait, Kel, where the happy face gone? You look like you about to freak out.” “Y’all don’t see what I see?” “No!” they replied in unison. “What?” “Who is that with Ruel?” “The new girl. Carla.” “I think I’m going to freak out in truth. What’s he doing with that- that freak?” Natasha laughed loud and hard. “Girl, you want me to teach you some swearwords?”
“No thanks.” Kelly turned to Paula. “When Dwayne comes back get him to bring Ruel over here.” The pageant was over. Kelly and Natasha were delirious that the crowd favourites – and theirs as well - Joelle and Damien, had been declared the winners. They had enthusiastically joined in the shouts of pleasure when the announcements were made. They had rushed to congratulate the winners and then had argued vigorously with the supporters of the first runnersup. She had had two opportunities to chat with Ruel Anthony which had her spirits flying high. She had asked her father for a ride home for Natasha, a request that hadn’t exactly filled Nolan Taitt with joy. Nevertheless, he’d agreed and the two girls had just been about to climb aboard the Vitara when Natasha abruptly seized Kelly’s arm and dragged her backward. “Kel, you know you only wearing one earring?” she hissed. Kelly’s heart stopped. “What!?” She clapped her hands to her ears, only to confirm the awful truth. One earlobe was bare! She felt cold and yet her heart, which miraculously must have started beating again, now pounded furiously. “No! No! No!” she moaned as tears flooded her eyes and spilled over. Natasha stared in disbelief. “You mean it lost?” Kelly nodded then dried her tears quickly as she heard her father calling her name. She went to the passenger window reluctantly. “Yes, Dad?” “Is there a problem?”
“Umm, I can’t find something. Can you give me ten minutes so I could look around?”
Nolan began to grumble. Kelly heard words like “midnight” and “carelessness” and moved away hurriedly. She and Natasha combed every inch of the areas they had frequented but came up empty-handed. Sunday passed in a blur. Kelly was so disconsolate she hardly left her room. To her father’s amazement she refused to take any calls and the cellular which her parents allowed her to use on weekends remained untouched in the living room. At times she wondered if Ruel had phoned as promised but she was not in any frame of mind to entertain him so she didn’t try to find out. On Monday morning, as soon as she arrived at school she checked the office to see if anyone had handed in the earring. The answer was in the negative then and again when she inquired after the students were dismissed. Natasha was implying that it was entirely Kelly’s decision to borrow the jewelry which made her see red. Guilt over what she had done, fear of her mother’s reaction and anger over her own negligence all combined to make her morose.
She reached home to find her mother safely back from her trip. Amid all the greetings and displays of affection, she kept waiting for her to inquire about the earrings but Margaret Taitt seemed to have forgotten her jewelry. Consequently, Kelly was thrown into fresh panic when the subject was broached next morning. “Kelly, your father tells me he asked you to collect my earrings from Gem Stone. What 33
happened? Where are they?” “Sorry, I forgot,” she mumbled, her heart pounding furiously. “Well, make sure you get them this evening. You have the receipt? You want me to do it instead?” Kelly waited in trepidation. Sometimes her mother did not actually want her questions answered. Thankfully, this was one of those times. “No, I’m going to be busy. Plus being responsible means that if you take on a task you have to see it through to the end. Understood?” “Yes, Mummy.” The Taitts were eating dinner. At least, Mr. and Mrs. Taitt were; Kelly was finding it difficult to work up an appetite when the jewelry box was sitting next to her mother’s plate. Margaret had asked for it before the meal started and placed it there. “You’re not on a diet, are you?” she asked her daughter as she observed her toying with her food. “No, I’m not very hungry.” Kelly replied, wishing she were anywhere but there. “I suppose you’re going to raid the fridge later,” her father said. “I used to do that.” “Used to?” his wife questioned innocently. They began to tease each other. Kelly wanted to join in as she usually did but was too nervous to do so. “We’re boring the child,” chuckled Margaret after a while. “I’d better see what kind of a job Mr. Stone did on my earrings.” Kelly feigned disinterest as her mother opened the black container. There was a long 34
silence. Margaret passed the case over to her husband. “Look at this, Nolan. These don’t match.” Nolan nodded in agreement. “True. Think Mr. Stone mixed up your earrings with another customer’s?” “That would have to be it. I’ll just have to sort it out tomorrow.” Kelly wanted to smile in triumph; her plan was working. Instead, she felt uneasy. Her mother was being reasonable. When Margaret Taitt was soft-spoken, logical and accommodating, it spelt trouble. “By the way, Kelly, a Carla rang. Do you know her? Is she a friend of yours?” “She doesn’t have any friends, Mummy.” Kelly was relieved the conversation had switched subjects although this topic was pretty low on her totem pole. “I don’t like her.” “Oh? Why not?” “She transferred from another school recently.” “That’s your basis for dislike?” Nolan inquired mildly. She’s too friendly with the guy I’m interested in. Kelly remained silent, the embers of her uneasiness being refueled by her father’s interjection. “Apparently she phoned you on Sunday,” Margaret continued, “but you refused to take the call. Then she tried to speak to you at school but you called her a name and told her not to come near you. Is that so?” “Freak is not a badword,” Kelly protested. “She had to call to complain about that?” “Not at all. She said she wanted to return your property.”
Kelly was incensed. She had given Ruel a slip of paper with her telephone number on it. How had that girl found it? She would be dealing with her at school tomorrow. She wanted to leave the table but her mother wasn’t finished yet. “Two interesting things happened today. The first is that I spoke with Mr. Stone. I phoned him to tell him to expect you and to my surprise he informed me you had picked up the earrings on Friday.” She turned to her husband. “Now, I could have sworn Kelly told me this morning that she forgot but I must’ve been mistaken.” “Maybe you heard wrong,” agreed Nolan. Kelly began to be scared. “The second thing is that Carla - a sweet child, really – came by.” “Here?” Kelly gasped. “Don’t look so shocked. I asked her what she had belonging to you, she told me and I felt it was important you should get it back as soon as possible so I invited her. Her cousin came along with her, a nice boy from the same school. What’s his name? Rommel?... Rovell?... Aah, Ruel!” Margaret got up from the table and collected a white envelope that was lying on the drinks trolley. She passed it to her daughter. “I understand this is yours.” Kelly lifted the flap of the envelope and peered inside. Nestled on a piece of cotton wool was a gold filigree spiral drop earring.
Jason Allen-Paisant Love Suddenly Love is an upheaval observable in real time. It is witnessing one’s metamorphosis through a glass. It is a swirling whirlpool ahead in the course of a river, a life one recognizes no longer. Love is a radical choice, a destiny whose contours are unknown, but which one imagines to be great. Love is a strong current in which one wants to fall, not knowing where it will lead, but thinking it’s where one needs to go. Love is the quality of time and of old age. It is the moving stillness and the stillness inside us as we move, dying a little every instant. Love is not the sense of well-being fruition, security or affection or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination you and I have known.
Nadine Rogers Pearlie She pulled one of her good nighties from the press filled with new things, coated herself in Cusson’s My Fair Lady to keep cool, and turned on the fan. Her gold bangles sang a naughty song as she moved across the room. She beckoned, “Come sit down here child,” patting the fresh bed I’d just helped her to make, 37
“You don’t bother with no husband, child. Men ain’t no damn good.” She pushed me over with her broad behind and I scrambled to the other side of the bed, stretching out beside her. With a sigh, her hands slowly smoothed down the creases in the new nightie. She began, “I had a husband once, but he wasn’t no damn good. Spend all his money every Friday on rum and woman. You don’t bother look for no husband.” We were a strange couple on that big old iron bed. Me, too young to guess her age and too well-raised to ask. Her, with deep wrinkles on her forehead and deep folds under her neck. She continued, “I had a husband, but that was too much hell. I never wanted another one, oui.” I knew the rules. She did not need me to answer. Her voice said that she was not entirely thinking of me. She insisted, “You finish your education! Get your own house! Don’t bother to stay here! Nothing here for you again.” Her quick turn and intense gaze trapped me. She remembered, “I had a husband once. Damn vagabond. Roam de streets every Friday night. Until I fix him.” Ah, something interesting. I felt a shift. She heaved, “I fix his ass good and proper one Friday night. Hah yes! I fix him mamá. I take all dem suit, and pants, and shirt jack, and I soak down every tout monde bagai lá in de washtub with soap and water! Hah Lord, I fix him dat night doh! He didn’t roam again for a long time.” Laughter just burst out of me; unexpected and infectious. She cackled, “We could as well laugh child; he didn’t stay quiet forever. Yes, I had a husband once.” The gaiety receded. I went back to reading the deep wrinkles and folds, thinking I knew something now about how they’d gotten there. She exhaled, “You just remain in school and don’t worry to look for no man, you hear me?”
child marriage the triumphant Indian woman speaks of her now-dead husband and long-discarded dolls in the same breath all this time 38
I’d imagined her behind that high wall oppressed yet she tells of how the man waited patiently until she set aside her childish doll play to lay down beside him Wendy Fulton Steginsky Island Sonata As a young child I knew the smacking, lapping, lashing, clapping sounds of Mullet Bay the way I knew the strong curve of my sister’s cheeks, her changing moods, how her bleached curls stiffened with salt from too much swimming. At night the sea slunk over my windowsill: a piano’s rippling sixteenths. A flat sheet of music in the sunshine, serenading my sister and me, Come, splash and kick with squirrelfish and cowpollies. Its measured breath on calm days carried clear as an oboe across the harbour, saturating beds of sea weed, rocky shoreline. Inside a conch shell: the full vibrato of high tide. When it ebbed, I picked a barefoot path around deflated black sea puddings and squishy violet-edged anemones. Often stormy, spray bent buttonwood 39
branches low, whipped and wrapped the house in smoking brine, waves roiling, fuming with symphonic force, cymbals banging. Sometimes, a brief summer shower: on its surface, rain plink plinked vivace. 1967’s Summer of Love Listening to Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale, I’m back in Mike Frith’s arms, in my first slow dance—on a sprawling terrace, overlooking the Atlantic’s excited surf. At fourteen, I sway awkwardly, turn turn turning in simple circles while time lengthens, widens like a Latin bolero skirt. Gardenia’s giddy scent leaks into my pores, soaks the underarms of my halter-neck mini dress, patterned in bold indigo swirls. Within, the song’s organ solo climbs and loiters, tingling my knobby vertebrae, scales the spine. We lean into the expectant night. Mike’s long fingers rest like guitar strings along the small of my back. Clementine oleander clambers up limestone columns and unfettered, reaches for the cloudless sky: almost within grasp, the brightest stars in Orion’s Belt.
Althea Romeo Mark
Manchineel He was our teenage Hercules, admired for his brawn and beauty, but recklessness led him with a rope, and his parents unable to cope, sought the wisdom of a guidance counselor, a pastor. They said the army would set him straight, and sent him off with prayers. He did several tours of duty in lands where death and destruction reigned. He became efficient with machine guns, was great at eradication. Now, we have lost him in the deluge of annihilation. What he saw, what he did, what he lived, has plucked his will to rise above darkness, has sucked him into a bunker, and imprisoned him in a cinema-like-reel of unending enemy fire. He feels betrayed by man and God. The devil daily roils him. No exorcism of kind words or prayers can pacify the volcano within. We skirt around him when we pass the abandoned market stall where he, when not intensely marching and shouting, sits in sullen concentration. He has become our manchineel, a wild, acid-tongued, explosive being. ---------------------------------------
The manchineel tree, native to the Western Hemisphere, is known as the most poisonous tree in the world. In places where it growsâ€”Florida, the Caribbean, the Bahamasâ€”the manchineel is often marked with a red band to warn passersby not to go too near it.
L N Little
Melda, Oh!! Her ass was grass and she knew it. “Lordy, lordy, lordy! What to do? What to do? What to do?” Melda sat at her glass, dining room table that was too big for the room into which it was crammed, propping her sorrows. They’d given her until month end. She was already a couple of weeks into that time and no viable options had presented themselves. No turn of fortune. Nothing. It occurred to her that sitting was not solving anything, so she got up and began an agitated march around the table. Maybe I’ll think better on my feet, she reasoned. But the only change in thought she had was, “So this is what it like to feel screwed,” along with, “How the hell I really get myself in this khaki pants?” At the age of 62, Melda still woke with the roosters on mornings. Then she fed her three miniature turtles, Coo Coo, Callaloo and Moreby, before doing anything else. With nothing but time after that, the retired woman moved at a leisurely pace through the necessary motions of brushing her teeth, doing her numbers, showering, and getting dressed. Those tasks completed, she had the rest of her day to fill. Usually, the matter caused for some contemplation which, she was happy to oblige...until the start of her first game show at 10 a.m. Sometimes, she thought it would be nice to have a job to go to again, but knew she’d miss seeing her shows. All the same, truth be told, life was getting a bit samey. Melda was pretty much settled into retirement. It had been an event to which she’d looked forward with great enthusiasm and anticipation because of all the things she would now be able to do, and places she’d be able to go. Instead, she’d gotten distracted by soap operas and game shows and now could not imagine missing an episode of either to see what happened next. Before she knew it two years had passed and she’d yet to make a move to realise any of those – what now seemed like – lofty aspirations. If anything, becoming an avid fan of those programs encouraged a completely different set of lofty desires. “Now that is a gorgeous top that contestant wearing,” she said, pointing out the woman to whom she was referring, to Moreby, who was scampering around on the center table. As a rule, Melda took ‘the boys’ out of their plastic tub for a little while to watch some television with her. “I would look nice and sexy in that blouse, not so, Cal?” The turtle scraped its way along the dull, scratched-up surface of the wooden table, following almost the same path as its brother, Moreby, who skirted the edge of the table a foot in front of him. Thus, the animal was too busy to pay her any attention. “That’s the first thing I going to buy when I win the Lotto.” Melda paused for a beat and checked her watch. “Speaking of which, is time to play my mark.” 42
She rounded up the hard-backed trio, put them back in their tub, switched off the television, and gave her Play Whe chart one last go-over to confirm her pick for the lunch-time draw. Last night she dreamt she was a fish swimming in a river. There was a monkey on one of the banks stoning her with bananas and screeching like the primate it was. That meant she had to play 28 – Red Fish, and 10 – Monkey; then she thought she better play 6 – Belly, for good measure. Her standard bet was $3.00 per mark. When she was still working and had more disposable income, she used to play the entire line, so for 28…that was the 1 line because it added up to 10, she would have played 28, 1, 10 and 19. Instead, she now stuck to the numbers that exactly matched her dreams. “If I win this time, I’ll buy you all some Iceberg Lettuce,” she shouted back at her children from the front door. “I coming back just now. The three of you behave.” Not one of Melda’s marks played that day. “This is damn nonsense, yes,” she said with a steupse. “Anyway, that won’t matter when I win the Lotto.” She was sitting at the round, plastic table she used as her dining room table, the day after, contemplating playing a Pick 2. “Is times like this I does miss the work, yes,” she muttered to herself. When Melda reached retirement age, part of her wished she could have stayed on to collect salary for a few years longer. She hated working for rich people, though, because they actually expected her to work. Nor were they especially nice to their housekeepers, which she happened to be. It was plenty work for pittance, really. How she used to admire those homes and the lives of the owners, and wonder what it would be like to be the master, not the help. What did they have that they were able to own so much and be so fortunate, and she did not? That’s why she played the Lotto every single week, so that when she won she would stop feeling like all she was was the help. She would have their respect. No time to think of these things now, because it was time for her favourite soap, and she just had to know what Eric would do now that he found out his brother, Reuben, had slept with his wife for a year of their 3-year marriage. Not to mention having to deal with the fact that his daughter may not be his daughter, after all. “It going to be really good today,” Melda told the boys as she lifted them out onto the table before taking her seat. Her heart pounded with excitement over the prospect of the juicy commess that promised to unfold. When the opening scene began to play, though, it was not the building tension that drew her focus; rather, it was the glam of the sets. 43
“Oh gosh, boys, imagine it actually have people who does live like that.” She sighed and imagined she was the one walking through those tall, oaken front doors into that hall with the cathedral-like high ceilings, instead of Eric’s loose wife, Lucretia. “Why that can’t be me, eh? I wouldn’t be vex with a house like that. And it not impossible either, because some people right here in Trinidad have houses just like that.” Filled with lust, Melda paused – as she always did – to admire the chic residence of the fictional soap characters. “You know, I does often wonder how those people could afford them extravagant homes.” She thought for a moment then proposed a hypothesis. “It must be drugs. How else, besides winning the Lotto, those fellows could manage to buy all them things? How else?” She sighed in way that made her seem to deflate and disappear into her ratty looking chair. “Oh, to have all those beautiful things,” she said, her voice heavy with woe. “If I had those things I know I would be good happy.” Melda sighed and her mind began a remake of her life. In the new version she was dressed in designer wear, decked off in authentic gold and platinum jewellery with precious stones; came home to a high-ceilinged mansion furnished with the most high-tech entertainment systems and leather furniture, all of which opened out to a patio that was bordered by a huge swimming pool. This would all not be complete without a 3-car garage (not because she could not afford more, but because her boys could not drive so she had no need of more, really) which housed an SUV, a sports car, and a luxury sedan. Melda’s eyes glazed over and she swooned with the longing and delight her imaginations stirred within her; stirrings which made her take a fresh look at her approach to have the lifestyle she both yearned for and deserved. Perhaps, just perhaps, she thought, her misstep had been in waiting for the big Lotto payout in order to begin putting those things in place. She had been waiting to get it done all at once when maybe, she ought to have taken care of it bit by bit. The retiree pondered this for some moments more then decided that that must be it. She spent the next few moments thinking about ways to remedy the situation. “What I need is a way to get a lump sum of money in a short period of time, compared to the small potatoes I getting from Play Whe.” She continued calculating her options while scratching her cheek. Then, her eyes lit up. “I get it!” Her shout propelled Moreby into a faster shuffle across the table. After allowing an instant for the declaration to permeate the air around her, Melda made her way to the phone and called a number. It rang several times before a tired, wizened-sounding voice said... 44
“Hello.” “June? Melda.” Aye, aye!” The voice on the other end of the line ballooned into life. “Where you for, girl?” “I there. Hear nah, I starting a sou-sou.” “Eh heh? How much it for?” “A lil five hundred a week.” Melda hoped this was not too steep for the old bat. She didn’t particularly like June, but right now the ends more than justified the means. After thinking a short while, June said, “That not bad. How much people you have already? Melda was caught off guard, but soon recovered with a save. “Two…not including myself. And I was thinking ‘bout maybe two or three more.” “So turnover of hands would be lil over a month, then.” “Yeah.” There was silence on the line, while – Melda supposed – June mulled everything over. She was about to say something when sound returned from her associate’s end. “I in that. But I want last hand, eh.” Melda beamed. Easy so? she thought. “I don’t see it should be a big thing.” “Nice. When it starting?” Melda pretended nonchalance. “What’s today? Wednesday?” “Yeah.” “Hmm...Monday, then?” “Alright. How you going to get the money?” “I will pass by your work for it?” “No, best pass home. But make sure and call first to make sure I here.” “Of course, June.” Lest any more irritation reared its potentially sou-sou ending head, Melda hastily rang off. “Anyway, I gone there. I have a pot up on the stove,” she said. “Alright. Until.” With the first taker secured, Melda hung up, and then called three more people. Melda had been running the sou-sou successfully for three months, but the money was not coming in fast enough. There was only so much she could do when she got her hands. But she found another way to supplement her financial situation. “Sylvia, girl, you not going to believe what happen!” “What? What?” “I get rob.” “Oh gad oh! How that happen?” Sylvia’s exclamation seemed amplified over the phone speaker so Melda momentarily moved it away from her ear. 45
“I was leaving home to bring your hand for you, and when I reach by the taxi-stand, a man snatch my bag.” “Oh Goddddd! I was looking forward to that money!” “I nearly get kill and that’s what you studying?” Melda injected the appropriate level of indignation into her voice whilst idly rolling the new pearl necklace around her neck, between her thumb and forefinger. “Oh gosh, sorry girl. Yes, you right, is only money. They could have killed you.” “You know, nah! That kind of thing never happen to me in all my living days. Look me now in my golden years, nah!” “Is a sign of the times, yes.” “True true talk.” “You went to the police and thing?” Melda paused, uncertain of what she ought to say. The uncertainty passed and she answered with conviction… “Yeah. But they say since I didn’t see the bandit and nobody else was by the stand to see him either, it have nothing they could do.” “Oh Goddddd, so the money good gone!” “Girl, I so sorry.” “Don’t worry, nah. Is not your fault. Is them damn delinquents out there these days!” The woman let out a deep sigh. “The important thing is that you okay.” “Thanks. Listen, I will ask the others if they mind extending the sou-sou for a extra week to cover what you lose and see what they say.” “You too kind, girl. Thanks. And you be careful round there, you hear.” “Yeah, I will be. And is the least I could do. We will catch up, right.” Melda hung up and pushed back into her brand new, leather recliner, so that it was in its reclined position, and settled in to watch the soaps on her new, flat screen, 40 inch HD.TV. She was smiling. “Oh God, it didn’t play again!” Melda said. “This past ridiculous now.” She crumpled up her latest Play Whe slip and flung it violently across her living room. As she’d been far too distressed to clean over the past few weeks, the discarded slip of paper joined a similar collection that had amassed on the brown, leather settee she’d bought within the last month. It had been her favourite addition to her transformed apartment. Recently, however, the piece of furniture served as no more than a glorified waste-paper basket. “Lord have mercy, I need it to play!” She huffed and puffed with tremendous agitation, neither of which did the apparently impossible and facilitated the play of the mark, 36. Melda had been living large off the money that was entrusted to her. The circumstance of having it in her hands had proven a greater temptation than she’d been able to weather, aware as she was of all the changes her home and life required. Her intention had never been to take the money, just to borrow a few hundred which she would repay before it was time to turn over the 46
hand to its weekly owner. It would have worked but for the fact that it felt too much like having free money. All those thousands at her fingertips…begging to be spent. What could she do? In order to offset the deficit, she began minding the number 36 – Donkey, which had Play Whe junkies all abuzz. The mark had not played for three and a half months, so seemed a good candidate for the job, as it was clearly due. Or so she’d thought. Melda needed to play both morning and evening draws daily, with increasing amounts of money each time if she expected to make back the money she’d already played on it. So in addition to spending on clothes, jewellery, furniture and electronics, the retiree utilised some of the ‘borrowed’ funds to cover her bets. When she didn’t make up the balance to give Sylvia her hand, claiming to have been robbed, she was able to breathe a sigh of relief when her friend believed her. But the mark still had to be played, or all that she’d thus far sunken into it would have been lost. With no other option, Melda dipped into Seema’s hand, as well. When she claimed to be robbed a second time, the ladies paid her a visit…out of concern for her safety, and to see how she was faring after being twice the victim. “Well yes! It look like somebody doing real good,” June said as soon as she entered Melda’s small apartment. The three women made a rapid inspection of the rooms within view, then looked at Melda. “Everything still have the new smell, too,” Seema added. Melda swallowed, with substantial exertion, as her throat had suddenly become dry. “Yeah. I got some real good deals the other day. A place was closing down in Chaguanas.” “Had to be,” Sylvia chimed in, “because I know these things not normally cheap.” “I don’t even think that a good deal could cover all this,” June said, to add fuel to an already rapidly building fire. The woman’s implication was clear. Melda cussed herself for going against her better judgment and inviting June to join her venture. She avoided the woman’s penetrating gaze and accusatory tone. “But aye aye! Girl, them pearls looking real real!” Sylvia said, admiring the strand around her friend’s neck. Melda had forgotten about her adornment so her hand flew defensively to her throat. “And that blouse looking...,” Seema walked up to her and felt her sleeve, “like silk.” Now, in her tone as well there was an accusation. “Somebody doing real good, for true,” June said. The blasted woman would just not drop it. Melda cleared her throat once more. “Yeah, my old boss...” June cut her off immediately. “Your old boss, nothing! Is thief you thief we money!” 47
Melda felt like a cornered yard fowl that was destined for the coal pot. Her eyes flicked from one woman to the next. Of them all, only Sylvia looked astonished, which meant the woman truly did believe her fairy tale about being robbed. Melda zoned in on her, wearing the most innocent look in her arsenal on her face. “That’s not true. The people I used to work for come into some money and say they decide to give me the bonus they could never afford to when I was working.” Although feeling triumphant she was able to keep the tremor out of her voice, Melda was very close to wetting herself. “Yeah, right! Your stingy-ass boss who never even used to let you take a sick day, all of a sudden...two years later, decide they giving you overdue bonus. And was a healthy one, too, from the look of it,” June said, persisting with her insinuations. Melda knew things were going south, fast, so she put a plea in her eyes when she looked at Sylvia. “June, just let her finish, nah.” Good old feeble-brained Sylvia, Melda thought meanly. A smidgen of hope sprang up within her. “Oh please!” June said in rejection to the woman’s urging, at once dashing Melda’s one hope. “If you believe that cock-and-bull story you deserve to lose your money.” She paused to glare at Sylvia, who duly backed down to the alpha. “As for me,” her voice held a steely edge, “I want my money!” “Me, too,” the recently silent Seema, piped up. Sylvia looked at Melda with a quizzical expression, then said, “That not true, ain’t, Melda?” There was an unmistaken plea in her voice. For a moment, looking at Sylvia, Melda froze. She was struck at that instant by what she’d done. It had been easy before, to help herself to the funds in her care, because the money was not attached to any face. But now, standing face to face with the friend from whom she’d stolen and who, even now, disbelieved that she was capable of such a thing, made Melda feel to shrink back in shame. She avoided both Sylvia’s eyes and her question and addressed June, instead. But a cold sweat had broken out on her forehead. “And where you expect me to get it from? I don’t have it,” was her fervent complaint. “Well you better figure something out, because come month end we want we money, or is hell to pay.” Melda wondered what that hell might be, but the only conclusion she could come to with certainty was that she did not wish to find out. Seema nodded to affirm June’s declaration. And, although Sylvia did not, neither did she remonstrate. The distaste of the bitter pill she was forced to swallow showed clearly on her face, however. It stabbed Melda through the chest, and pricked at her increasingly contrite heart. It occurred to her that she was about to lose the only people who cared to be in her life, over money; things. Sylvia had always been a friend in name and nature, and she’d stolen from her. Lied to her. When had she turned into this person? Following that confrontation and ultimatum, Melda did the only thing she could think of to make amends...she increased her Play Whe bets on the number 36. 48
Now, here she was, in an even deeper hole she’d dug for herself with zest, if not intent. Month end came quickly. Melda had been looking at her watch every half hour. It was 3 p.m.; an hour away from the end of the formal work day. She had the television on but, it was more for company than entertainment. She had her boys, but they were not talkers. And right now silence was too loud for her to bear. She’d run out of money, yet 36 had still not played. A knock on her front door made her jump like she’d been slapped by a jumbie. “Melda, oh!” Oh God, they were early! She did not answer. “Don’t play you not home, because we could hear the television.” “Blasted surround sound!” Melda swore softly. She was not ready to face them. She knew she had done wrong, just as she knew she had no way of atoning for it at the moment...other than to throw herself on their mercy. Suppose they made their hearts as hard as she had made hers when she stole from them? They knocked again. “Melda, oh! We come for we money!” Melda knew the time for hiding had passed. She walked to the door at the same speed CooCoo did after a hefty meal. Her stomach lurched, did a somersault then flopped back down. Hand levitating above the knob of her front door, now. She did not have the wherewithal to compose herself before facing her friends, for she was too busy praying they would show clemency and afford her the opportunity to make reparations. The only question was, would they be willing to grace her with the time she needed to amass the amount of money required to repay them in full? It would mean coming out of retirement and going back to work. She was not certain how she felt about that prospect, but under the circumstances, what else could she do? Melda looked around her apartment hoping the solution would present itself to her, just as it had when she decided to start the sou-sou. “Oye, Melda! I say we come for we money.” It was June…of course. Melda did not trust that woman to be lenient. As she looked around her eyes kept coming to rest upon the door at the back of her kitchen, which led outside to the rear of the building. But she could trust Sylvia, she thought, hoping that would be enough.
Victoria Sarne Darkness A cavern opens in your chest when you lose a child A deep, dark space expands filling your head 49
your heart, your abdomen, your senses, your existence, and this darkness leaks out of you like ink spreading beyond the boundaries of your body staining the universe around you - a permanent marker. It doesnâ€™t stop, it canâ€™t stop, it wonâ€™t stop. The haemorrhage of grief is boundless and rolls through your world like thunder. Billowing black clouds silently scoop up the debris in their path like locusts feeding. They drop their suffocating shroud around you blotting out all the light and permanent night descends, while ahead of you - eternity rolls out its endless carpet.
Ian McDonald Pots
he tried spinning pots for a living not exactly very well made pots lop-sided in aimless different ways splotches dribbles of bright colour down one side not the other patterning not atall well done we gave him a chance he delivered the pots slowly not matching each other trial and error clearly shaped them some really badly botched always strong though balanced OK one day we looked at each other something in the pots we loved yes he brought another instantly recognisable flowers looked good rightly placed in those strong haphazard pots he got better and better making them did more and more admired business corporate commissions took on assistants thanked us for giving him a start proudly gave us big discounts how could we tell him 50
flowers lived best for us in those beautiful first pots
Mezan Morrison Greenhouse I a lone student stuffed into pleated white clunks down Constant Spring her steps - a steady metronome, take her mind to country and memories of her grandma Ruby whose long slim fingers soothed full women and guided life from fertile earth under full moon light blue light of sunrise or midday sun-hot she could be found in her greenhouse birthing Cattleya Areca Poinsettia Names only country women knew and whispered to Ruby Nurse, they said take it out scoop it out pull it out I can't bear this seed. Rubyâ€™s hands dragged fear out of these women and gave them life instead Hands, she told her granddaughter, 51
should be covered in dirt or blood. II Breathless from her walk home the student, like her grandma does not care for hard tar roads paved walkways treeless streets and pollutants that hang above town this is the life her mother chose Her mother, whose daily prayer in the dilapidated greenhouse falls on to deaf earth whose hands pull dandelion bitter weed reminders: she is not like her mother her daughter is not like her
Alicia Valasse Zafè Bitasyon Isleen was my neighbour. That was all she was. We lived next to each other for eighteen years and I never knew her laugh or the grimaces her face kept. We were both infuriated by the chuckling of the chickens her mother kept in the unfenced yard but we were never friends. On Saturdays mornings, we used the river stones as clotheslines and our hands met briefly as expected during the Sunday morning’s Praise and Worship sessions. But we were never friends. The perfect pleats in our plaid school skirts looked the same for nearly fifteen years. We battled with eager termites for space on our school desks together but she was never my friend. We learnt our catechism and recited the Act of Contrition together. We swept the dust from sinners’ shoes before mass and sang melodious hallelujahs from the choir hall to appease sinners but we were never friends. I felt nothing for her until her death. It began in October. I had been confined to the secluded riverside for the whole day with the family’s laundry. The soiled and cemented clothes had been harsh to my young skin and had 52
inspired much tardiness on my part. The other village people (none of which I knew well) had left early releasing the waters and stones to me. Our morning conversation had been beautiful – the stones’ stillness, the water’s gentle flow and my subtle humming of Amazing Grace. The conversation would not last long though. An expected call in the nearby dried shrubs suddenly disturbed it. “Estelle! Estelle! It’s Isleen!” my sister Christeen shouted emerging from the greenery. Her face was flushed and soaked with sweat. This was enough to curtail my tedious wringing. “What happen Christeen? What happen?” I eagerly awaited a response. “Dey say Isleen missing. Dey eh see her since six this morning. Her mother really going crazy dere. Dey look everywhere but nobody see her,” my sister Christeen explained breathlessly. “She missing? But Isleen doesn’t go nowhere. Everybody know dat,” I responded calmly. “Yes, dat’s what we think but her mother say she go by her children father this morning and since dat time nobody see her,” Christeen explained further. “Well, I here since morning and I eh see her yet,” I responded maintaining a calm demeanor. “Well, hurry up now! Mommy say dey organizing a group to look for her. She want us to help them. Some of dem going and search in Fond Blanc by Lucrish Shop and the rest going down Fond Jacmel,” Estelle explained. I could not believe it. Isleen missing? That short, plump, cross-eyed, coolie-haired girl with the big backside the boys down the road always talking about missing? I packed the clothes quickly as Christeen sat on some stones waiting. She spoke extensively about Isleen while she waited. “How did she know so much about her?” I thought to myself. Was it possible that this girl who was a stranger to me was so well-known and loved by everyone? With the clothes safely tucked away in the plastic laundry basket, I gathered my belongings to leave the river. Christeen led the way orating Isleen’s biography as she unknowingly broke the disheveled branches which invaded the track. The trip to our home was shorter than usual as Christeen’s unexpected babble transformed time to nothing. Our arrival home was unnoticed. A rowdy crowd had gathered at Isleen’s residence after hearing about her sudden disappearance. Many people (some unknown to me) were gathered seemingly to coordinate the search efforts. At first, I did not know how to respond to the perturbed stares, feigned wails and the unspoken desires to will her back to us. I did not understand this unusual aura of agony. Why was pain being shown so openly now? Why were the women soiling their faces with tears? We were taught as modest ladies to smile in the face of insults and aches. Our agony was to remain cloaked with smiles. How dare they attempt to show their pain so openly now! I hastened to arrange the clothes on the wire clothesline outside. Christeen had smartly abandoned me in my confusion. She was now next door agonizing like everyone. So close were our homes that I could hear the compassionate reassurances of the village people. They were uninvited and subtly predicted an unspeakable horror. After hanging our clothes, I crossed our boundary to meet with the strangers my family knew so well. They welcomed me with lethargic nodding and I understood then that their pain was too 53
great for words. I sat with them a while – like all good neighbours did. I listened to their fears and I prayed in my heart that Isleen would return and we would finally go back to being strangers. But she never came. We searched. We searched everywhere. Her family in Fond Jacmel had not seen her and none of her friends had any clues. The only clue was found in the words and actions of Jonas Marks – but we called him Matwiyo. Matwiyo was her step-father – being united with Everline, her mother, only by the laws of the rural lands. Antah, our other neighbour, had reportedly told someone that she had seen Matwiyo watching Isleen’s backside from behind the banana shed. What followed was a brief bantering between Everline and Antah. Antah accused Everline of loving her child less than her man. Besotted with grief, Everline boldly proclaimed Antah’s jealousy to the onlookers before asking her to leave. I watched Antah walking away – much like a dog robbed of his bone after a fight. But I knew the truth in her jealous conniption. Matwiyo was no saint. I’d seen him watching me once as I bent to retrieve my fallen purse. Caught in the sin, he’d confessed his desire to “tap my nice, round arse”. Appalled by his verbal breech of his shared love with Everline, I remained silent but he remained persistent in pursuing my nice round arse. He had even promised me new weaves every week if I’d let him touch it, feel it, hold it for a bit. Convinced of his desire to have me sin, I walked away – never looking back. This sin was common in the village. Last year, the villagers had been briefly shaken by accusations a three year old had made. In the comfort zone of her friends, she’d uttered the unthinkable: “Daddy make me touch his coco”. The utterance was followed immediately with silence, then prayers for the child who was deemed to be possessed and lastly … frequent beatings by her mother in a bid to exorcise the demon. Eventually, she was sanctified, silenced and restored as a well-meaning member of the village. Now listening to Antah’s exposé, I couldn’t help but wonder Matwiyo’s involvement in Isleen’s disappearance. Many people were wondering the same too. The whispers had broken the season of despair which engulfed our yard that day. We grieved together until night came. By the end of the night, three things were certain – Isleen was missing, some people suspected Matwiyo and Everline was standing by her man. I returned broken to my space that night for part of our yard was missing – Isleen. The following day, the city police came. I stood in our yard watching as they spoke to Matwiyo. I could not hear what they were saying but I was convinced that they knew of Matwiyo's old ways. They watched him curiously. They captured the movement of his lips, the way his hands swayed rhythmically as he attempted to reveal the answers they sought and the way his gaze moved immediately towards the ground when he wished to capture the sadness of his heart. He was a fallen man and he needed them to know that. Later, Pa came home from the rumshop with the latest happenings. An ugly wave of rumours had crashed upon the village again. It was rumoured that Matwiyo had demanded sex from Isleen telling all the men in the village how sweet Coolie blood was. Being a good, repentant, unmarried, pregnant, Christian girl - she'd refused. Shortly after, Isleen had disappeared. The day 54
after her disappearance, Matwiyo had spent the night in the rumshop drinking and hitting the tanbou the solo singers used rhythmically amidst refrains of â€œCoolie ka wimen dou!â€? Many had heard his chorus and many now believed that Matwiyo knew where Isleen was. The days continued to move slowly into the week. By then, nightly memorials were being held next door. I never attended them. How could I - knowing so little about the short, plump, crosseyed, coolie-haired girl next door? But so close were our dwellings that secrets never slept. One night - exactly four days after Isleen disappeared - I sat in the balcony overlooking the crowd which usually gathered next door. And there Joshua, a man who many jokingly betrothed to whisky, was telling of his difficult day in the garden. According to him, there was a smell so bad that his dog had refused to follow him into the garden. He'd search along the river called La Maison but not a dead animal was in sight. Frustrated, he'd returned to his weeding but gave up soon after for his breathing had become laboured. I listened as the men who gardened near La Maison attempted to explain the source of his troubles that day. Some blamed the trouble on Mr. Phil who had been known to use dynamite in the river on the many occasions when his baited line repelled the fish. But there was no dead fish or crayfish in sight. The troubled farmers who frequented the area decided to search La Maison the following day. It was decided that Joshua would lead the charge - being the one most affected by the mysterious smell. For a moment, the men forgot my missing neighbour and all (including Matwiyo) had committed themselves to ridding La Maison of its stench. They planned to gather at 6am near old Fedewrick's Dancehall with cutlasses and boots. Matwiyo was asked to bring along a spade being known as the man who dug all the graves for animals who were usually poisoned by our neighbours. At 6am, the men set out to La Maison to search the stinky banks. Pa went with them that morning - being a good neighbour. Nearly four hours after they departed, he returned. He burst through the door frantically. I had no time to ask about his troubled face. "We find her! We find her!" He blurted out. "Who Pa? Isleen? She alright?" I dropped the broom and ran to him. I needed to know whether Isleen was alright. I needed our yard whole again. "De girl tear up bad, bad, bad," he responded solemnly. The look in his eyes was one of horror. "Tear up? What you mean Pa?" I asked. Then he told me the truth. They'd been searching the area for the source of the stench. Then, Joshua saw what appeared to be a small leg entangled in rubbish under the bridge. Curious, he'd used a stick to poke it in an effort to pull it out. With a sudden rush, the compressed garbage and all its holdings gushed from the box culvert. It was more than a leg. Caught in the debris was Isleen. Pa said that she appeared before them in the company of worms. She was naked and bruised.
Isleen 's long, coolie hair run on her breasts which were spoiled with teeth marks and her skin was pale as death. Pa said that he'd never seen such bruised legs. "Tifi-a dékalé," he explained. Pa cried that day and I held him. I cried too. I never saw Isleen. They say she was beautiful in death. For days, our yard remained silent. There was no wake for the dead. Who would host it? Who would attend? Matwiyo had been taken taken to jail - having confessed to rape and murder. Everline had been taken to the city hospital - a bad case of shock they say - and her other family members were too ashamed to show their faces. When Everline finally returned, we never saw her. Pa said that it was shame that kept her away. She could not bear the accusing stares in the yard. Isleen was buried two weeks later in the cemetery above the bridge. I mourned for her silently. I never shed any tears openly but my heart ached because part of our yard was missing. There were no wails around me either - just silence. ______________________ Notes “Coolie ka wimen dou” – Creole phrase implying “Coolie (woman) moves her waist sweetly. Tanbou – Creole word for “drum”. Tifi-a dékalé - Creole phrase implying "The young woman was severely beaten". Zafè Bitasyon – Creole phrase implying “affairs of the countryside”.
Tanesha Baptiste Fading Colours
There is a distinct color in her eyes that I had associated with her knowing. Her eyes then was a world of passed memories- of nighttime kisses and bustling streets. Oft’ times though, they were washed in waves of forgetfulness and she would look at me, her eyes seemingly emptied of its lively content and ask me my name I’d smile My mother was in her late forties. Forty-nine to be exact. Strings of white tangled within her matted hair. Signs of wrinkles around her eyes — the events of hardship rather than age. Permanent scowl Parenthesis around her mouth— a production of the chronic folding of her lips Her hands a map of veins— strong, rough 56
Her posture upright Self- educated Caribbean born Black Woman Alzheimer’s The diagnosis had come early “Early onset.” The doctor had said My mother had turned her head away then I wasn’t to see her cry Today, she is sitting on the verandah, the departing evening light casting shadows along the profile of her face I watch through the slit-ted portions of the louvres as I also do for that sign of color, that pre-empt memory But like before, she is nothing but a casket of her former self— holding hostage a life that once was I wait in anticipation — unrequited anticipation A heavy ache in my chest — a daily reminder That I could not remember for her But I wish I could remember for her The days when she was not constructed of aches and fading colors. When neighborhood children sat at her feet, their faces illuminated by the orange street lights and the promise of a new tale — stuffed gratuitously with adventure I wish she could remember the days when she and I on upturn buckets would sit, scaling and gutting the evening’s catch of fish. Her dress then, would cover her knees And her hands familiar with this labor would in two swift motions, rid the fish of its outer casing I wish she could remember how she danced with my father one late night in the semi-darkness to a low soulful tune and how she whistled that same tune the morning after I wish I could remember the distinct rise and fall of her laugh And how it filled my universe I wish I could forget those days when the lights began to extinguish I wish I could forget the faded blue and vacant white 57
I wish I could forget when this visitor became a permanent resident Locking away, beyond all reach, the things which made her, her I wish that I could forget that she did not remember Thereâ€™s a distinct color in her eyes that I had associated with her knowing Her eyes then were a mixture of excitement and daydreams But today she looked at me and asked me my name And I held her hand and I smiled.
III SEASON OF ADVENTURE
I Going Get Myself A Pit-Bull I going get myself a pit-bull A nice big ugly one I going tie him by mi meter Mek him deal wid the technician Imagine I owe dem $100 Fi the last light bill wha come And the boy a faasty wid mi Bout him wi tek my meter down Den him call the gyal next door mi Di one who love to pry An tell her mi owe $1000 Which is a damn lie So I raise my voice pan dem And grab two big rock stone You waa fi see dem scatter Like when gunshot a fire down town So I going get myself a pit-bull A nice big ugly one I going tie him by mi meter Mek him deal wid that technician.
Eric Rose Stay At Home Morning Was a dreadful time For him As he awoke Each day With the realization That Love Was not for him. Opening his eyes To the view Of no one Laying next to him No one At the breakfast table No one To ask him How his day was No one For him To give his heart to To smile with To travel the world To stay at home To share his dreams To hold him â€Ś No one For him to adore For him to protect For him to cheer for For him to comfort. No one â€Ś But then, One morning, He met her, And now Morning Is a wonderful time For them.
Wendy Fulton Steginsky Coot Pond: A Fine Still Life Punts with flaking paint, fishing boats and small outboards all point due north, obey an invisible conductor. I stop, breathe in their elegant lines and harmony, aware they’ll shift soon on this restless salty wind. Slate clouds seeded with rain cover the cove’s mouth: jagged rocks, eye teeth on either side cut off any exit to the ocean at low tide. Mangroves bristle like stubbly chins, snake along a grassy perimeter, the wind rippling them almost lithe, their roots oozing mud. I’ve wandered down from the cemetery on the hill, wonder if I hear, tugging at the air, the shape of my mother’s voice, a viola’s sonorous chords, tempting as pendulous Surinam cherries on the roadside hedge: the dead a beat behind my heels. I glance sideways, just in time to catch all the boats swing again, change direction, as I knew they would.
Ian McDonald Red Moon long days unclouded sun smoke all over the savannahs blurring all the brightness of the land streams down to trickle or to stone tremendous moon rises in the night blood red as it soars aloft because of beauty I remember this also it was the vivid time the ranchers showed we how to ride it’s hard to ride a horse first time I remember the ranchmen matter of fact riding with me on their safest horse afterwards shone his trembling coat fed him oats and chopped star apple how can I forget the red moon in the sky and the big horse nuzzling my hand for star apple in the night the red moon rising above the vast savannah
Look Away Dan Joe’s work permit expired, but he stayed in the islands, drifting over to Tiger Cay. The place was insignificant enough, he figured. He put his skills to work in a helpful way— fixing marine engines, laying tile and doing trim work—without putting anyone local out of a job, so no one asked questions and he didn’t offer answers. He kept to himself, earning just enough to get by and enjoy the weather and the quiet—a big difference from Chincoteague and its equal lashings from winter winds and his ex-wife. He found a landlady willing to trade a couple of rooms for handyman work, and he furnished the 63
place from the dump. This solitary life suited him. Approaching 50, he knew that women were trouble and the sex overrated, so his pleasures were in work and fishing. The only things going against him were a natural amity and helpfulness. He’d fixed a couple of washing machines and bicycles, so now he couldn’t walk through the village without women and children calling “Danjo,” reducing his semi-Southern name into something exotic and foreign. These were exactly the qualities he wanted to avoid, aspiring to a more cockroach existence in the cracks and corners. But people on Tiger Cay were content to look away from the rules and let him be. He hurt no one, didn’t stir the waters. Just some loopy white guy living much the way they did, getting by in the cash economy. Which was why the crazy lady who came out of the bush to his door one night upset him so much. He was cleaning a fish on his stoop as evening started to fall in that sudden manner common in the islands. He was hungry and eager to get inside and fry up this catch, but a voice came out of the pine shadows, followed by a remarkable sight. “Danjo! Danjo!” She was hardly five feet tall and so thin her limbs looked like the remains of a charcoal fire, making her long, wild hair the largest thing about her. The kinky strands went in every direction imaginable, hanging to her waist but also flying to the heavens. Dan Joe thought of Halloween witches, of Baba Yaga, of Toto in a basket. “Who’s there?” he asked carefully. “Danjo! You fix things. You fix my light?”
Muscles that he hadn’t realized were tense relaxed. Though he didn’t recognize her and her manner was odd, this was just another village woman asking for help. “Yeah, sure. Who are you?” She had reached his porch light and now seemed less strange, just unkempt and more forward than most island women. “I’m Charlotte. Charlotte Gibbs. You can help? I need light.” The thickness of her speech made Dan Joe wonder. Was she retarded? Drunk? She motioned to him, and he reluctantly covered his fish with a bowl and followed. She pushed through cowbush and sisals to a path he didn’t know existed and led him to a small wooden shack less than 300 feet away, another surprise. He stepped into the darkening room and glanced at its one light bulb, dangling bare from the ceiling. Just a burnt-out bulb? Maybe. She stood too close to him, following his glances with her own. “Do you have another bulb?” he asked. She nodded and fetched a new one from under her sink. Okay, Dan Joe thought, this person, whoever she is, isn’t entirely feral. There’s a spare bulb. But when he screwed in the new one—the woman hovering expectantly—nothing happened. He looked out the open door, saw light elsewhere and had a hunch. “Have you paid the electric company?” She looked away. “James does that.” “Who’s James?” “My cousin.” “James Gibbs? Here in Black Rock?” She nodded. Dan Joe knew the man, owner of the local grocery store. He was somewhat moody, so you never knew if he’d greet you with a smile or a grunt, but he seemed reasonable enough. Dan 65
Joe figured this was just the usual island disregard for deadlines and timetables, something easily solved. “Look,” he said. “Why don’t you come and have some dinner with me, and we’ll work this out tomorrow.” “Fish? I like fish.” “Yes, fish,” he said, wondering again about her mental capacities. He led her to his home, fed her and engaged her in a meandering, frustrating conversation. Occasionally she was lucid, and he pieced together a rudimentary family history and personal story of an oddball “maiden aunt” who’d received no education and got by on the government pension plus sweeping and mopping floors for her cousin and other small businesses. In the middle of a narrative, however, she would suddenly grasp at her hair and scream, or stop talking and fix a stare on some object in the room. Dan Joe began to recognize mental illness. He walked her home and resolved to have a talk with James Gibbs, realizing it would have to go beyond the simple matter of the electric bill. It was not a fruitful conversation. As he unloaded his truck into the store, Gibbs was guarded, even suspicious, about Dan Joe’s questions. “She’s related?” “Yeah.” “She okay in that place by herself?” “Yeah.” “Anyone looking in on her now and then?” Gibbs threw down a crate of carrots. “You complaining, Danjo? You want me to make her stay away from you?”
Dan Joe had been helping unload, but stopped. “No, no. I was just concerned. And since she’s your family…” “Ain’t nothin’ wrong in the family. She’s just crazy. And no one else is gonna get it.” “Get it? James, that ain’t it. No one’s saying …” “No, you ain’t saying. She got problems, but they’re her problems. We ain’t got it.” Dan Joe got it. His instincts told him to shut up and let this odd view—fear, actually— alone. They finished unloading in silence. Dan Joe bought a chicken and several potatoes and took them to Charlotte that night. “This okay? You can cook these?” She nodded, then suddenly hugged him. Great, he thought. Helping Charlotte, though, wasn’t so much of a task. He checked on her regularly, and she smiled at the attention. Other islanders conveniently ignored their quirky growing friendship. The store began to automatically charge her purchases to its “Danjo” account. Locals seeking Dan Joe for fix-it help would yell in the direction of Charlotte’s shack, where he might be putting on new shingles or plugging up holes against rats. Eventually, he became the go-to guy when Charlotte “misbehaved,” urinating in the hardware store when the owner criticized her mopping or refusing to pass by jeering high-school toughs to enter her cousin’s store. He would arrive, talk kindly to her, lead her away from the conflict. He wasn’t fooling himself, though. Maybe he had gone on the water instead of college way back when, but he knew enough about basic psychology to see his own guilt within his care 67
for poor Charlotte. It was laughably transparent. He’d left his mother and her crumbling mind at that place in Maryland, only to find another needy, addled woman here on Tiger. Served him right, but he wasn’t going to fuss about it. Things were what they were. He wondered if he’d have to bury Charlotte in expiation for his absence at the other funeral. So far, it looked that way. There were Gibbses all over the island, but she was alone, banished from the family. Charlotte, of course, was blissfully unaware of Dan Joe’s conflicts. After years of celibate simplicity and a sex education that balanced between Nurse Colleen’s admonitions and the dirty talk she heard from the drunks under the crossroads tree, she had a boyfriend. Dan Joe knew this, because that’s what she called him. “Boyfriend, did you catch any fish today?” “Boyfriend, James says I need a better mop.” “Boyfriend, I need some clothes.” Dan Joe dutifully steered her to the practical. “Char honey, what exactly do you need? Tshirts? Skirts?” She gave a throaty laugh. “No. The personals.” He squirmed a little. “Uh, okay. I’ll see what I can do.” He figured that this was where the family could come in without too much fuss. He knew better than to ask anything of James’ wife—a haughty queen, carefully coiffed and dripping with gold—but he’d heard of a daughter recently back from school abroad who worked at the hotel on the other side of the island. He put on his one shirt that still had all its buttons and hitched over. Thalia wasn’t hard to find; she was at the front desk, serving as clerk, concierge and assistant manager. Her braids were elaborately arranged and her nails long and jeweled. Dan Joe, 68
seeing the mother in her, briefly considered just turning around, but he’d come all this way. He introduced himself and explained Charlotte’s need. Thalia was confused. “She’s that crazy woman in the bush? What does she need clothes for?” “Well, I’m not talking fashion. She needs, you know, the practical things. Underclothes. And I thought that a woman, someone from the family…” “Don’t make her my family,” Thalia said curtly. “We’re just fine.” There it was again, some notion that Charlotte’s problem reflected poorly on the rest of the Gibbses. “Come on, you’re an educated young woman. So she’s got a few problems in her head. She needs a bit of help. It’s not like you’re going to catch anything from her.” Thalia’s sharp look told him that she thought otherwise. “Look,” he continued. “I’m just a fella and I don’t know about these things. Here’s some money. Just take her and get her straightened out with bras and undies and things. It’s the least we can do.” Thalia tucked the bills into her purse. “Yeah, okay,” was all she said. And that’s all she did. When Charlotte still hadn’t heard from her cousin’s daughter a couple of weeks later, Dan Joe cut his loss, made some guesses and bought some things. He never found out if they fit or if she was wearing them. And he hated that his shopping for her called attention to him in a new way. The shop owner wasn’t known for her discretion, and islanders loved gossip. Soon even fishermen were making teasing remarks about “Danjo’s girl.” He just smiled and let the comments ride, knowing that protests would make the situation worse. The idea of simply giving a hand to the poor woman was apparently less entertaining than the 69
rumor of a sexual liaison. But this would die down, and next time he’d get what she needed somewhere off the island. It irked Dan Joe more that his involvement, rather than rallying others around Charlotte’s plight, seemed to drive them away. One by one, those who had given even minimal support fell away. Remo at the hardware store told her he didn’t need his floors done, and when Dan Joe inquired why, he replied, “Well, she has you taking care of her now, and we don’t need a crazy lady scaring the customers.” James Gibbs stopped sending his Haitian worker over to chop weeds around Charlotte’s shack. Even the church ladies stopped including her on their monthly visits to the elderly, unaware that she had craved their company even though the praying bored her. It all seemed the opposite of what Dan Joe wanted: she was now completely invisible and he’d been noticed. He couldn’t step out now, though, without having it seem a betrayal. So when Charlotte told him James had stopped giving her spending money out of her pension check, Dan Joe felt the magnet of trouble. “C’mon James, give the woman her money.” “She don’t need no money.” “No? How’s she going to get food? How does she get to the clinic? Why does she have to wear that same dress day after day? What about her bills?” “I pay her bills. That’s what that money’s for.” “So why’s her electricity keep getting turned off? Why does Nurse Colleen have to dip into the poor fund to treat her?” James glowered. “Dan Joe. You keep your nose out of it. This is family business.” 70
Dan Joe snapped. “Oh, she’s family when money’s involved, right? But you don’t want to have anything to do with her when she needs help. Where was the family when she got sick from eating the food that spoiled in her fridge?” “Get out!” yelled James. “Get out, and stay out of what ain’t your business.” Dan Joe’s cautious, experienced side was moving him out the door, but contrariness got his tongue. “If you’d show some concern I wouldn’t have to. Some family, not even taking care of her basic needs.” He was gone before James could reply, but Dan Joe shook with anger. He stomped his way to his place and threw around some tools and clothes until he calmed down. He was better, enjoying a cold beer out front while looking at a 10-year-old West Marine catalog, when the police arrived. Simon and Carrington were in uniform, but Dan Joe pretended it was a social call and popped caps for them. Simon, the chief, took a swig and sighed. “James was by,” he said. “He’s talking about going to Immigration, turning you in.” Dan Joe wasn’t surprised. “That what you want too?” “I can talk him out of it. But this isn’t good, Dan Joe.” Dan Joe nodded. “I lost my temper. It’s terrible how he treats that woman.” “I know. But he’s the one with the burden to care for her. It’s best we all stay out of it.” “Can’t you—can’t the government help her out? She’s sick is what she is. It’s not her fault, and it’s only decent to make sure she’s kept out of trouble.” Simon put his beer down and leaned forward. “Dan Joe, you’re a good guy. But if James calls Immigration…” He let the sentence hang. “Hell, I don’t want trouble for anyone. How about you backing off, and everything will go back to normal.”
“Backing off? What does that mean? You want me to stop making sure she eats and isn’t sick? Let her sit in the dark?” “No, no, that’s not it. Just keep it cool with the family. Don’t rub their noses in it.” “And the next time she has an episode? When they have to pay attention to her?” “Well, you’re the one she trusts. I’m sure someone will still call you.” Dan Joe grunted. “Either you want me or you don’t want me. Maybe I’d rather go to jail, get deported.” Simon ran a hand over his head. “Don’t make this harder than it is. Just be cool.” “I will if you will. Let’s just say you don’t know me, even though I can be useful.” The chief scoffed. “It ain’t easy to just say a man ain’t here.” Dan Joe looked at Simon a long time, maybe three, four beats. “Sure it is,” he said, then turned his head toward the bush. “Char, honey! Char” he yelled, then took a draw on his beer, eyeing the policemen over the bottom rim of the bottle. There was a rustle, then Charlotte, hair flying as it had been that first night. She stopped when she saw the uniforms and hovered by the cowbush. “It’s okay, baby,” Dan Joe said. “These guys were just asking me some questions. Now, I want you to come here, ‘cause I need you to watch my house while they take me to jail.” If the policemen were surprised, they had no time to show it. Charlotte flew toward Simon as if she were really on a broom this time. “Not Danjo!” she screamed, landing with enough force to make the surprised chief fall. The crazed woman quickly lifted her skirt and let loose a stream of urine. 72
“Get her off! Get her off!” But Simon’s assistant merely gaped. It was Dan Joe who calmly stood, lifted Charlotte by her waist and set her down beneath the stoop. “There are rags and water inside,” he said to Carrington, then turned his attention to Charlotte, who was shaking violently. “No, no,” he said softly, and continued crooning in her ear. She grew quiet, and when he released her she squatted with penitence by Simon as he flapped his pantleg to dry it. “Danjo says you’re good, you help,” she said. “He’s good, Danjo. He’s good. Please let him stay.” Simon stood, adjusted his soiled uniform and glanced at the white man now standing by the corner of the house, ready to scurry into any nearby shadow. “Who’s Danjo?” he asked. The cockroach smiled.
Wet Fields She loves to lie on cane trash; anticipate his light crunch subtle bends and bows of cane stalks bunched eager blood gallops in the dying afternoon. She takes him in, not concerned with the backlash he inhales heat, tongue slices trunks wet earth clawed in chunks they mind their moans, hide their betrayal. Yet she is haunted by her grandmother’s trial: no moon night, canefield a black stash her shivers incited his vicious crunch but that night Maroon desires pumped her Ashanti spirit burst through 73
and she filleted her master with harpoon Yesha Townsend The Rock Of Angels 1 The day his father left, Sideways learned the story of Ramshackle Moses and the discovery of Bermuda Beta. The lore states that Ramshackle was searching the seas in the late 16th century, roaming the oceans for the lost city of Atlantis (that had been rumoured to have resurfaced somewhere between the cold stream of the glaciers and the up-breeze of the tropics). It was then, in the calm of a windless night in 1609 that he found the Rock of Angels. The harmonic singing of the native beasts luring him from hundreds of miles out - to moor his vessel on their shore.
The Rock of Angels, as Aias explained, was an exact trans-dimensional duplicate of Bermuda. And on this Bermuda Beta, there were exact iterations of themselves and every person, animal and ghost on the island. Everything was there, but different. Bermuda Beta was a like a dimensional mirror to their island. Aias told Sideways of the impossibly blue sand and crystal pink waters, the endemic cedar that when barked and stripped, revealed a heart of emerald. He told him of the cahows, how they were three feet long and swarmed in the tens of thousands and hummed throughout the night in melodic inflections. And Sideways, in awe of the thought of the cahow, existing somewhere else in a volume upwards of thirty was floored. His history teacher had told him that the great Bermudian national bird was thought to have been eradicated shortly
after the discovery of the island. The settlers, plucked them out of the air and feasted on them until there were no more howls left to fill the sky with haunt. That was until the 1950s, when a nesting pair of cahows were found off the rocks in the bellows of Castle Harbour. There are now fifty or so, flying in and out of Bermuda, limping on their final leg of existence.
In their bedroom, on the floor and dim glow of their nightlight Aias told Sideways of the portals that flowed between Bermuda and Bermuda Beta. They were called alpha/beta trails, because they connected a universeâ€™s alpha and beta forms across dimensions. There were other trails: gamma/delta, epsilon/zeta and so on and so forth. But to current knowledge there only existed an alpha and a beta version of Bermuda in all of the universes and dimensions known to time. As in their respected worlds, they were the sole, the small and only significant to the people who lived on them.
According to Aias, the alpha/beta trails of the Bermudas were scattered across the islands as little trans-dimensional hotspots that appeared as nothing more than slight anomalies to the norm. Like, a dog bone where a computer mouse should be, or a desk lamp plugged into a casuarina. These were all slight glitches in the time space continuum appearing as random out of place objects - and wherein you could send an item of whatever you wanted, to the other you in the multiverse.
In their room there was a milk carton on the nightstand between their beds. Precisely where a lamp should be and was until it wasnâ€™t and then instead sat a milk carton, that seemingly had 75
appeared to Sideways out of nowhere. Some months after its arrival to their room Aias pointed out that this was their own A/B portal, and that Sideways could send something to his other him. Upon hearing this, Sideways had instinctively sprang out of his bed, pulled out the wooden crate beneath it and rummaged through the everything until a tattered cricket ball sat in his palm. Aias had gotten the ball signed for him, at that year’s Cup Match game by Clay Foggo, Sideways’ cricket hero. Clay had scrawled rushingly on the ball after half stumbling off the pitch in the 85 degree heat. He had gotten a duck. Caught out in the first innings of the second day without so much as a bat tap. There was a muted scent of rum when he asked for Sideways’ name and then half chuckled that, “Sideways, is not a real name.” The ball was one of Sideways’ favourite things. He slept with it for a few months, until Aias began to hide the ball in hard to reach places nights before bedtime.
Sideways placed the ball in front of the milk carton and looked at it intently. You can’t just stare at it. It won’t work that way! You have to be asleep.
So they went to sleep, and Sideways dreamed of the twinned beta island and its pink waves and its loquats the size of fists, with its cahows giant and circling through the night sky, lulling the night to slumber, harmonising by the thousands, in some ancient song.
The next morning when Sideways awoke his cricket ball was where he’d left it, but it looked entirely different than the night before. For one it sparkled, a million colours bouncing off of it and glittering in the sunlight and it was bigger somehow. While the ball before took up the 76
entirety of one of Sideways’ hands, it now needed two to support it. It looked like a star, a deep red glittering star. And in the middle near the seam was the signature of Clay Foggo blazed across the front in sharp metallic blue. Aias had explained to Sideways that when you sent things via alpha/beta trails, they come back slightly different, this change being the message to you from your beta self. It was a response in edit and usually a magnificent one.
In the months that followed Aias told Sideways more stories of Bermuda Beta and they sent more things through their A/B trail. The afternoon they walked in from school and found their mom at the kitchen table in her house coat and previous night’s clothes, staring at the papers in front of her and nursing a glass of Black rum; Sideways learned why Bermuda Beta was called the Rock of Angels. Aias had told him that unlike their island Bermuda Beta was never thought to have been haunted. While they were both enchanted islands there were no ghosts on the Rock of Angels. There were no hauntings of the long lost, there were visitations, something like an interpolation of an Old Testament parable; with light, music and the soft vibrating voice of a divine being. Loved ones didn’t die in Bermuda Beta, they ascended and turned into a beam of light, or wisp of breath, or fleck of sea coral. This was how the island sang.
The day their mom mailed back the divorce papers and forgot to pack their lunch, and didn’t move from the spot on the couch, where her hair had matted to her face in a wash of salt; Aias had told Sideways about the burial of Ramshackle Moses. How he had wanted to be buried at
sea, so that he could return to Bermuda Beta everyday as a drops of the ocean and throw himself upon the shores that he adored so much.
In their island’s history, Sir George Somers had asked on his dying breath that his heart be buried in Bermuda Alpha. It still beat, somewhere out of step in the middle of St. George’s.
The night Aias found his mother sitting in the bathtub fully clothed and sputtering cries in between half-words, he lifted and carried her to her bedroom, cradled her there till she fell asleep and went to his room and told Sideways of Bermuda Beta’s archangel, Prince Mary, the once slave who heralded abolition and became a royal.
Whenever there was uproar Aias made shield for Sideways of folklore and legend. His stories of Bermuda Beta grew so long and intricate that Sideways started writing them down in the back of his History notebook. His book became legend, wherein the histories of Bermuda Alpha and Bermuda Beta slowly moved toward each other in text. During those first years, Sideways sent many objects to himself in Bermuda Beta, that all came back brilliantly altered and became heirlooms of wonder in his room.
—After Aias died Sideways no longer thought of The Rock of Angels and the alpha/beta trails. Sideways, a teenage man by then held onto no grandiose thought of the divine and charmed. After years of protection, pain had found him with an impale. The years Aias spent 78
sheltering his brother from the realities of the world, the grim and dimness of it, the cutting and blatant, had all begun to unravel the veil in front of Sideways in the swiftest form. The sun no longer rose with whistle, as Aias had done in the mornings to get Sideways to wake up. There were no flecks of diamonds in rainfall and song in the sway of the wind. For the first time, the world held no wonder to him.
In the underbelly of Sideways’ former shared bedroom with Aias there was relic still. Behind his bed, where once sat a nightstand, pressed almost into the wall was the tattered and ripped but still somewhat recognisable carcass of a milk carton.
About a month after Aias killed himself, Sideways began to lose things. Like most teenage men his room resembled something swamp like and mysterious, an endless pit of the missing where Sideways would tidy, search and then relinquish the object to the universe of the lost.
It was only then after he had reserved to defeat, that things began to reappear. First, the St. George’s Cricket Club fitted cap that had fallen behind his bed and had been out of sight and thought for years, had reappeared one rainy day. Sideways and Geo were at a beach on North Shore sharing a spliff when a rainstorm appeared out of nowhere. They scrambled to find shelter under a palm tree and when they had Geo noticed that Sideways’ entire body was drenched but his head was completely dry. Sideways had no probable explanation to offer but from then on he was known as the boy to dodge rain drops.
One day he lost the first three pages of his Biology coursework on the dragonfly somewhere in transit between Smiths Parish and Hamilton. For about a week after that a small swarm of dragonflies followed him wherever he went. They even reappeared on the day of his actual paper presentation, where they flew into the classroom and buzzed through the air, landing on top of notebooks, high-top fades and backpacks.
Sideways did not see these things, he knew not of the returns. He walked on his Isle of Devils haunted by the memories of his brother. Knowing nothing of the visitations he often swatted away any inclination of message. He became a hollow thing, an instrument to funnel the storm in and out of chest, to rise and collapse to pose as breath.
There were days when he remembered everything in detail, a past resurgence of ail, the shield of Aias shattering to ruin and failing to defend its protected. On these days he thought of his father and of how his motherâ€™s liver was withering to prune and of how his brother had lay naked on the floor of his apartment for three days, before anyone found him, mouth agape and yawning with the arm of a record player knocking over crackle, still spinning out of the groove of a Coltrane record. On these days his face sunk in and he walked the streets of his island in ghoulish sway. No one asked him how he was doing, he sifted in and out of parties, days and time. It was then he learned how you can die and still live. A pre-disposed history returned to him, long dithered in his memory as bedtime stories and uproarious re-directs. It was a history of Bermuda Alpha and the haunting howls of the island. How they slandered it to the devils and avoided it by miles. How they talked about its claimings, vessels of the sea, searching for new 80
worlds but finding hell in its reefs. The island, where nothing ascends, only falls to ghost, to wander until the end of all things. He found this history in his veins and sounded it whenever he spoke, if ever, his voice a wailing screech trying to become song. He sounded like the things the Alpha island used to sound like, vexed, when there were more hurricanes then sun and when there were more cahows then anything and their cries filled the air with little room for much else. —Postscript: In the primary school pages of Sideways Cyril’s History exercise book, The folklore states: that sometimes things can be transferred to Alpha and Beta dimensions without trails. There were exceptions, the note said. When deemed necessary, by the standards of the multiverses, the trails will open indefinitely and impose upon its twinned dimension, the subconscious messaging of the other. Where there can be anomalies to the norm, for however long as needed. The messages will send and transmit out of reflex and with charge. When these things happen it is known as a “divine intervening.” Where things thought to have been dead can exist in space between time. In the case of Bermuda Beta, a place somewhere enchanted in song, where form and function can change at least three times in the blink of a day; a divine intervening message to its Alpha can be as simple as a patch of ocean cresting in brilliant pink in the noonday sun or a faint whistle, at the dying of sunset, where it once was at dawn.
Obediah Smith Voices Of The Living Voices Of The Dead (Of Cave People of the Himalaya) 81
living, how limited the things we know about ourselves limited what we are able to tell compared with what remains, found, dug up by archeologists, examined, using one scientific test after another can you think that if they were encountered alive they could themselves say who they werewhere they had come from what comes sharply to mind though is that many among us, alive and well live without knowing very much about ourselves have but a flimsy grasp of our identity fascinated by the fact that we can, dead, say more about ourselves; our remains in the hands of scientists able to take us apart, examine bits and pieces reduce to powder, teeth or this or that part, to get at our DNA difficult difficult to get to know some people in person so many of us know so little about ourselves alive, we might stand in the way of our being able to be explored amazing to watch and to listen as archeologists put flesh back upon bones clothes back on bodies or find that this or that somebody wore no clothes recreate a life, tell its story, while the subject is without words is utterly silent 82
but in that state, able to assist in that state, so much to say about who they were about how they existed so very able to scream then that they existed
IV THE PLEASURES OF EXILE
Venice, My Africa On the Ponte di Rialto I watch myself, a wave, glide on stretched out distance of times and seas. Rialto shivers like the lagoon’s lacy contours. What subtle seduction is this? The dream of marble in my veins, waves gliding to the distant country and back to this bridge. To the distant country where I first learnt the name Rialto, through Shakespeare taught in a Jamaican tongue, where I let it ring and echo and disappear into time. Now I come and find it made real, stand on it and feel the marble, walk upon it and on Serene Venice, existing outside of my mind. Outside of my mind, but this soaring of the senses I have felt before. This verse resounding in the shell of my ear; like curling flames, the brushes of Bellini, Tiziano and Giorgione, Tieopolo and Tintoretto. Like tinkling, the names, arpeggios scuttling across the mind, small words igniting, creating the miracle of this light, over the Canal Grande and its vivid gondolas, over vaporetti, cobblestone streets and remote bridges, between houses whose walls never tire of the water's lapping tongue – I know the sound –, under ancient bridges and between houses, the lagoon’s mist dancing alert movements on walls. I know the sights, I know the sound, I know the rhythm resounding in the shell of my ear. A memory not remembered, forgotten and haunting, the air is filled with bits of meaning in mosaics that look silently into time, that brim with sublime light, how they move me as if they were something else! Not just ornaments on swathes of metallic plaque. Another time. 85
The marble takes me there when the columns become unreal. I lose myself in their dream-like shapes and ghosts. Marble! It might have been fantasy that filled me, fantasy feeding on lack of marble, on lack of columns and steles. But it is more than that, more than mystique or subtle envy. Words come like multitudes on the waves, thronging the air with their restless bits of meaning, and this city around whose corners the mind turns endlessly, never tiring, seeking no reason but discovery, each lapping of the lagoon's tongue a page turning, each movement fluid, each sound subtle and smooth, leafing lost memories. So I claim free union with this home I now discover and those I already know, naming myself, Adam of the Seas, swaying to the rhythm of this quest, finding bits of meaning here
Philip Armbrister Elegy for the Memories of Her I don’t put sugar in my coffee anymore It’s still satisfying just as you had said Without clutter without cobwebs Delicious and delightful I don’t miss the sweetness like I crave the surprise of tobacco on your tongue The serenity of your spirit lingers still I do not move on Once I bought a pack of Marlboro Lights Smoked two puffs of one Just to feel you between my lips The after taste kept you close all day I used that day to talk to you 86
To remind you of the promises I had made To hear you say my troubles weren’t much That I should travel more, explore You dissipate I cling to you Yet I should move on Because you have My mug overflows with memories I think of you with every sip I smile as you cajole And ponder Should I also give up milk
Jason Allen-Paisant Under the Duppy Tamarind at 6 A.M. To Heather Archibald
Silver breeze blowing through guango trees rooster crowing I’m first on sight to listen to the melody Ten long years I hadn’t listened to the breeze Thinking alone on a bench is not homelessness not wheels, engines or feet Why ask anything of the breeze but simplicity and healing? Do not disturb the cackling of chickens I want to hear them come and go Red bunches of flowers 87
from the duppy tamarind tree mean welcome, Iâ€™ve longed to see you Youâ€™re a different human being when you wake up here Let me get caught up in this network of life, learn how to shine and shake like the flowers, the biggest stars. Debarun Sarkar Bengali I A language I speak in the house and since I moved back to
in the streets Calcutta
I can read the bus signs the street addresses below the shop signs but I can't read the calligraphic and it takes me too long to finish reading a page I speak it fluently but my vocabulary stumbles whether the eloquent or the
Sanskritic tatsam words street slangs forever morphing
I think in English I write in it and I speak in it and unlike much of the diasporic guilt ridden demographies I feel no guilt just like the rappers who have forgotten Swahili the Caribbean, dub poets who made English their own.
V NATIVES OF MY PERSON
Jason Allen-Paisant Fear No Men Must we imagine the trees at dark night, the moonlit fields and woodlands, the banana leaves and their bizarre anthropomorphisms? Must we imagine the moon growing full and strolling in the sky, the clouds that suddenly veil the light, covering the earth in darkness? Must we imagine the moment a gust of wind shakes the branches, and when, as if awakened out of its torpor, a patoo begins to cry? Must we imagine silhouettes rising, gigantic and black; the involuntary step backward from a human shape and the gasp of terror one makes? Must we imagine the night and its spirits? Must we imagine that, because of fear, fear of roaming men, more than of duppies, imagining the night is all we will do?
Rajendra Shepherd Hi Mom, Bye Mom Dear Mom, Do you remember the evening I told you I was in love with Joshua? You and I were staring out the kitchen window as the sun dipped below the highway. We weren’t looking at each other. I took at peep at your face as my words entered your mind and I’m sure I saw your pupils turn black in a flash of panic. Was I right? I know your expression didn’t change. Your steaming cup of Milo just sat there on the ledge, untouched, and I always wondered if you were really happy for me. You just said: “Lovely, son – yuh sure he go treat yuh good?” and when I said nothing you asked me about my classes at school. 90
At the beginning of the semester he would drop by my place after his evening drama class. Always with a pack of biscuits - coconut or guava - he would heave his tired self up my steps. The sound of cicadas would dance behind him and he would ask to bathe, saying he saw my light on as he was passing in the road. He would leave me to heat a pan of water for tea, cajoling me to take care of him like he was my boy. When he was done he would walk out to my gallery in my vest and short pants, his head smooth like a pebble. He and I would watch the moon and stars, the way you taught me to – looking up from the trees as a marker, so we could see the way the earth was turning. It’s amazing that we’re on this giant rock, he once said, spinning in space, and all these lives and dramas are playing out on the surface. Life seems so important when you look at it from close up, but seeing us as a speck, spinning in space, I wonder what God says? I replied, surely he doesn’t mind who’s sexing who and whether we’re vegetarian or not; which celebrity is cheating on who, and how the economy is doing. We laughed. Josh got me to go back to church. I know that made you happy, seeing us in shirt and slacks going to hear Pastor Harvey reveal ‘the word’. I don’t know if you realised this but Josh also led the worship team on Sundays and played pan for the choir. So there were reasons beside Harvey that we went. After a couple of semesters when the biscuits had dried up – quite literally, parlors keep their goods so long – he passes by one afternoon and says we should go for a drive to Macqueripe Bay. I had just finished an anatomy class so I was pretty tired from all the rote learning: that really is no way to fill the human brain, remembering tiny bits of flesh. I don’t want to be a neurologist anyway, you know that. I always said working in a community, with everyday people would be my thing. If you had had a doctor like me I’m sure you wouldn’t have lost your foot. Who gets sick from diabetes these days! It still disgusts me that we never complained to the hospital or Government about that Money Satan. I won’t go on about it Mom, I know it got you upset; and there’s no use now anyhow. Done is done. But we should have done more. That afternoon in Macqueripe, Josh and I packed a couple of cold Stag in my knapsack and wrapped them in bathing shorts and headed to Chagaramas. I don’t know what it was like in your day, but now taxis drive you through the long road flanked by its swaying bamboo and you can’t see the coastline till you’re up close. It was a Tuesday and really quiet. As we walked down the steps to the pebbly shore we saw a couple of youths splashing in the greenish water and a lonely white fishing boat, empty, bobbing near the rocks. It was only when we got right down to the water’s edge Josh told me a couple of his friends would be meeting us there. Josh and I crept over the stones into the rolling waves. It was magical, tipping myself onto my back and feeling the afternoon sun on my face. The trees on the slopes that border the bay grow all the way up to the crest, which keeps the place cool. So, there we were bobbing when I see Josh in the deeper water waving at two guys on the shore. One looked like Clint, mixed Black and Indian but more Indian looking with soft curly hair; the other was Spanish and had a gold splice in his front teeth. His name sounded something like “Paulo”, but I don’t recall it exactly. They came with puncheon rum and the three of them were on the shore getting tight. Then Josh 91
in his excitable way suggested we go diving off the rocks. You know how much I hate that kind of horseplay, but I went along with it anyhow. We clambered up some rocks, which I thought were quite slippery, but everyone else managed without too much trouble. I watched them take a couple of jumps and keep coming back, and they kept hassling me to go too. I stood on the ledge, my toes creeping over the edge of a rock like corbeau claws. I looked down at the churning water. My heart was racing. Then, suddenly I felt a force in my back and I was in the air, plunging, my arms and legs whirring. There was nothing around me. Just air. I think my heart stopped. I may have had a heart attack. Truly. And in an instant I hit the green and went under. Cold. I flung open my eyes and saw a rush of bubbles about me. A long silver fleck darted past. A barracuda, I think, or a sting ray. I started to scramble again, pulling myself up and then I saw a cloud of red drifting past me. I didn’t feel the pain, but I knew it was my blood. When I reached the surface, frightened and gasping, Joshua was looking down from on top with his two friends and he was rolling with laughter. “Fuck you…” and “cunt” and all kinds of words spewed out of me, but he just kept laughing, his echoes drowning out my venom till I was hoarse. I pulled myself past the little boat toward the shore. It felt like an age. By the time I reached the pebbles, the laughter had stopped, but nobody came to me. I sat there and cried Momma and grabbed my foot where I had sliced it on a stone jutting up in the sea. Joshua left me there. His friends had gone. I don’t know if they got scared at what he had done. But after that I didn’t hear from him for a good while. I had to hobble out to the road, and a family leaving the beach in their battered car saw me and offered me a drop. They lent me TT$20 to travel home. I was fuming, and for days after I just stared at my phone, waiting for THAT phone call so I could unleash a thousand more insults at him. It never came. When we did communicate again, I received a text one afternoon: “How yuh do?” I ignored it for a week. Then I sent a reply, by now almost a month after Macqueripe. I had quite a deep gash on my left foot between my big toe and the second toe. All I wrote back was: “Fuck off”. Mom, I’m sorry to be swearing, I know it would upset you. But here I think it is necessary. Joshua. I still think about him. He was very sweet, but when the time came to deal with problems he just made himself absent. After a while the fact that our schedules never crossed meant there was little chance of us seeing each other. And we never did lime in the same circles, so seeing him on the road didn’t happen either. I don’t know what I might say to him if I saw him now. Perhaps: “Hi.” How stupid, after time spent with someone, feelings, excitement and shared memories, an exchange becomes “hi”. That’s when “hi” becomes a proxy for “I’m hurt. You’re a bastard. Our lives are no longer enmeshed, or so I pretended. But the emotional pain means I refuse to say more. Never insult me by turning up where I might be, so that I, being the polite person I am, will have to utter ‘hi’ again.” Who knew that one innocent greeting could say so much?
As school rolled on I learned about organs and nerves, and this pretty girl from class, Monica, invited me to her birthday lime on The Avenue. She’s pretty hefty, so we call her ‘Thicky’ but honestly I think she’s overweight. There’s no polite term for a woman between ‘heavy but big boned’ and ‘obese’, is there? At least with a man you can call him “Fats” and nobody feels insulted. You know at school they call me “Chase” as in chaser that you add to alcohol. I take it because I’m mixed, but I don’t know what they’re suggesting really. So, we were on Ariapita Avenue liming by a bar and I saw this guy glancing at me from another table. My friends started teasing and saying he was sending me current. I pretended I hadn’t noticed, and then he sent over a round of drinks. Eventually Monica hailed him over. His voice was like dark chocolate and whipped cream, and the girls started fawning all over him. Myself and the other guy in the group just sat listening to his jokes and how he was a lawyer in Town. The night was really hot and we were outside at a garden table. All the girls seemed charmed by his easy confidence. Then he stood as if about to leave, having not said a word to me or Gary. The girls suddenly looked at me wide-eyed, stunned. I felt such an idiot. Then he reached in his pocket and handed me his business card and said: “Let’s continue this chat over dinner, you I want to understand.” When he turned and left the girls shrieked with excitement, saying he’s so hot, and he’s funny and clearly well off. I wasn’t sure if to feel insulted or flattered. My mouth was dry and I suddenly felt so awkward. Monica rubbed my back and said I was blushing. But I definitely wasn’t. I think I was feeling irritated by this man moving “stush”, waltzing off to his Mercedes parked in the road, proffering me his business card. Who does that, except in movies? The next evening I called him. I went in icy, asking brusquely what he could possibly need to talk to me about. But he just laughed and said: “I like you”. I pretended to be surprised. So he played along and apologized saying he hadn’t been sure how I might react, and that he was shy. I laughed, and we ended up chatting and he came and took me to the Hyatt for sushi. We drank champagne and he told me his name was Marcus, that he was married and that he had two kids, but that “they had an understanding”. It was nice not to be going out with a student. Over the next few months we went to Tobago for a sexy weekend. He took me to fancy restaurants and introduced me to his lawyer friends. He bought me a lovely pair of crystal drinking glasses for my birthday, which looked ridiculous next to my rum shop tumblers and cracked plates: imagine these two diamond-cut goblets that sparkled like a Cinderella slipper in my termite-eaten cupboards. It embarrassed me to take them because it meant he might ask to come over, but he never did. I could hardly say no to a gift though. That would have been rude. After Tobago the calls petered out. It had been three months into us liming and I called him to say I had printed a small photo album of our weekend away. He didn’t seem particularly enthused, but I shrugged it off. When I called next he started to talk about work getting busy. The liming got less and less and since I was busy with exams I tried not to take it on. Then one evening I went into town and my taxi stopped by the traffic lights in front of Sweet Lime. Guess 93
who I saw? The man who had wined and dined me had his arm stretched across a table, clutching a woman’s hand. My mind raced. Was it his ex-wife? A sister? It looked too tender to be family. I felt my heart was thumping and then it struck me: Marcus had never even asked to come by my apartment; had never spent the night. I felt sick. Like I’d been played. I was wearing a friendship band we had bought at Store Bay in Tobago, which I snatched off my wrist. You might think I was over reacting. But he never did try and call much after that. It ‘looked’ like we had just drifted apart, but I suspect it was part of his plan. I know now what you mean when you said: “Men are rats”: of course, that was the day you came off the phone to Daddy. If it’s true that some men are rats, it’s also true the rest are mice. A rat is strong and decisive. A mouse is meek and scampers in the face of the mildest fright. How you put up with that man I’ll never know. What could have possessed you to give over your freedom, ambition and body to that leech? People love to say, ‘no matter what – he was your father’ like it’s an accolade: an achievement to have made a child. How can the act of making a child be rewarded, when the product of your winning is tossed aside like a dirty rag. Was he ever around? To help, I mean? I never saw him. All I saw were your bruises and torn clothes: the evenings you drank rum from the bottle and smoked, trying to forget. You would take a pull on those foul cigarettes like the heat and smoke would burn out the guilt. I used to hide behind the curtain and hear you sobbing. Did you realise that Mom? Each time you cried, I cried too. That man abused us both even without putting a finger on me. What a pitiful legacy we’ve left - a battered mother and her gay son. Such a stereotype. If I had the facility I would turn our lives into a drama for TV or write a book. But who in Trinidad would find us exceptional? We’re like the mosquito, a public menace, tiny and almost invisible, but everywhere, and only spoken about as a pest. Mom, you should have done more to get him away from us, from me. His presence infected us, and look, now WE’VE infected society. You can get away with being you. Nobody points and marginalises you. But look what you’ve done to me. You’ve left me to face this alone: this disgusting, tawdry world of ignorance and evil. You, Mom, taught me how to love, and you let it be easy for me to lie in bed with another man without thinking about the consequences. Because you let a man beat you, you let a man control you, and when I said I’m in love with Joshua you never said anything to stop me. It was YOUR job to stop me being weak, to straighten the tree that bent in the wind. There was no need to let me grow so. Not long before you died, I met a nurse at the health centre who used to talk to me about dressing your wound. By then your mind was long gone, your eyes empty. I’d like to think that in your head you were 16 again, at school, worried about getting your hair braided and impressing granddad with stories of netball and how you wanted to sing in church. I told you all my stories but you just opened your mouth for another spoonful of rice. I gave you all kinds of mush in those days: potatoes and peas; curry chicken and rice; green fig and saltfish. You never complained. Not once. You. Just. Stared…
This nurse, Miranda, smelled of cocoa butter and was plump and strong. She had lovely eyes and her teeth were even and pretty. I had no idea she was falling for me. I would go and talk about you and she would listen long after her shift had finished and make me coffee and say she could close up the health centre, once we were done chatting. One evening we were in the doctor’s office; outside all I could hear were crickets and a large toad. The traffic on the road outside had long stopped and I started to wonder how she was going to get home. She said not to worry, switched on a desk light, and so we sat there with this low light and she started to tell me why she became a nurse. She was two years younger than me and lived with her aunt. She said she liked to care for people: it was her calling; how caring meant being able to see when people were hurting. She said I was caring too, looking after you; how she and I were alike, that we loved seeing people happy. I felt a chill. She was talking me down a road, and I knew where we were headed. Then it came out: how she’d always liked me. I was gentle and considerate, she said, and boys weren’t like that today. I giggled and tried to brush it off, but deep down all I could think about were the boys and men in my life. But I couldn’t tell her about Josh and Marcus. This poor sweet girl was staring at me, flitting her eyelids and I noticed her breathing getting heavy. She asked if I could walk her home. How could I say no? She only lived a couple of blocks away, so we headed out. She linked her arm through mine and I didn’t know how to pull away. “Are you nervous?” she asked at one point, this little nurse, 22, and me 6ft, man, at medical school. “Should I be?” was how I responded. I cringed as the words left my lips. It was like I was egging her on. On the road to her home, she slowed down, stretching out our moonlit saunter. I started to feel clammy. I told her I had to get home to feed you, and she said it would only be two minutes more to her front gate. So we walked on. Then, a few paces up, she nudged me against a brick wall. She looked up, her eyes glowing in the night, and she moved her button nose toward mine, and our lips grazed. I panicked. I wanted to pull back, turn away: but she would have felt awful and I couldn’t do that to her. So when she parted her lips, I did the same, and her tongue touched mine. She pressed herself against me, and I felt her heavy chest moving up and down with her breathing. When she pulled away, the light from the moon made her look like a cherub. She looked so sweet. I didn’t say a word. As she left, she said: “Now I know why you kept me talking. So you could walk me home.” I smiled. What a fucking idiot I am. How does that happen Mom? Everything Miranda was thinking, her desires, she told me as though they were mine. Like I was a mirror, she looked at me but saw herself. Of course when people do that they can’t possibly see anything but the truth. I did talk to her late, I did walk her home, I did part my lips when she kissed me. But that wasn’t what I wanted. Once she had gone inside, I practically ran home. My heart was thumping in my chest. As I got into the front yard, I had to hold the wall to keep me from collapsing. My mouth tasted sour. That was six months ago. Now here I am in your empty house, your night gowns in boxes. Your life reduced to documents, and a few items you used in your small, circular life. As the circles of your experience got smaller and smaller, your variety of needs shrank, and all THIS is 95
left for me. After you died I told Miranda I needed to “deal with things” and I suppose she’s still waiting for me to go and see her, to rekindle our “friendship” or whatever we were becoming. But I realised something last night. I didn’t know how to love Miranda. She cares for everyone, but who cares for her? She needs so much love having expended so much on others. How can I generate enough to fill her? You loved me, but you never stood up for what I needed. I realise that’s what Miranda needs, and that’s what I need. And now there’s no one who can love me. You were the only possibility because you knew me. And because you knew me, only you will understand why I’m doing this Mom. Now is the time for me to love myself with all the heart I can muster. Now’s time to show the world what love really is. Now it’s my turn to stop the mess. Now I’m saying goodbye. I know you would have understood. Always. x
Alan C. Smith Day 1: Again A moderately strong breeze, squeezing through fronds of a palm, owns the sound of the screech of a small terrified beast. I imagine that animal, eyes glowing amber with reflection of streetlight luminance, looking at me. Is he afraid of me, or of some other secret? Last night, 3 days into a 30-day stab at celibacy, I perched, impaled, eyeing Chunky Christian as he gazed reverently up at me, granite chest heaving fervently. I moved enthusiastically but gingerly, so that the impact of my body-bouncing would not hurt his black splinted wrist and bandaged calf, with its skin graft where the road had stripped it to the fat. His body-slamming was not delicate. I rejoiced in the divine ache. The healing of his body is well underway. Undeterred, I begin again; reclamation of this body of mine. 96
Day 1 begins again. Today.
Day 9: Can’t give it up today; it’s odd. Today, as I am pedaling in, it starts to rain; the reflection of streetlights in the droplets on my glasses, making intersecting webs of amber and white glare in my sight, so that I can barely see in front of me. But I’ve got the turns memorized. I like even numbers instead of odd, even numbers or 5. It is some sort of undiagnosed OCD, I suspect. I am working on it, the same way I am using this celibacy art project to explore undiagnosed sexual addiction. It isn’t that I am insatiable; it is about regret. It is about compulsion. I sleep with stupid people, or people I don’t like, or bad people or dull people or exes & enjoy it & feel bad. I often wish I could be like my Ex – Libra, of course – who sleeps w/every1 & every1 & every1 & every1 & feels nothing. I contract feelings. I deify. I demonize. I write songs. I write poems. I create monsters. I perform. I disguise. I get jealous. I flame on. I break dishes. I cannot breathe. I feel worthless. I feel hurt. I cry. I demand. I thunderstorm. I Baileys Bay. I Category 5. ‘swhy Why never called back. That’s alright. I wouldn’t take one thunderbolt back.
Day 10: The 1 Who Cooleth the Knife This morning I wake late, after tapping snooze 1 too many times on my iPad. It blows again. Through the large living room window I see the bay grape tree furiously waving her church fans at me, as if warning. I have never been 1 to listen to warnings. As I leave the house I discover that the door has been unlocked all night, while I slept a deep untroubled sleep. On our first official date, as we rolled around each other on my creaky, filthy futon, looking down at me, with all seriousness and intensity, the Bajan – yes another fucking Libra - crooned, all sexy rasp to me, I am drawn to you like a moth to a flame. What? I replied, but wouldn’t have heard him if he repeated it because of the foghorn in my head. Even if he had said, like a moth to a streetlight. I can’t actually do this, I thought. But I did. He had the name of an angel and the face of a hellhound. Certainly not a conventional or unconventional beauty, he was nevertheless something to look at and everything I liked; short, muscular, black, bald, dramatically hung. A long way down, a long, long way. I am not a size-queen; I just draw them that way. Despite our unfortunate and uncharacteristic, given his Librahood, lack of sexual chemistry, dude got me, and not a whole lot of folk truly get me. He was smart, funny and reveled in my artistry. In the beginning he did feel like an angel to me. Even with the boyfriend in Martinique. I would never have agreed to be his Bermuda boyfriend if I had not been suffering from the desperation and intense grief of the recently and most cruelly dumped. Here was I, found unworthy, and here was at least 1 someone who found me 98
worthy. I tried to get his opening line out of my mind. So what if he tried to woo me with a tired Janet Jackson/Alicia Keys with Maxwell/Madonna/Olivia Newton John/Robben Ford/Thrice/Thunder/ Hellyeah lyric line and went dancing every single Friday without me? Even without the coital chemistry challenge and the fact that he was a man with a stingy spirit and enigmatic in a way that was dull instead of sexy, our fling was destined to end quickly. I had been recently cut and the 1 who follows the knife must be sacrificed. Nancy Anne Miller Boiling Hot She rubs the silver pot, with Gorham’s polish as if her genie was inside, would waft out from the steam island tea makes in such a humid climate. Prepares triangle sandwiches, lops off dark crusts that heap on the kitchen counter as if caterpillars crawled out from frilly lettuce leaves, like sea’s wavy rim, the silk cap sleeves on smocked dresses made for the misses. Arranges a square into the four way cross of the Amen Corner in Paget, a treacherous passage through. Dons white gloves used for church and to serve among the fair English. Watches their skin turn earth brown, the harsh light claiming a geography of persons the empire sent across the world. The British sunrise on every commoner’s door back in London, an unblinking watchful eye, a fan spread wide open to cool down boiling hot countries. 99
Victoria Sarne The Rasta Man At the end of a dog-end day sad and dull and grey, I weep without tears for old unspoken griefs and mutating fears in the prison of my car. Its quiet emptiness insulates me from external intrusions comforts me in my delusions of self-pity. At the traffic light he bends to speak to me, the Rasta man, thin and tall, selling peanuts from his stall beside the road. He always greets me with a silent smile or hand across his heart as if I am a soul mate or a lover and yet we donâ€™t know each other. This distant greeting makes me smile and for a while I feel young again, a confirmation that I exist. I donâ€™t know why the Rasta man and I have this connection two strangers who have only spoken twice. I know even from a distance he always makes a difference to my daily travels 100
and I wonder what he would say if he knew he saved my life today. I am certain he is meant to be on that corner for a reason forever saving me.
Ian McDonald Smell of Basil wander about in great contentment watch her dig the kitchen garden great-boled tree undressing in the wind gold blossoms deck the browning grass not far across the ancient wall high tide sends up leaping waves sea-froth scents the garden air mixing with the smell of sunlight black earth dug with mould in beds she crumbles soil and sets the plants in place lettuce patchoi peppers red and sweet half-barrels sit in the big treeâ€™s shade filled with herbs she tends with special care parsley thyme rosemary mint and dill she shows with pride their flourishing sage and tarragon marjoram and bay smell this she picks me leaves of basil scrunched between her fingers at my nose years years ago still sharp and green
Obediah Smith Galloping Hooves Galloping Home For T.P. way up in your ice cream, making it melt as if we together made, Pie Ă la Mode hot apple pie, cold ice cream 101
two extremes come together, transform each other fork to cut into it, to scoop it up and eat it opposing temperatures make dessert delicious: juicy us I up in your ice cream, making it melt; hot and chill to make you tremble shudder together when the quiver in the bow is inserted and fired arrows shooting, jetting, you can contain when I unable to bear the sweetness, the pleasure, the pain of ecstasy, and I close my eyes: arrows as if fired into the firmaments what do you see- what do you feel, gripped by orgasm/in the grip of orgasm do you black out like medo you black out like men and see stars are you transported like me to other realms facing each other: faces in opposing directions as if I were going one way and you were going the way directly opposite thrust together like that, lying down or sitting up like when you're in my lap and I can hold and squeeze you facing each other, sitting up, ideal for kisses I up in your ice cream, making it melt thawing out what was chilly-cold unfolding all the wrinkles formed when, with legs together, you were closed; when you wore clothes stripped naked, both of us bare as the day we were born 102
I have this poem to comethis poem came before I came actually had to leave the bed to write this forgive this interruption; this intermission we had been at it though for hours from after 8 this morning it is now a quarter to four we have been at it for an entire working day get back in bed with you this time, I'm wailing: all the way to the finish line a sweaty jockey and a sweaty horse, when we cross the finish line I'd be in the stirrups, standing, carried away, unable to keep seated unable to sit down: you'll see and you'll be happy just as happy as me when the race is over and done with and we are one; when we'd have won
VI COMING, COMING HOME
The Reverend MacKenzie’s Daughter Margaret MacKenzie was as mysterious to her family and friends as she was beautiful. Her beauty had that delicate perfection of the finest porcelain figurines – the idealised features of the early Victorian age. She observed the world around her with dark brown eyes that glowed, but suggested not warmth and happiness, but a cold, almost haughty view of life, and she rarely emerged from her books for long enough to be drawn into conversation. An only child, she was doted on by her parents – the Reverend Matthew MacKenzie and his pretty but prim wife, Emma. The righteous reverend was a scholarly but rather secular, materialistic priest, whose own opinion of his scholarship and intelligence far exceeded that of his contemporaries. As the son of a planter and the only one of a large brood to have gained entry into Barbados’s newly opened Codrington College (where he had been educated for the priesthood) he felt fully justified in this high opinion of himself. Much of Reverend MacKenzie’s pride and self-righteousness came from the zeal with which he had applied himself to escape from the unpleasant environment of the plantation. His father had always assumed that their modest plantation would be Matthew’s inheritance, as the eldest son. “All this will be yours one day, Matthew, but you must work for it”, his father would say each Saturday, as he dispensed Matthew’s paltry earnings of a few shillings. However, the younger MacKenzie had hated every minute of the ten years he had worked as chief overseer under his father’s direction. He detested the monotony of the daily chores, the entrenched attitudes towards the slaves and the harsh conditions under which they laboured. Above all, he could not accept that they should be denied access to Christianity and the hope of salvation. The idea of entering the priesthood was the dream which sustained him. The minute the news spread that the newly appointed Bishop Coleridge, who arrived in Barbados in 1825, was determined to see the will of the famous Colonel Christopher Codrington fulfilled – to create a college for training priests and doctors in the beautiful buildings on the Codrington plantations - he had made up his mind. He set his heart on escaping the horrors of the plantation by entering the new college and studying for the priesthood. It would take several years for both the bishop’s and MacKenzie’s dreams to be realised. Meanwhile, he worked assiduously on the plantation, and resisted all the material and physical temptations the other overseers indulged in. In sharp contrast to his brothers and his peers, who seemed to live for carousing, drinking and courting, he became the very model of a temperate and chaste young man. He resisted the charms of even the most attractive girls to the point where his brothers made fun of him, even setting him up, to test his resolve, with the most tempting girls – both the socially acceptable and not so acceptable They then jeered: 105
“Man, yuh like yuh en nuh real man, yuh know!” This focused, abstemious life became almost an obsession. His mother often quoted the Bible verse “It is better to marry than to burn”, and she too tried, with perhaps too obvious intrigue, to arrange meetings with a series of marriageable young ladies from other plantations, and even a couple of cousins. But although he was attracted to one, Emma Harrison, a young lady from a wealthy family, he was resolute in his ambition, and he spent his social life, such as it was, cultivating the acquaintance of several priests, trying to pave the way for achieving his goals, and finally meeting and sharing these with Bishop Coleridge himself. His perseverance, as well as his education at the ancient Lodge School, was in his favour. For more than a hundred years the vision of Colonel Codrington had been unfulfilled, but a boys’ grammar school, The Lodge School, had existed in the grand old buildings, and Matthew, along with several other Lodge School boys, was awarded a place to study theology in the first class of the newly opened college. His dream was coming true, and with his eye on the future as a parish priest – an honourable profession – and in need of a wife, he made a bold decision. On the evening before his departure for the college, he secretly proposed to the previously spurned Emma who by then had reconciled herself to staying on the shelf. His proposal was most welcome, and she was prepared to wait three years for them to marry. Emma herself had only herself to blame for staying single so long. Like so many of her generation she was obsessively conscious of social class. After all, her father owned three plantations, totalling one thousand acres, with five windmills and nearly three hundred slaves. Her older sister had married for love – a humble overseer with limited prospects –and Emma had been determined not to do the same. And after all, the MacKenzie plantation was only two hundred acres and they obviously were not very well off. But having rejected so many unsatisfactory suitors, she was no longer receiving much attention, and the years were passing. When Matthew finally graduated, and had secured a post as curate at the little country chapel of St. Mark, in the rural parish of St. John, with a vicarage on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, they were both in their thirties and somewhat set in their ways. He was even more self-righteous now that he was a priest, and she even more prim – sustained and justified in her new life by the status of her husband. After all, it was far better to be the respectable wife and partner of a priest than ostracised as a down-at-heel overseer’s wife like her sister. When Margaret was born, she was the apple of both parents’ eyes. Emma doted on her daughter; she lay awake at night, alert for any possible cry. She recorded her first words and first steps, her every activity, then taught her to read and write, to sew and embroider, and in due course explained to her the realities of womanhood. This continuous contact and mentoring created an intimate but limited, almost stifling family circle. It was a world of order and routine, of vigorous observation of social etiquette and religious fervour, punctuated only by Sunday worship (three times every Sunday and children’s Sunday school until she was thirteen) and by the occasional visit of a new parishioner or some of her cousins. 106
Margaret was stunningly attractive, but hardly aware of it until she turned thirteen, when she suddenly became aware of her beauty and, to her father’s distress, would spend hours, when not reading, before the mirror, combing her hair. “Pride comes before a fall” was one of her father’s favourite admonitions, perhaps because he realised that her beauty would attract many men – suitors whom he would have to observe with the utmost scrutiny. How right he turned out to be, because every teenaged boy in the parish tried to talk with her after church, causing her father increasing anxiety. By the time Margaret was eighteen, her father had been promoted to the much more prestigious post of priest at the elegant city church of St. Mary’s. This further exaggerated his pride and increased his prejudices. He succeeded the famous and heroic Reverend William Marshall Harte, the priest who broke convention and preached to, baptised and married the slaves in his parish. By this time, however, following emancipation, St. Mary’s had a large congregation of free coloured citizens, as well as affluent merchants. The parsonage in the nearby suburb brought Margaret into contact with well-heeled neighbours, and she was openly ogled at church by all of the local Don Juans. But, prim like her mother, she gave few of them a second glance. Contrived encounters at church were given short shrift, and even when introductions were made, her father or mother would soon warn her of the unsuitability of any such match, referring to the dubious character of one or other of the suitor’s parents, or even the young man’s distant cousin or ancestor. Margaret’s coolness towards her many male admirers was to change abruptly when one Sunday at a big family lunch at the MacKenzie plantation, there appeared a handsome, flawlessly dressed Englishman, Mr. Thomas Douglas. His broad shoulders, square jaw and curly black hair made a striking impression. He was apparently on a visit to distant relatives with a view to joining them in their dry goods merchant business on Roebuck Street, importing foodstuffs and supplying plantations with equipment of various kinds. He was awestruck by Margaret’s fragile beauty, and interpreted (correctly) her apparent coldness as shyness and social naiveté. He could not take his eyes off of her, arranged an introduction, and hardly ate any lunch, in his enthusiasm to get to know her. But his frequent acceptance of a refill of his glass, first with sangaree and then with rum and water, did not go unnoticed by Reverend MacKenzie and his wife. When guests began to depart, Mr. Douglas approached the good reverend and asked permission to call at the parsonage. Reverend MacKenzie’s response was guarded, but he was obliged to accept the proffered card politely. “Mr. Douglas, we will, of course, be honoured”, he said. “I shall send you word in due course of a convenient time.” As the days went by Margaret became increasingly distressed that her father took no action. Finally she made a scene, complaining tearfully that he had no interest in her feelings or her wishes. This provoked a long lecture from her father on etiquette, social relationships, morality, manners, family values, reputation, respect for her elders’ judgement and a great deal more. Mr. Douglas, he said, was a dandy, far too well dressed, with his silk shirt and cravat and three-piece 107
suit in a hot Hopewell plantation house. He’d been seen to drink far too much rum, like so many newly arrived Englishmen, would surely ruin himself, and besides, he was a stranger – not someone growing up in Barbados, although connected with a Barbadian family. A visit simply could not be considered. Although Emma sided with Margaret, the reverend was unmoved until Margaret became hysterical and rushed to her room, banging the door shut and bolting it. She finally responded to her mother’s pleas and let her in, and by the time they emerged and ate their dinner in sullen silence, Reverend MacKenzie realised he was outnumbered. He gave in, but laced his halfapologies for his harsh judgement with further concerns and warnings. He finally agreed to send word to the home of Mr. Douglas’s relatives and invite him to visit on the following Saturday for tea. Needless to say, the visit was chaperoned throughout by the parents. Mr. Douglas turned up in clothes equally as elegant as those of the first occasion, and was even more charming. This time there was no rum offered, of course, only tea, and both parents were so impressed by his manners that another visit was agreed for the following Saturday. Letters began to be exchanged between Thomas from Britons Hill and Margaret from the parsonage at Kensington. His were delivered by a company messenger, hers (rather reluctantly) by the church coachman, whose loyalties were divided between his employer and the angeliclooking daughter. After the second tea at the parsonage, Thomas decided that it would be a wise strategy to attend church at St. Mary’s, which, not surprisingly, impressed Reverend MacKenzie, and he achieved his purpose of ingratiating himself with both parents to the extent that Emma prepared for the ritual Saturday afternoon teas with enthusiasm, baking her finest cakes for each occasion. After a few weeks Thomas proposed, in a carefully written letter with many affirmations of love and admiration. Margaret joyfully accepted, again by letter, but with some fear and trepidation, and with the advice that her father’s approval must be sought in the most formal way. On the following Saturday, on arriving at the parsonage, Thomas asked the reverend if he could speak to him in private. Emma and Margaret beat a hasty retreat, Reverend MacKenzie led Thomas into the drawing room, and almost before they could sit, Thomas began. “Sir, you must be aware that over the last few weeks of my growing admiration and respect for your daughter. I do sincerely believe that she shares similar feelings for me, and I hope you will not consider me presumptuous to ask for her hand in marriage.” Seeing the frown on the reverend’s face Thomas rushed on. “I realize that you do not know my parents, but I do assure you that they are very comfortably situated and will be pleased to set me up with a plantation in Barbados, as I have had some acquaintance with the management of our very large family farm, and I am attracted to the opportunities in Barbados. My father has considered making a major investment in his cousin’s 108
firm in Bridgetown; and so I plan to return to England immediately for funds so that I can come back and buy a plantation near Hopewell which I have discovered is for sale. We would therefore be able to marry within the year.” Fortunately, Reverend Mackenzie was already sitting while receiving this volley of information. For more than a moment he was silent, while digesting what he had just heard. “Young man”, he said at last, “You are quite right that I have known you only briefly; I do not know your parents; I know your relatives only as traders in Roebuck Street. And you will be aware that in my house, God and my family come first in all things. I must therefore think carefully about your proposal and discuss it with my wife. I will ask you to say nothing more on the matter until next Saturday when you will have my answer.” Needless to say, tea that day was a little strained – Emma’s fruit cake and her sponge roll were better than ever, but they did little to assuage the anxiety of either Margaret or Thomas. That night Matthew and Emma talked long and hard, discussing every aspect of the potential match: their observation of his over-imbibing at the first meeting, his concern that Thomas was a dandy and not sufficiently serious, their concerns about the family connection – a Roebuck Street trader with alleged questionable business practices. At last, though, Emma persuaded him, and he agreed to give his blessing, which he did at breakfast next morning, although still with implied reservations. Margaret promised to write to Thomas daily and said that he had made a similar promise. Emma sighed with satisfaction. The reverend frowned and lit his pipe. Thomas sailed for Southampton the following week on the SS Duchess, with a pledge to return within three months at most. Margaret wrote her heart out with many drafts and re-writings, resulting in a passionate, pensive, perfect page every day. Every Sunday night she carefully folded seven final pages, placed them in an envelope with a dab of perfume, addressed them to his English residence, and sent them to the Imperial Packet Agency in Bridgetown the following morning. But the weeks went by and turned into months, and not a word was heard from Thomas. Margaret became increasingly fretful, Emma increasingly anxious, and the reverend held his peace but simmered quietly in growing anger. As the months went by he began to remind the ladies of his concerns and warnings. Each day became a bigger burden for everyone, until the good reverend began to threaten retribution on the callous “foreigner” who had trifled with his daughter’s affections and destroyed her happiness. Finally, just before Christmas, some four months after his departure, a letter arrived from Thomas, accusing Margaret of not writing to him. He had therefore, he said, assumed she no longer loved him, and as he had met a lovely lady, a passenger on his ship to England, of whom 109
he had become very fond, he was now a married man. He would be returning to Barbados with his new wife. He finished by saying that it had been obvious that Reverend MacKenzie had not really approved of him, and so “all’s well that ends well”. Well! This news shattered poor Margaret’s composure. She tore the letter in half and threw herself on the couch, crying hysterically. Even the prim and proper Emma broke down and screamed. “That wretch! That awful, conceited, wicked, wayward wretch! He will pay! He MUST pay! Dear Matthew, do something!” Reverend Mackenzie had not spent fourteen years working single-mindedly towards his goals to allow this deceitful man to get away with spurning Margaret and embarrassing the family. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, he said repeatedly, producing one of his favourite Bible quotations. “He will pay, and pay again. He has the gall to return to the scene of the crime! I will take him to court for breach of promise of marriage.” A crisis prevailed. Chaos and consternation reigned at the parsonage. Margaret wept, Emma moped and the reverend ranted and railed, fumed and threatened revenge. While waiting impatiently for news of Thomas Douglas’s return he consulted with the most respected attorney in the island, Sir John Henry Deane, regarding taking Thomas to court. News of the return of Thomas and his new wife spread rapidly. She was an elegantly-dressed lady, his senior by at least ten years, and the gossip implied that she had great wealth of her own. Had he played the role of rake and married merely for money? The day of the court hearing arrived. News travelled fast by the Barbados grape vine, and when the Mackenzies arrived in their modest buggy, they saw, to their dismay, carriages lining Lucas Street and filling the yard of the court house. Margaret and Emma both wore hats with veils – not just as shields from the sun, but to avoid the stares of the scores of gawking ladies who filled the visitors’ gallery and even lined the steps leading up to the grand entrance of the court house. The case was brilliantly made by Sir John, and was supported by several drafts of the letters Margaret had written and kept after she made them word perfect for posting. Sir John also showed the receipts for transmission of the letters obtained from the postal clerk in Bridgetown. Margaret paled when she heard her love letters read in court, and fainted at one especially embarrassing amorous expression which produced titters from the ladies in the gallery and even from Thomas himself, who sat with great composure, dressed to the nines. This was noted by Judge Cumberbatch and did not go down well. It was perhaps fortuitous that the judge had no sympathy for the members of the Douglas family, whose monopoly and hard business practices in so many commercial areas were frowned on by 110
the mighty and were the envy of the masses. The verdict was “guilty”, with an award of a thousand pounds for breach of promise of marriage. This would be enough for Margaret to buy her own plantation, where she could live comfortably for the rest of her life and perhaps, now being a lady of considerable means rather than a poor pastor’s daughter, attract another, more suitable suitor. But for the disconsolate Margaret, her new wealth meant nothing. While her father gained the satisfaction of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, she lost her heart and her self-esteem. She would never be able to look anyone in the eye again, and those flawless, beautiful teeth would never be exposed by a smile again. As for Mrs. Douglas, the exposure of her husband for his crime was just too much to bear, and the combination of heat, humidity, mosquitoes and embarrassment brought a premature end to a hasty marriage. She packed her bags and left Barbados on the next steamship.
Anthony Kellman The Guest House Wednesday, August 23 She is the quintessential matriarch. Ebony-deep skin. Hefty flesh encircles her like a protective garment. Her wide eyes seem to see everywhere at once. The wooden crosses and pictures of the Virgin on the lobby’s walls betray her Catholicism, but she believes in obeah also, feels a need for that extra protection, the burning incense and candles, the specially mixed herbs for tea and bathing, some displayed for sale in the glass cabinet set against a wall. Maybe, she needs this more now since her daughter died a year ago, that fair-skinned young woman pinned like a butterfly to the wall behind her, looking from that wall at every guest. High-cheeked butterfly whose slightly sneering smile would never suggest weakness or loss of control, would never suggest alcoholism. But that's what the sad mother told me as I checked in and waited for the keys to my room. That's what she said as her fat hands waddled about the desk that was 111
cluttered with dog-eared notepads, receipt books, and portions of newspapers. She's sure that it was obeah. Someone, envious of her daughter's beauty, placed the ash from a cigarette in the bottom of the young woman's glass and, unknowingly, she drank it all down with the rum and coke. After that, she couldn't stop herself from drinking. The mother, eyes scouring with hope , went home to St. Lucia and the obeah woman who quietly told her: "Only death can heal her. Only death can heal you daughter."
Thursday, August 24 So she daily burns her incense, wraps herself in her own thick flesh, and begins each day with Jim Reeves' "I'll Fly Away," and "Across the River." I hear the music from my room along with the barking of dogs and wind rushing through coconut fronds into the asphalted yard below. It's the wake-up call. Across the room, vinyl peels from an armoire like bark off a mahogany tree; the triplemirrored vanity next to it has only two mirrors and two legs. The other legs are cement bricks crudely positioned underneath it. I choose to stay here due to limited funds. Since I come twice a year, I have to find an economical place to stay. I have a sister who lives here, but we're not close and, besides, she lives way up in St. Lucy, and I need to be nearer the city where my son lives with his mother. So, what more can I expect for US$14 a night? The bed is comfortable enough, and the breakfast of fried plantain, a slice of mango, eggs and Spam, and a pot of coffee or Milo, is all I really need. When I'm not sleeping nor eating, I'm not here. From 9 to 5, I browse in the city, splash in the sea, and play with Gerry who's on holiday from school. The laundromat is
three minutes’ walk away; the by-pass bus links me directly to Gerry in fifteen minutes. The city is ten minutes away. So why complain? I intend to make myself merry.
I return around 9.30 in the evening, and there she is, slow-moving, slow-talking as usual. Just as I am about to ascend the stairs, the proprietress says, "A man needed a day-stay, so I let he use you room”. When she sees the dismay stride across my face, she hastily adds, "No night. I put he in you room fuh de day, hear?" I nod, bewildered, dumbfounded. Then she says, "But he change he mind and want to stay overnight." She looks at me as if she wishes me to say it’s all right, but all I feel is something like a macajuel uncoil from my hair. "No. This can't be true," I sternly object. "I ain' staying in no room with no stranger." I tug my mind away from her like someone whose confidence has been hard won but is now betrayed. I distrust the mask that the proprietress (or "Maam" as she is called) wears. The sad tone in her voice, the sad story of her daughter, I fear are ploys to elicit sympathy and excuse her taking liberties with the guests. Yet, could it be me who's being unreasonable? Could my mistrust be the result of ten years living abroad? Ten years mistrusting a dominant class? "Tings tight, yuh know," she says. "I didn' want to lose de money." "If you didn't want to lose the money, why you didn't let the man sleep in your room and you sleep on the blasted couch! Why inconvenience me?" I say this all to myself thinking of the daughter who had been bewitched. Nevertheless, my smoldering countenance loudly spoke for me, so tonight the man's things stay in my room but not him. And I think Maam and I reach an understanding.
Friday, August 25 113
This morning, I notice a petite woman seated at the breakfast table. She seems shy and bold all at the same time. We start talking after Iâ€™d eaten breakfast and she comes over to my table to collect the wares. I think this rather odd, since I assumed she too is a guest. She tells me she is a guest, but also an old friend of Maam and likes to help around the house. Sheâ€™s a widowed Trinidadian who resides in Miami and comes to Barbados yearly to pay the taxes and check on the tenants who occupy her land in Christ Church. Her late Barbadian husband was not the owner of the property. "After he died, I became a nanny. And a good one too," she says. "So when the mistress died and nobody could find she one relative overseas, the acre come to me. I cut it up in four lots: the one with the house already on it; the one I built for me; and the other two I rent out and the people put down their chattels." The calm, yet matter-of-fact way in which she speaks suggests a woman with a clear head for business. I know the area she spoke of very well. I had grown up near there. There was a lot of pasture land which provided cows and sheep an area to graze. I remember the cranes and cattle egrets landing and taking off like planes. Then, with a sure-fired Trinidadian accent, she says, "Boy, ah have a problem, eh. Ah have more than one tenant on the land and ah want to sell one o' dem lots. But ah ain' sure 'bout the landmarks and the surveyor going be so much money." Our conversation is interrupted by the ringing of a bell. I look in the direction of the sound and see a small bare-footed young man walking delicately from the kitchen area pass our table. He stops at the bottom of the stairs and, looking up the staircase, continues to ring his bell. "That is La," the gracious woman says. "That's the last call for breakfast." 114
"It's best to get it done the right way, though, " I say, returning to our former conversation. "If not, in the long run, you might end up spending more money." "You right, yuh know. I got to go down to the Valuations this week." She lightly sighs knowing that there is limited time to forestall the inevitable. I notice her dentures which make her speak very precisely in order to be understood. I find this very charming and, with her sculptured Amerindian-like face, petite build, and calm spirit, I think she must have been a very attractive young woman. "I could go with you,â€? I say." Just let me know when.â€? We exchanged names, and Mrs. Davies goes toward the kitchen with my wares and hers. She parts the worn curtain hanging in the doorway that separates the dining room from a hallway that leads to the kitchen. Then she disappears from view. I scour the room. There are cloth picture hangings on the walls, one with a family of dogs dressed as humans and sitting at a dining table. Near where I sit is a square wallhanging, its blue faded with age, the words "Christ is the Head of this House. The Unseen Guest at Every Meal. The Silent Listener to Every Conversation" etched in white. Jim Reeves' voice is sounding again. The smell of incense is everywhere.
Saturday, August 26 I sit in the lobby on a threadbare couch that was once probably orange-colored. The cushions are bent out of shape. I pick up the weekend newspaper and begin reading an article with the headline ANOTHER SCANDAL AT THE CENTRAL BANK. Two middle-aged Indian women stroll into the area. One carries a straw basket, the other a black brief-case. They are well-groomed and emit a bathroom freshness and a sense of self-satisfaction or confidence. It is evident they're twins, identical features, though one is bigger than the other. Their cotton tops 115
and skirts look brand new. They rest their bags on the low table and sit down. When the bigger one speaks to me, I know they're from either Trinidad of Guyana. "You wan-to get some jewelry for the madam?" she asks. "Leh me see what you have." She reaches for the brief-case which rattles with merchandise as she clicks it open. "This is all ah got lef', nuh," she says, standing up. "So you like you do good business." "Yes. We do good." She points to the various gold chains, earrings, and bangles inside the case, describing them in a highly lyrical voice. Finally, I reach into my wallet for a fortydollar bill and give it to her in exchange for a pair of cucumber seed earrings for my overseas love. Good gold. "Your madam goin' like dem. Dey real pretty, nuh." "Where you from?" I ask. "We from Guyana," the smaller sister says. Good Guyana gold. From where I'm seated, I can see Julian (a Trinidadian youth whom I'd met yesterday) reclining in the brown wrought-iron chair nearest the door that leads into the lobby. He is on vacation before going back to his wife and child in Arima. Last night, I saw him eyeing a group of St. Lucian young women from across the room. They were standing near the bar area. He was at the back of the dining room looking toward the bar area. I was sitting on the left of the dining room, backing the lobby, and I could see them all. He sat with his legs sprawled wide open, leering and grinning. It is hard to ignore the young women walking around the guest house in light cotton nighties through which their underwear can be seen. Their bra-less breasts shake and keep steady only when their owners stand still. I see Julian eye them and grin. 116
As the two Indian sales women get up and push open the black wrought-iron door that leads outside, Julian leaps from his chair and comes over and sits next to me on the couch. "Yuh got something for the mistress?" he asks. I nod. Then he says, "But dem two women? They tricky, yuh know. They know how to wink at the Customs officers and get them to wave them through, man. They tricky for so, eh. But dey got good stuff. And de prices ain' bad at all." I ask Julian if he got anything for his wife, and he says that money is tight, that he'll get her something, but that he can't afford the gold. Last night he had told me how much he missed his wife and how eager he was to return home. But I couldn't help thinking that his insistences of fidelity were attempts to drive back some temptation. I know my assessment is correct when he reaches over and whispers in my ears, "Do you have any condoms?" "No," I say, "I don't have any condoms. For me, no condoms means no action. No action, no worriation â€˜bout getting sick, if you know what I mean?â€? I am stunned by my moralizing, but must admit I feel proud of myself for it. Sunday, August 27 I meet Eric today. The Bajan is washing clothes in a large galvanized pan under a shed in the yard. He wears a pair of snug-fitting brown shorts, at least a size too small for him. He is bare-backed. The Sunday wind makes the white sheets billow on the clothes line that stretch across the yard. I am on my way to the beach for an early morning dip when he hears my footsteps and looks around. His eyes are slightly bloodshot. "Hi, man. How you doing, man?" he speaks quickly but intensely. A faint odor of rum surfs on the air toward me. "Cool, man," I say. 117
"Yuh like yuh gine and get a sea-bath, man." "Man, yes," I say. A tall, stringy man emerges from one of the two cottages at the back of the yard. Separate from the main brick building, these cottages invoke images of slave huts: the unpainted wood, mottled with mildew, the one door. The emaciated man carries a vacuous look as one not fully awake. He passes me without speaking and goes up the back steps and into the house. Eric shakes his head. "You see he?" Eric says. "He was a real educated fellow, yuh know. Bright-bright-bright. He went to Harrison's College, then. He had a good job at a city bank." Eric sucks his teeth, shakes his head, and scrubs the shirt. "Yuh know how he got so? The drugs, man. The drugs got David looking so." Eric says Maam capitalizes on David's fate, gives him cigarettes for his labor, liquor for sweeping and cleaning and running errands. "But she won't give him a red cent. Not Maam. He does got to beg she for bus fare, then. You t'ink that woman sweet?"
Monday, August 28 I spend the entire evening with my son. The by-pass bus from Black Rock to the guest house was unusually late in leaving. Normally, I would return around ten thirty or eleven. No later than eleven thirty. But tonight the bus doesn't pick me up in Black Rock until after eleven thirty, so I arrive here around ten past twelve. The wrought iron burglar bar gate at the front is padlocked, so I have to shout and knock for at least ten minutes before David, drunk or sleepy or both, opens the door, scratches his head, and yawns. 118
I enter my room, drop my nylon bag on the floor and go into the bathroom. I brush my teeth, wash my face. As I reach over for my towel, I notice there is another towel beside it. This other towel isn't mine, and it is damp. It is late, but with the rage leavening inside me to bursting point, I know I can't go to sleep without some relief. Clutching the strange towel, I bound down the stairs and find Maam's bedroom door. I pound on it. "Who dey?" comes the slow labored response. "It's Number Seven," I say, identifying myself by room number as she, or one of the other staff members did when shouting for me to take a phone call. The door opens, and I immediately push the towel up in her face, my hand trembling with rage. She accepts the threat which I pose and says, "Ah sorry, hear? De fella was just passing through. Ah real sorry." Maybe it is the inspiration that can come from real exhaustion, the creativity that can be unleashed when one is wholly desperate, but I suddenly begin to flood her with whining like she had done over losing business. I whine inconvenience. I whine abuse. Then I ask for a discount on the room and free meals for the remaining week of my stay. She says yes to everything I ask. Iâ€™ve learnt the art of survival at the guest house.
Tuesday, August 29 When I got up next morning and see the semen stains on the sheet, I know Maam's leveling with me was only half-way. A man knows his own semen, and what I see isn't mine. Later, after dinner, I mention the whole affair to Eric. He sucks his teeth and shakes his head. "When that foolishness happen to me the first time, I did real-real dread, hear? You mekking sport? At least they coulda change de frigging sheets, yuh know wuh ah mean?" Then he adds, with an air of resignation, "But yuh got to be flexible, yuh know. She giving me a good 119
deal on de room." I then realize Eric is also under Maam's power. She is using his limited finances to control him, to have her way with him. It seems that most of the guests are in one predicament or another. Such qualities of misfortune, weakness and dependency allows Maam to wrap them firmly in her imperial robes and keep them bending at the knees.
Wednesday, August 30 Sheryll got a sweet hand, Patsy got a beard. Patsy food is whaâ€™ mek muh stomach fear.
Breakfast or dinner, Patsy hand churn-up my guts. But I digest Sheryll bouillon. It send sunshine through muh chest.
Patsyâ€™s glum and does shirk work. She is de happiest when chatting wid visitors. Den de laughter shake she breasts
dat throb like breadfruits. She beard flap-bout. Fancy that, though-nuh. 120
Sheryll is more dependable. I like dat. Still, all we is one.
Thursday, August 31 From the top floor window, I witness the sun's swift ascent behind flailing coconut palms. A bright sun and a generous wind pour in unison over the galvanize-covered huts and through the yard. They circle the galvanized shed where Eric was washing the day I met him. Once used for hosting wedding receptions and dances, it is now a wash shed or shaded placed for visitors to relax. What stopped people from renting the area? Maam said a handyman, whom La succeeded, had AIDS. The news leaked out and ran wild throughout the city and the parish of St. Michael. No one ever rented the shed again. I meditate for an hour and then I hear La's ringing bell. He'd be quarter way up the stairs by now, ringing, making sure all the rooms can hear his final breakfast summons. I'm not going to let La or anybody rush me this morning. I stretch and roll out of bed, take a shower. As I start to dress, I hear a car engine and voices beginning to swell in the yard below. I pull back the floral curtain and see an old off-white Morris Minor glide to a halt. The trunk has no cover, and the trunk space is packed with what looks like packages of meat. A man with sleekly pressed hair and what appears to be craters in his face, walks briskly up to the car presumably from through the kitchen door. He doesn't smile. The dougla female driver gets out and walks to the back of the car where the man, folding and unfolding his arms, waits. He appears to give her money. She gives him a package. He retreats with it through the kitchen door and into the house.
I turn from the window and put on my blue jeans. I take out a clean T-shirt from the suitcase and continue dressing. Through the window, cracked at an angle, I see Maam and the dougla meat seller. I lean up against the window. "How much you say you want?" Maam asks. "Gimme de twenty dolla," the dougla says. As she pockets the money, she adds, "Ah goin' an' sell my lil' stock, hear? Thanks a lot. See you around."
Friday, September 1 This morning after breakfast, I go with Mrs. Davies to the Valuations Department. We walk through the yard, pass the crater-faced man who was sitting under the shed with Julian, another man whom I hadn't seen before, and a very young brown-skinned girl. As we stroll along the driveway leading to the road, Mrs. Davies says, "That man? The ugly one wid all them holes in he face? Ah don' trust he, yuh know. Ah see he 'bout hey over de last few days, and my spirit don' tek tuh he at-all, man." "Where he from?" "Guyana. And you see that young woman wid he? She ain't nothing more than a child, yuh know. Eh-eh. Old hard-back man like he. Cradle robber." "You mean that girl is his woman?" "Yeh, man. She is barely fifteen. And he does treat her bad?" Mrs. Davies' voice ruffle with emotion. "I hear him the other night telling the girl, â€˜Why de so-and-so you don' go and press my clothes? Why de so-and-so you don' lick my feet?â€™ Man, I don' know how she got involve wid an animal like he." 122
"I've seen him a few times, but he always moving real fast. I never have a chance to talk to him. He seem real odd." "Ah don' trust he at-all, yuh hear. And that young fella Julian better watch out. That man ain' no good company to keep." We wait at the bus pole for about ten minutes and talk about our lives in the United States, about the need for children there, especially black children, to work and study harder than their white counterparts in order to increase their chances for a better life. Above us, the sun is a silver eye on a blue cloudless face. Sweeping winds lessen the humidity. We reach Bridgetown around 9.30. I offer to return for her, but Mrs. Davies says not to bother. She has some other errands to run in the city and would take the bus back to the guest house. So I leave her and go to my son. We watch a few movies at his mother's house. Afterward, we have a sea-bath and then go to Chefette for a bite.
When I return to the guest house, Cheryll says she has saved me some bouillon soup. This is my favorite dish. David is lying on the sofa watching T.V. Eric is also in the living room awaiting the late-night movie. While Cheryll warms the soup, I go upstairs, put down my duffle bag, and take a quick shower. After the bouillon, with all its vegetables, spices, and varieties of fishes and meats, including crab, I go into the lounge to glance through the newspaper. Not long afterwards, Eric joins me. "Man, wha' happening, man? Cheez-weez, man. You ain' bring back nothing?" I know he means liquor, and I can smell the day's lingering odors on his breath. I have, in fact, brought a bottle back with me. While Eric go to the bar for chaser, glasses, and ice, I go upstairs for the rum. Back in the lounge, we pour and toast to nothing in particular. 123
"You know, Mrs. Davies seems like she real sympathetic towards La," I say. "This morning she told me that although he funny, he got a good heart, and that people always taking advantage of him. She says that's why he always complaining about somebody." Eric nods. "But I don't see La round here at night at all. He does only work during the day?" I ask. Eric laughs almost as if he were sharing in some private joke. "La does dress up like a woman after hours, man, and comb the city for fares," he says. "He does even wear lipstick and high heels, then. You mekking sport? La don' skylark, boy." The white rum sits like some curious bond on the table in front Eric and me. As the liquor takes effect, we get more and more open with each other. Eric works as a barman at one of the south coast hotels. "So you does work in one o' de islands," he asks. "No. I sell cars up North, man." "Really? Man, you Bajan accent still strong, man. How long you did away?" "Ten years now, almost to the day." "Man, is good to see you ain' no freshwater Yankee, man. I know some fellas go up to de States for just a few months and come back talking like a Yankee." Eric laughs again as if amused by the delivery of his own words. "Well, I does keep in touch," I say. " I usually come at least once a year to spend some time with my son. He twelve years old already. You got any children?" Eric says he has two daughters who lived with his ex. "You know, I gine soon be outta this place, you know," Eric say. "I only just here till my girlfriend can leave she husband which should be any day now. She's a real nice woman, you 124
know. Real kind and thing. But she and de man can't get along. So I holding strain here till she can split and then goinâ€™ be together." In spite of our growing familiarity, I didn't know quite how to respond to this. "That sounds good, man," I say, "but it sounds kind of complicated too." "There ain't nothing complicated 'bout um," Eric replies, brimming with the confidence of a man who has thought about a situation for a long time. "Once she get outta there, everything will be easy, man. No sweat. I hope it's soon, â€˜cause this frigging place does give me de creeps." "You know," Eric continues, readjusting himself on the sofa, "so much shite does go on in here, you hear, I does pray to God each night to let me see another day... alive." Is Eric's statement mere exaggeration fueled by the rum? Is he joking? Why do my knees suddenly feel weak? Why, when we decide to retire, do I bolt my door, push the suitcase firmly up against it, lock all the windows, and pray to God?
Saturday, September 2 I get up around 10 o'clock. Last night Eric and I planned to go over to Carrington Village tonight to get some barbecue pigtails and hang around a bit. As I come down the staircase, the severely acned man with the sleek hair briskly approaches and bounds up the stairs with what looks like a postal package. He cast a furtive glance at me as he did so, and I think how strange he always seems to act. He is always well-dressed, this morning in brown cotton pants with several outer pockets on the thighs, a white cotton shirt, and brown moccasins. But those deep craters on his face and the glinting eyes create an aura of suspicion and dread.
When I got to the bottom of the staircase, I see the man's girlfriend seated in the living room. She had finished breakfast and taken a glass of orange juice with her. This she slowly sips. There is a tolerance about her, a calmness, a patience, that suggests she could be the holder of experiences far beyond her years. She appears too serious for a fifteen-year old. I say hello to her as I take my seat at the breakfast table nearest the living room and the staircase. She acknowledges me with a quick nod but says nothing. I am the only person eating in the dining room. It takes a while for breakfast to arrive, and when it does, I apologize to Patsy for being so late and for having them reset things just for me. I concentrate on the food but find it mostly unsatisfying. I never liked Patsy's preparation of food, but everything seems older and colder today: the slice of mango, the wheat bread, eggs and Spam. I poke around in it for a while and then abandon the task, relinquishing myself to the hot chocolate. This I enjoy. I sip and gaze around the room, over to the bar area with its now bolted wrought iron door. My reverie is broken when the young girl leisurely walks pass my table with her empty glass and heads toward the kitchen. My eyes follow her until she disappears through the curtained doorway. Iâ€™m struck by how plain sheâ€™s dressed: a very long cotton skirt reaching to her ankles and a rust-colored blouse a size too large for her. Her hair is tied back behind her head in a bun. Had not for the smooth face, she would have appeared much older than she actually is. Then the curtain in the doorway rustles again and parts. Three men come through and approach my table. When they reach me, the man in front looks directly at me and says, "Good morning." "Morning," I reply. The men keep moving toward the staircase. I watch them go up the stairs. In the last man's waistline, the butt of a revolver protrudes.
Before I can digest the implications of the image, I hear a scuffling sound coming from upstairs. Then the sound comes down the stairs. Two of the three men are trying to grip and stabilize the acned man. As reality struck me, I bolt from my table into the living room and from that safer vantage point I watch the man being led out the guest house. Later, Mrs. Davies would give me the full story: how the man had collected a package from the post office, how the police had followed him here and made the drug arrest. He would go to jail. In a day or two, his girlfriend would be put on a plane and sent back to Guyana . "I hope that young girl know wha' she ha' to do. She got to think about her own self now," Mrs. Davies says.
Sunday, September 3 I hope Eric finds happiness. Last night, in Carrington Village, amidst the laughter, the drinks, and the music, I sensed a sadness in him. He is having work problems. His job as a hotel barman is tenuous. Day on, day off. He drinks too much. His lover is still with her husband. He reiterates he's only putting up with all the foolishness at the guest house until she leaves the husband. Then, everything will be all right. "Everything will be all right," he says.
Wendy Fulton Steginsky Letâ€™s Get Together And Feel All Right Bob Marley doesnâ€™t crook his finger and beckon, he demands your presence. He slides through your skin, charges into the capillaries and insinuates his way to the valves of your heart.
His reggae rhythms flirt with the air, hover, lay their arms around your neck, and whisper, You’re mine. Then your body sways, and your feet side step in that familiar way, make love to the verandah’s tile, mottled like the bark of a coconut palm. The clean fragrance of the stephanotis vine suffuses your nostrils, its tendrils shinnying up coral columns. An easterly wind starts to stack onshore, lazy at first, then picking up breath like a puffy sax player. It’s mid-June at Salt Spray and you forget you’re there to sell the house. You face the harbour, just beyond the bay grapes and salmon hibiscus hedges, feet naked, humming, There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation.
Nancy Anne Miller
Rudder Like a Good Friday Kite which flew too far out of sky bound realms, the tattered mast and sail on the seabed finally at rest. Rows of barnacles, the nails screwed in to keep it still, steady. We all want to find permanence. A sea captain relative was buried at sea in an un-floatable coffin. The surf breaking white as it entered the deep, curtains part into the ocean’s salty welcome. 128
Coral sea fans flourished over it, like one his widow waved back, forth, a rudder to direct her grief.
Carol Mitchell Adverse Possession Rain beats on my window, the downpour as powerful as it is sudden, drenching me with memories of the first time I saw Gene. Three years ago, newly home from college and jobless I went to the beach to think, to plan my next steps. As I sat on the sand my eyes were drawn to a man. He stood waist deep in the water, head bent forward, his locs like a curtain covering his face, his taut body a silhouette against the setting sun. He threw his head back and the locs rose into the air and froze for a second before tumbling on to his back. Water rained in every direction. I was mesmerized and when he walked over and spoke to me, I lost myself in his charm. Three years later I’m still lost. A crack of thunder splits my reverie. I get out of bed to check on the buckets strategically positioned in the kitchen and living room. I hope the dripping doesn’t wake my mother because I really don’t need another bitter lecture on how we can’t fix the roof because I no longer have a job. She wasn’t always that bitter. I remember her happy once, hopeful for my father’s return. Then, one Saturday morning at the market, my mother’s world fell apart. The sun was barely up and we were one of the first customers, relishing the first pick of the produce spread on the wooden trays. Marsha, the vendor, was making conversation. “Ah hear Bobby gone an’ marry heself a white woman.” My mother’s hand froze over a tomato. Her eyes shot up to Marsha’s face and then to mine. Marsha’s expression shifted from cheerful to concerned. “You didn’t know? He sen’ a note home to his mother wi’ he cheque this mont’. Ah figure he do it for he papers and he comin’ for you after he divorce?” “Of course, I know,” my mother said. She picked out a few tomatoes and shoved them at Marsha. “How much for dese?” Marsha hefted the tomatoes and gave a price which my mother accepted without a
challenge. Back in the home we shared with my grandmother, we sat at the computer and scoured the Internet for news of my father. Eventually we found a news item about the marriage of a West Indian man to a woman from Pensacola, Florida. There was a small photograph of the couple holding hands. The guy looked small; old and beaten compared to the man I remembered waving and blowing me kisses as he got into his ride to the airport so many years ago.
My mother never spoke of my father again, neither a good word nor a bad one, but she projected her anger on to every man who crossed her path and mine. I was only thirteen at the time but even then, if I was attracted to a boy it would feel like a betrayal of the sacrifices she made bringing me up alone and I resisted them all until Gene flooded my life. When Gene left for Switzerland, my mother made it clear that this was the inevitable end to all relationships. She was even clearer when I discovered I was pregnant. I empty the rain-filled buckets and sit at the kitchen table. It’s one a.m. but I have too much on my mind to sleep. How do I tell my mother that Gene has found me a job in Switzerland and wants me to join him…without Priscilla? I can hardly bear to think of it myself. How can I decide between my child and my love—because I’m sure if I don’t go to him now there will be no more ‘us’. I spy my tape recorder under a pile of papers, mostly bills. I haven’t been able to touch the recorder in months, filled as it is with recordings I made of my grandmother in the last weeks of her life. Cancer ravaged her body for five years; each time they treated it in one organ it popped up somewhere else—breast, stomach, colon, and finally in her lungs. She had called me into her room one day. When I entered she was putting a blouse into her dresser; her back was to me. She was wearing a light-coloured cotton nightgown that barely hid the outline of her thin body. I blinked back a tear; those days everything made me cry. “I’m done, Mikki,” she said without turning around. “What you mean, Granny?” I asked. She faced me. “Done wit dese treatments. Dem doctors doan know nuttin, only pokin and proddin me all de time. I want to live de rest of mih days in peace, just long enough to hold my granbaby in my arms.” She glanced at my swollen belly. “You’re a writer? Write ‘bout my life so she’ll know who she came from and who she could be.” And so I interviewed her. It took several weeks because she could only work for about an hour a day before her voice would fade or the coughing fits would become too frequent. She never met her namesake Priscilla. I hold the recorder in my hand, finger poised over the play button for several seconds
before I can bring myself to push it. Water fills my eyes as Granny’s voice fills the room. She had started her story in the middle of her life, when she was a young woman in the late 1930s dealing with the hardships of the Great Depression, made worse by the restrictions of British colonization. “People say St. Kitts people doan stan’ up for demselves,” she said. “But back in 1935, my Daddy was part of a big strike. Those days the white man owned everything and they didn’t want to pay a living wage. We were struggling, even to eat. So the cane cutters went on strike.” Her face had lit up as she chanted, “Three pence per tonne.” She coughed, deep and wet. It terrified me but Granny went on talking. Mentally she was back in 1935; young, healthy, and fierce. “Three pence per tonne,” she repeated. “That’s what they wanted. Fair pay for cutting cane. Workers all over the island joined the strike. They even beat up one estate manager. I don’t abide by violence, but I was proud of my Daddy.” She stopped to accommodate another coughing fit. “You want to rest a bit, Granny?” My voice on the recorder is full of concern. “No chile, stop fussin’. Where was I? Oh yes. They brought my Daddy home to Buckley’s like a hero, beat up bad. Your grandfather came in holding your dad in his arms, one hero carrying another. It was love at first sight. We Thompson women, we fall hard.” “True.” I hear the catch in my voice. High pitched cries from Priscilla’s room yank me away from the tape. When I enter her room I gasp. Water is dripping through a sagging ceiling tile and into her crib. I grab her out of the drenched crib and bury my mouth in the tight curls of her hair to stifle the scream of frustration rising in my throat. Her chest is pressed against mine and I can feel the heaving subside as she’s calmed by my embrace. As I carry her to my room, I have an epiphany. I’ve been praying for a job for months. The job in Geneva must be God’s answer. What did Gene say? ‘They value journalism over here, they treat people like us well.’ Priscilla will be fine with Mommy and better off if I can send money to put a proper roof over her head. The next day I put things in motion. If I’m going anywhere, I need money to fix the roof, pay off Granny’s medical bills, and put Priscilla in day-care before I leave. I head downtown to the Department of Lands to sell the piece of land in Newton Ground that Granny left me in her will. I had held on to the land hoping that I would find a job and wouldn’t need to sell Granny’s legacy. Today I feel sure that she would prefer me to sell it than to live the way we do now. I decide not to discuss this with my mother. It’s just too complicated. She’s upset that Granny left me the land and not her, so it’s not something we can discuss anyway. I also know that she’ll complain about my leaving but I can trust her to care for Priscilla, especially if I can
provide for their needs. This was my chance to keep my man, a new trend among the Thompson women. I would do this for Priscilla. After months of agonising, my heart is torn but I feel like I finally have a direction. I walk the streets of Basseterre weaving my way around the street-side vendors as quickly as I can with an eight-month old child on one hip. The smell of ripe mangoes in one woman’s tray teases my nostrils but I hardly notice. I’m focused on the meeting. The Government has sent me at least three letters asking me to service my country by handing over the land for development by the state. “Country above self” the letters emphasized. I don’t feel particularly patriotic, though. I figure that the officials will probably pocket most of the profits when they resell to the developers and the country will only benefit from a small part of my sacrifice. I’ll ask for twenty dollars a square foot, I think. But if I get twelve, that would be perfect. We could fix the roof, put a dent in the mortgage, and get Priscilla in day-care before I leave. Once inside Government Headquarters, I climb the stairs to the Department of Lands and enter the main office. The room is barely cooler than outside but it’s still some relief from the heat. I report to the secretary and find an empty chair among the many other people who are waiting. The room is full, mainly with women, some also carrying babies or wrestling with toddlers. The walls are a sick shade of green and the chairs are uncomfortable, no doubt part of a plan to wear petitioners down before their meeting. I sit, prepared for a long wait. The inner door opens and a woman exits the office. She looks dissatisfied and confused. “Michelle Thompson?” the secretary calls. I’m surprised to hear my name called so soon. There’s a murmur of protest and venomous looks from the other petitioners when I rise. I’m guided into the office and then through another door into an inner office where I find myself in front of a man whom I recognize from the television as being the Permanent Secretary himself. When I saw him on TV I thought that he seemed young to be in such an important position. Today, behind his large desk, he seemed even slimmer and more youthful. “I'm sorry you wasted your time coming here,” he says. “What do you mean?” “The matter is already resolved.” “Resolved? How?” “The rightful owner of the land came forward and sold us the land.” “What? I’m the owner. My grandmother left it to me.” “It wasn’t hers to give,” he counters.
“But my grandfather left it to her.” “That might be so, but the land has been farmed by a Newton Ground resident and his family for the last thirteen years.” His mouth is curled into a half smile. “So?” I respond defiantly, although I recall reading about some law that allows squatters to claim land they’d occupied for a while. “He laid claim to it about a year ago. Squatters’ rights. There would have been notices, maybe letters?” His look says: This is your fault. “A year ago my grandmother was dying,” I say. “Sorry.” He drops his eyes. “But you all wrote me. Up to last month. You thought the land was mine.” I hear the panic in my voice but I can’t control it. “Yes, but our records weren't coordinated right away. You know how that is.” He waves his hands vaguely. “Now we know.” I stare at the Minister as I try to take in what he’s saying. Priscilla whimpers. I bounce my legs and she quiets down. I wish the pain in my chest could be eased as quickly. “There’s nothing I can do.” He taps a pen on a piece of paper on his desk and glances down at it occasionally. This is my cue to leave. “Thank you,” I mumble. “You’re welcome,” he responds. His face is relaxed again, relieved. I push my way through the offices, past the stares of the waiting room occupants. I have to get out before the tears fall. I run down the three flights of stairs to the ground floor. Priscilla giggles, enjoying the bumpy ride. On the street again I stop. I’m about to turn left towards home but I turn right because I know there is only one place for me to go. I head seaward to the bus terminal and hop into a parked bus waiting for passengers going in the direction of Newton Ground. For once I’m grateful for the loud dub music blasting from the sound system on the bus because I can’t think over the noise and if I think I’ll have to admit that going to Newton Ground in my current state of mind is a bad idea. Priscilla starts to cry. She’s tired and hot and the noise must be torture for her. I pull her to me, place my hands over her ears and plant kisses on her forehead. Eventually, despite the noise and the heat in the bus she falls asleep, her head resting on my chest.
It’s about two-thirty, too early for the after-work rush. Some passengers are day workers heading to afternoon shifts in the rural part of the country; others are retirees heading home for a rest after a morning in town. Two girls in school uniform sit in front of me and I wonder if they are playing hooky from school. One of them opens a grease-stained brown paper bag. They break and share the meat patty inside. My stomach growls. I watch an elderly lady pick her way up the stairs of the bus and down the narrow aisle. That could have been Granny, I think. She considers the seat next to me but after a sideways glance at Priscilla and me, she chooses another. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the bus window and I can’t blame her. The heat has turned my short afro into a mess of frizz and my eyes, reddened by crying reflect the desperation that I feel. Finally the bus driver is satisfied with the number of passengers on board and sets off. We head out of Basseterre and the scenery outside of my window slowly morphs from office buildings into residences and then into fields of waving grass. Once we leave town, the bus picks up speed and a strong breeze rushes through my open window forcing me to close my eyes, but my mind is much too alert for sleep. I’m incensed, pissed at a world that allows people to grab land that isn’t theirs; pissed at myself for thanking the Permanent Secretary for stealing my property. I’m pissed at my grandfather and his useless inheritance; at my father who left for the US and never returned; and at Gene, who claims to want me but only on his terms. Gene … Geneva … It has the ring of fate, but without the money from the land sale I can’t leave. I can’t go to Switzerland unless my mother and Priscilla are comfortable and they can’t be comfortable in a leaking house and without money for Priscilla’s care. I open my eyes. We’re passing Old Road Bay. The water glides to and from the shore, caressing the rocks, and even that makes me angry. The sea should be dark with colossal waves crashing against the rocks, raging at the world like I am. The documents from Granny’s will are in my bag and among them a note in her handwriting describing how to find her plot. I take it out and read it. She doesn’t include any street names, only landmarks which I hope still exist. I know that she must have written the note several years ago, before she became ill, and there has been quite a bit of development in Newton Ground since then. I look out again just in time to see the sign. Welcome to Newton Ground “Stop here for me,” I shout. The bus jerks to a halt. I gather the sleeping Priscilla in my arms and descend. I head towards the sea. In the distance I spot a stand pipe on a corner. Water drips from the faucet into the concrete basin that has been recently built beneath it. I’m pretty sure that’s the stand pipe Granny mentions in her note and I make a left after I pass it. The next landmark is an abandoned wooden house with a red roof. I don’t expect it will still be there, but to my surprise, there it is. The red on the roof has faded to a light pink and some of the galvanize is
rusting, but I imagine that it could have been a bright red beacon back when Granny made these notes. Finally I’m standing on the land which should be mine. As soon as I step on to that soil I feel Granny’s presence. I close my eyes and let the sensation swell inside me. Granny’s voice fills my head, describing the love between her and my grandfather. “He courted me, long walks, holding hands, talking ‘bout the world, sharing sweet, sweet kisses on the back stoop. Daddy had like him, but not for me. Said he too old, better for Frances, your grand aunt, God rest her soul. She was to marry first. But neither your grandfather not I could even imagine any other love. So we met in secret. For eight years, yes, eight years. My father must have known. But by then I was a teacher, earning my own money even though I was still living at home. We wanted to run away together, but then World War II start, the Royal Air Force recruit him, and … well, he never came back. I was pregnant with your mother when he left. It may have been the wrong way to do things, but I never regret having her and having that piece of him live on for me. “He lef’ me something else, though, lan’ in Newton Ground. It had belong to his Daddy. He knew he mightn’t come back. It was war after all. So he tol’ de lawyers to transfer the title to me if he died. I couldn’t do nuttin with it; too painful, but I leave it in mih will. To you. “To me?” I had asked. “Not Mommy?” “I love yuh mother. I know she blame me for how she life tun out, but is time she take responsibility for sheself. You? You just startin out. First college grad in de family! Use de land to create something for you and mih granbaby.” Create something, I think. I wonder if Granny ever imagined that her endowment would be useless. Priscilla stirs in my arms and lifts her head. She doesn’t make a sound but her movement brings me back to the present. I look around. The plot has been carefully cultivated. The soil has been arranged for planting, flattened here and piled there into several long and neat rows. Small plants I can‘t identify are growing on the garden beds. There’s a make-shift irrigation system; a green hose lies along one of the beds and water trickles out of tiny holes along its length. The farm is wellestablished and the fire in my gut is rekindled at the thought that this guy has not only taken over my land but has established himself so completely.
I walk over to a wooden hut in the far corner of the lot. It’s rough, not professionally constructed but obviously well maintained. Some of the planks in the walls have recently been replaced, new wood intermingled with the old. I knock on the door. After a few seconds it opens. A child about nine years old peeks out. “Hello?” she says. “Is your father home?” I ask.
“No.” She starts to close the door. “Wait!” She stops and opens the door a little wider. I notice her clothes, a flowered cotton sleeveless dress that falls just to her knees. It’s faded and I suspect she’s not the first child to wear it. She holds a smaller child in her arms and stands with one hip jutted out. Her expression is simultaneously critical and quizzical. “Is your mother here?” In response she turns and shouts. “Mommy. Somebody here to you.” I don’t hear the answer, but the child shouts again. “I ain know. A woman wit’ a baby.” There’s a mumble from inside and the child turns to me. “She comin’,” she says and closes the door. After about a minute the door opens again. The woman who stands before me is taller than I am and beautiful with smooth skin evenly darkened by prolonged periods of time in the sun. Her hands are white. She claps them together and a cloud of flour floats down and powders the hair of a small boy who is peeking out from behind her. “Mommy!” he protests dusting off his hair. She laughs. “Sorry, baby,” she says, running her hand over his head. She turns her attention back to me and I realize that I have no idea what I’m going to say. I came looking for a fight, but my fight isn’t with this woman. “I want to speak to the man who claimed this land,” I say pointing to the small field behind me. “You looking at her.” She places one hand on her hip, leans forward and scrutinizes Priscilla and me. “You the woman’s granddaughter?” she says slowly. “Mikki?” I nod. “She have de same eyes,” she continues, jerking her head towards Priscilla. I nod again. Priscilla bears a strong resemblance to my grandmother.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Josie,” she responds. “How you know my Granny?” I ask. “She used to come down here all de time. Until about six years ago,” she says. “She used to sit on a bench and watch the sea.” At this point I am in shock. I hadn’t even known about the land until the last few weeks of Granny’s life. Now to find out that she had been coming here frequently and had befriended this woman. Why did she leave me the land if knowing that she had given it to someone else? I wonder. Granny was a deliberate woman, it was not likely that she had overlooked this problem. “Can I see where she used to sit?” I need to feel close to my grandmother, to feel her guidance through this situation. Josie takes her son by the hand. I step back and let her walk out of the house. She rounds the corner and heads towards the sea. Just a few yards in front of us I see a bench. “She used to sit there and watch the sea. She say she was waiting for she man to come back from the war. Was about eleven years ago when I first met she. I was pregnant. My first chile. I ask her if I could plant the lan; feed myself, an she say ‘Yes.’ She never stop me. Sometimes she talk to me. She tell me bout her daughter and bout you.” “Then you know she wanted me to have this land.” “She never tell me nuttin like that.” She stood straighter. “I have four children and no man. I need this land. My brother tell me I could claim it since I wuk it all dis time and nobody bodder me. It’s mine.” “But you sold it,” I say. “How you goan work it if you sold it?” She looks confused. “I ain sell nuttin.” “I was at Government Headquarters this morning,” I say. “They told me they bought this land. From you. Well, they told me they bought it from the man who owned it. “See that bulldozer up there?” I point to a huge machine I spotted when we rounded the corner of the house, visible although it was several hundred yards away from us. ”It’s waiting to clear out your land to build a hotel.” Her eyes glaze over and I can almost see the realization developing as she processes my words.
“That good-for-nuttin tief,” she snarls. The boy at her side looks up at her with a wideeyed stare. “So many papers. I just wanted the lan to be mine; to stop worrying bout when yuh Granny goan come an tek it; to have someting for my children. I sign everyting. Mih brudder sign too. He say he’s mih witness. Dat dog! He must be put he name on mih lan. MY LAND.” She crumples slowly to the ground. The boy puts his arms around her body. “Don’t cry Mommy,” he says, wiping the tears that stream down her cheeks. “Don’t cry.” “Come. Sit,” I say. I help her to her feet and lead her to Granny’s bench. We sit side by side. I put Priscilla on the ground in front of the bench and Josie’s son sits in front of her. He covers his face with his hands and then uncovers them suddenly. “Peek-a-boo,” he cries. Priscilla giggles. I give the boy a pack of biscuits from my bag and he shares them with Priscilla. Josie has her head in her hands. I put an arm around her shoulders. “There must be a way out of this,” I say. “You say you spoke to my grandmother eleven years ago.” Josie jerked her head up and stared at me, panic in her eyes. “Eleven?” she repeats. “No, I said thirteen.” “You said eleven, Josie,” I say firmly. She drops her eyes. “My brother tole me it had to be twelve years for it to work so that’s what I write on de paper dem.” “That means your claim was illegal,” I say. “Go to court with me. Say you lied so I can get back the land.” My thoughts are racing ahead of my words. “If I tell the Ministry I’ll sell them the land at whatever price they agreed with your brother they may even help push the process through. They can’t afford the media to know that they cheated two women out of their property.” “The media?” She sucked her teeth. “Dey doan have no power here. Dey only talk but the big men dem still do wha dey want.” “I can write; I can make them listen. I will. Just tell the truth and I will take it from there.”
“I not helping you,” Josie says. “If I confess dey goan throw me in jail.” I look at her with surprise. I haven’t anticipated this response. “It’s too late, Josie,” I say. “I’m sure Granny told me about her trips here. I have her voice on tape. I’m sure she talked about when she came. I’m sure I have proof that you lied.” She grabs my hands and squeezes them tightly. It hurts. “Please,” she cries. “Please. Doan do this. I cyan go jail. What goan happen to mih chilren?” “I must do it,” I say. “I have to get what’s mine. I need this.” Despite my desperation I can see the irony of the situation; she’s fighting for the right to stay with her children just as hard as I’m fighting for the means to leave my child behind. I turn to face her on the bench. “Listen,” I say. “Right now you have nothing. Your brother sold the land from under you. If you confess I’ll give you one-third of the money I get from selling to the government. If I have to do this the hard way, if I have to fight you all in court, I’ll probably still win and you’ll get nothing.” “But my brother…,” she starts. I look towards the bulldozer. “He wasn’t even going to tell you the land was sold.” My voice is almost a whisper. “Will I go jail?” she asks. “I don’t know,” I say. “What about this? We’ll say you made a mistake, mixed up the dates. I’ll do whatever I can to keep you out of jail.” We sit in silence for a while looking out to sea. It’s beautiful, peaceful, and I know now why Granny loved coming here. A warm breeze brushes against me, whispers in my ear, and curls around my body before drifting in Josie’s direction. I imagine myself in Geneva, far from the ocean, wrapped in coats and scarfs, writing about matters of little consequence to me when there are so many wrongs to be exposed right here in St. Kitts. I realise that I can’t leave; I can’t leave Priscilla and I can’t leave my people. Somewhere below us a fishing boat pulls out to sea. “Okay,” Josie says. “Okay, I’ll do it.” I reach over and squeeze her hand.
Ian McDonald Gone To Get Ribbons ah my beloved my rare beauty my heartfire how I have loved you without you I am lost do not die I pray I am selfish do not die heaven protect me from that worst thing cannot be the witness of your death cannot sensibly exist if you do not exist darkness would come upon me worse than death no more to see your eyes alight with life no more feel the calm comfort of your arms which once also with such sweet passion embraced me the way you sing when you think no one is listening I smiling in the other room no more of that cannot bear to think of such desolations you went out this morning to buy fruits you said get ribbons for our granddaughter's hair back soon in a hurry kissed me touch-quick wait wait wait putting out my hand gone with a look-back knife sliced my gut I got up distracted rattle pearls in my lucky-box
Black Forest in Depth Of Blackest Night blow Inside The Skull Awakes Me timeless Instant All There Is To Know not In Shuttered Room’s dim Curtained Light Heavy Heavy Hours fixed In Place By Drugs And Needles bottled Air Heart Measured On A Chart must Please Hear Me Find A Better End facing The River’s Much-Remembered Beauty chopped To Brightness Or At Rest far Sky Stretching To The End Of Time flames Of Sunset Lingering Into Night near My Beloved Waiting For The Dark moon Honey-Gold And Tilted its Rising Beauty We’ve So Often Shared coming Up Over The Black And Endless Forest.
Ayanna Gillian Lloyd
Homegoing There is a golden bell affixed to the base of a crucifix on the blue door of the funeral home. I push it open and the bell gives a soft jingle. Father and I walk into a beige, carpeted foyer where a mahogany upright piano stands in one corner and a couch in pale swathes of pink and green in another. Next to it is a coffee table with magazines, paperback books, and newspapers. A distinguished looking man in a suit stares at me from a portrait on a far wall. His red tie and broad shoulders set against the dark hues and shadowy background of the painting makes him look elegant but there is a hint of mischief in his eyes.
Father and I stand in silence until we hear footsteps on the stair. A man descends. The resemblance is startling, even from a distance; he is the younger version of the man in the portrait - the same deep-set eyes and broad shoulders. But this is where the similarity ends. The rolled up sleeves of his black shirt reveal tattoos that start at his long, thick fingers, trail up his to his wrist, past his forearms and disappear in the folds of his shirt. There is nothing distinguished about him and while he looks younger than the man in the portrait, his face is lined and there are shadows beneath his eyes.
“I am sorry about your mother.” He looks directly at me and his eyes are not soft. “Thank you.” I have said ‘thank you’ many times in the last few days - at the hospital, at the grocery store, to people who stop me on the street: “Thank you…Yes, it was sudden… 63…Yes. Thank you.” Officials ask questions I have no satisfactory answers for: “…No, she did not have an ID card…No, she did not have a passport, she did not believe in traveling… Yes sir, I know that is very strange… No sir, I don’t believe she has renewed her driver’s license in many years… Yes, she did drive a car… Yes sir, I know that is strange too…Yes sir, I know you need picture ID to identify…” 141
But when I tell them that I am wearing her face, walking on her bones, her blood coursing through my veins, proof that she lived, their faces show startled disbelief, soft-eyed pity then empty stares. Bloodlines are not identification; Government officials do not understand lineage. I realize the man on the stairs is speaking: “Come with me.” I look from his face to the portrait on the wall, and then back to his face again. I wonder if people see him, stop, stare and almost call him by the name of someone who is no longer here. I wonder if portraits can be used as identification. An invisible thread connects us now, we doppelgangers who bear the faces of those who are gone. I want to talk to him about bloodlines; I think he would understand what the government officials did not. Instead, I follow him mutely behind Father who grips the stairwell tightly and walks slowly up the carpeted stairs. His shoes do not make a sound. The man leaves us and we sit now at a table in a pale blue room with a woman wearing a tidy, navy skirt suit. Her face bears the sympathetic smile that I had grown used to seeing. She sits at the head of the large table and Father and I are on opposite ends of it, facing each other. Her mouth moves. She has done this before. Her voice has the practiced lilt of someone who knows the words that should be said, but I cannot hear them. I stare instead at the white crocheted runner on the table, then at another golden crucifix on the wall. Father is withered, like a tree that has been standing too long, eyes unfocused behind his gold-rimmed glasses.
We get down to the business of casket selection – large for a large woman. “Mahogany?” “How much?” I ask. She answers. I nod. “Prayer service?” "No," I answer. “Bereavement counseling?”
“No.” “Flowers?” “How much?” She checks a stack of files then answers. I shake my head, “No.” The dead tree finds its voice, drawn from roots that were planted from before I was born, “Roses” I soften a little, “I don’t think we can…” “Yes,” he says more clearly now. “Twelve red roses. Full and open. No rosebuds." He is firm on this. The room falls silent. The woman stares across it, looking at neither of us as if to give us privacy if only with her eyes. “Fine,” I say “Roses.” The air is full for a moment. There are memories in it that I cannot quite grasp because they do not belong to me. The woman breaks the silence, “Would you like to dress her?” Father flinches. She pauses and then continues softly, “It’s something people feel they cannot do, but we often advise it as part of the healing.” Dress. Her. The words float above my head as if on their way to someone else’s ears. Dress. Her. The woman’s eyes dart back and forth, from him to me, unsure of where to focus her question. Father’s fingers shuffle papers - a death certificate, a marriage certificate, a receipt. He takes them out and looks at them. He puts them back into the brown manila envelope. He takes them out again and stares at the table. “No.” Her eyes settle on me instead.
Dress. Her. He shuffles the papers again and keeps his eyes down. I nod. Yes. We say very little after that. For days, we say very little at all. *** I return to the place with the blue door. Today is a day only for the women. We come bearing lipstick and nail polish in the glaring pinks, reddest reds, deepest purples that she loved; Shea butter and coconut oil for her hair; a deep blue gown from Lagos that falls in waves with white embroidery at the breast and neckline. We come bearing grief and memories, bearing each other.
The man with the tattooed arms greets us at the door. Our eyes meet and hold. The thread pulls taut. He turns and walks us down a corridor. It is, like everything else in the place, decorated in soft, pale colours. His shoulders almost fill the corridor, his shirt, white today, is tucked in folds around a narrow waist into his trousers. I notice for the first time how tall he is, how long his legs are and we follow him in single file. On the walls are framed photographs of the family - two boys, a girl, the lady in the skirt suit and the man in the painting on the wall. They are laughing together seated around a Christmas tree. In another, they are posed uncomfortably the children in starched, frothy white, both parents, younger, smiling and embracing each other. As we walk down the corridor, I watch them grow older and then the man in the painting disappears. There are fewer photos after that. I cannot see any evidence of the man with the tattoos in these framed photos. It was as if he strode into the world as the man walking ahead of me on the day his father died, a product of death. We reach a door at the end of the corridor. The tattooed man does not turn around to reassure us, he simply opens it and wordlessly goes inside.
The room is cold, white and chrome. There is one chair. Behind it, an air-conditioning unit whirrs in the corner. A large mound is covered in a white sheet on a table in the centre of the room. He stands next to it, his eyes fixed on me again. â€œShe will be cold. She will not look 144
like herself. She is not there. They are gone long before they come to me.” His voice is the same, but there is a flicker of urgency in it now. He wants to make sure I understand, that I am prepared.
We walk toward her. I lead and the others trail behind me. As I approach the table he moves and makes way to allow me to draw near. My body stops just short of brushing his as I move past him. He smells like cigarette smoke and cedar wood. Then the wailing begins, as if it is happening far off and the shuffling of feet, the whirring of the air conditioning unit and the moans are happening to someone else. I lift the white linen sheet and see her face. Her skin seems to fall in folds downward from her nose. Her eyelids are sunken and wrinkled and the corners of her mouth are tilted slightly upward as though she were half smiling. It is an expression I have never seen on her face. ‘How much do I love you?’ she asks. My 5-year old hands start to spread, just a little at first, measuring a space about the size of my school ruler. ‘This much?’ the smile begins across my face. I know this game. ‘Bigger than that’, Mummy says. I touch her face. It is icy and stiff. Her skin is dusty brown and shadowed with grey hollows. The contours of her face look like they were shaped from plasticine. ‘This much?” I spread my small hands wider now. She laughs. ‘Bigger than that!’ I pull the sheet down past her neck. Her body is a bloated square encased in an opaque, white, plastic garment that covers her from her neck to her elbows. The terrain of her body is hard inside its plastic casing. I hear snatches of the man in white, muted in the background, “Autopsy…stitches…morgue…understaffed, overworked...butchered. I fix them up.” I spread my hands as wide as they can go now
stretching them so wide that the muscles in my chest stretch and those in my back bunch. ‘This much?' My voice high-pitched, incredulous, laughing now. I keep pulling the sheet downward until her whole body is revealed. The plastic garment stops at her knees, tied off with elastic bands. It hides things. Were her feet always this tiny? Were their soles always this ragged? Her toes always this callused? ‘Bigger and bigger and bigger than that, big like the whole world!’ she exclaims and laughs. Then the tears come and I hold her. This icebox of a body looks nothing like my mother, feels nothing like my mother. This is nothing like Gale, the storm, the mountain, Gale who was never sick till she was, Gale who they put in a freezer until I could come home to her. ‘I love you this much.’ I feel hands on me and then see them extend to her. Together, we rub her feet and hands with Shea butter, then paint red nail polish for her toes and red nail polish for her fingers, red lipstick for her strangely tilted lips. I remember her hands with nails always done, red and moving, playing the piano in the dark when the current cut off, the room lit only by candles. I remember her hands, holding a shovel, digging a hole in the backyard, a grave for a dog, too loved to be discarded like rubbish. I take down her hair and grease her scalp with bergamot and coconut oil. As I move my fingers through, it is wiry and strong and living, a little grey at the temples. I part it in sections, then separate each part into two smaller sections and twist them around each other, making the twists that she made in my hair for years until I was old enough to do it myself. My fingers slick with bergamot slide through her hair and I keep twisting until her whole head is done.
I hear a single cracked voice humming softly, off-pitch then clearer as it finds the note. Another voice joins it, and another until the words come: “Ba moin un ‘ti beau..” and we sing for Gale a song that she loved in the room with the white walls and the tattooed man that smells like a burning forest:
“Ban moin un ti bo, deux ti bo, trois ti bo doudou...Ban moin un ti bo, deux 'ti bo, trois ti bo doudou...” We unfold the blue gown and bring it toward the table. The man walks forward with a pair of scissors and cuts the back of the dress open from hem to just short of the neckline in one smooth even stroke. With practiced hands and strong shoulders, lifts her large, cold body, and motions for me to lift her head through the neckline of the gown to put the dress on. We stand at either end of her -- me at her head and him at her feet -- his arms curled under the body. I think of his fingers on the white plastic of her back where the blue of the dress does not reach. I think of his hands dipped in chemicals on her dead flesh under the plastic. He looks at me and I wonder what it would like to be touched by a forest as it burns.
And then it is finished. She looks no more alive than she did when we walked into the room; the painted and sculpted face looks no less blank. “My mother is dead.” I say it out loud in the quiet of the room. I feel hands move me to the foot of the table. One of the women tips a small bottle of rosemary oil onto her finger and beckons me to her. I raise my head and search the room for the man with the tattoos. He nods, yes. She holds my head firmly and traces a line from my forehead, past my hairline into the thicket of my hair and swirls her thumb in a small circle at the crown of my head. Another woman sprays Mummy’s body with perfume, a tumble of flowers she always wore and sprays me with the same, “Wear it for the next ten days, so she can find you and know you, so she can always come home again.” She presses the bottle into my hands. I want to walk across the room to the man and rest my body against his, to stand in this room with my dead mother and this man that now knows her like no other man has and lean my cheek against his white shirt. But my feet are heavy and the space between us is too white, too chrome, too cold. I look down at my hands, the smell of the mother that I knew filling my lungs. “Which way is home again?” No one answers.
VII THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE IMAGINATION
Rashaun J. Allen A Melody on Repeat Cramped, elevator music is spinning in my mind I am inspired by syncopated rhythms digging fiendishly for a gold standard vision neither in the past or present but an outer body experience in another dimension, tapping inspiration into submission What words to produce? That ring true to my core, spread over a world wide web that can tell the story of my plight. Miscellaneous cues are worthy Stagnating frequency. Vibe with me outside a box that trapped your genius. All great artists were once called mad. Peek into my rebirth. Outside the flames of a phoenix is no other than my life work.
Ian McDonald Poetry shimmering cloth green and gold in two hours she knits a scarf I sit beside her reading poems every now and then she shows me her work unfolding perfectly every movement poised and deft line after line repeats her art astonished how quick her fingers dart find lines I love to read to her don’t she says don’t I’ll drop stitches be calm be calm you agitate my mind and so I mark the lines in books
for when she’s done Carver’s Fragment Walcott’s egrets Jeffers’ passion for his dying wife in Hungerfield whose sprawling lines obsess me sipping El Dorado and black Jamaican coffee 15 year old liquor warms the heart she warms it too the glittering scarf unfolds she holds it up complete for you when winter comes she says now read me your poetry love
Ernestia M. Fraser Saying Goodbye to Elijah’s Chariot I still don’t know how to write a single word That wasn’t borrowed from somebody else. This Bible of existence is a heavy weight On the school of my tongue. I want to break The shell of ecstasy off every beautiful thing Until all that is left are ruined sand castles. Love is sometimes a wasteful tradition And I cannot stand to watch carrion, carry on. I remember the way my heart fumbled for days inside your golden chariot, our flight soaring high, propelling many bones and quiet dreams The effortless desire of watching your humble body transform into a shiny prayer, your spirit fermenting into a strong taste of wine. My heart hallowed by your pious traditions and your quiet chorus by the pond— the life of us, a sacred communion a chariot, climbing to heaven… soon vanishing… And for a long time, I lay restless in the back pocket of a plum tree, wondering where your hands had gone and if it had found another bed of honey.
Bryanna Valverde DeBartolo The Sound Cloud A crisp night breeze rocks my curtain. Multitudes of crickets harp. Dogs howl to each other. Street lamp seeps onto my walls, a motion picture of coconut branches and bacando leaves outlined in a square, and crowned with a knotted curtain. Miniature red orchids orbit tall stems. Cool breeze brushes my back, caresses my bathed skin. Bats glide across the night in search of ripened figs. The page fills up. Burps. Asks for more. It wants to quiet the fear, steady the trembling earth in me. Voices trickle in, over music— I make out the sound above skidding tires and shifty rustles: the curves of her laugh.
Lazzari After heavy rain, warm mist rising from the pitch road. Leaves dripping fresh, refracting sunlight, tiny gold beads bending the leaf until they slip —splash— breathing thick air. Pearls of sweat trickle over honey-brown skin. The road’s temporary stillness, everything and nothing heard. Sudden wing-flap, zippy hummingbird darting past wet immortelle flowers,
matte orange petals dotting the dampened forest floor. Wild vines spiraling above coiling branches of breadfruit, goliath leaves umbrellaing the ground. Coconut shafts in a row, young stalks budding from their center, waves of leaves swaying up against hammock ties. Pitter-patter mixing with rolling tires. Winds chime in voicesâ€” floating onto the flat veranda in the ascent of steam. Nadine Rogers priestess Just because I make it plain, they say I am not Derek Walcott. I have buried many people and things too awful to name, so I am well-qualified to be a priestess. Leave me to my sorcery. Bones. Fingers. Hair. Teeth. Leave me to weave and wreck. To destroy and re-create.
Dorsia Smith Silva Jonquil Yard My spirit closed once more four times over steps of dandelion wandering in this trespass I have already lost you to glass garden waters falling like jonquil string detached from memoryâ€™s accomplice
how I am pressed in handkerchiefs balancing lopsided corners deformed locket flowers choked with your sweetsalt dirt
Alan C. Smith Red and Hiding There are poems hiding under the clothes strewn on the floor of my bedroom, under the open unpaid bills, under the caked dead skin in corner sills, many legged wasp-red creatures with stings. I tiptoe through in darkness lest I trample them; stung by stings unleashing unbearable pain and potent poison. There are poems hidden in my water-heater closet under the dust bunnies and petrified roaches on their backs, crisscrossed legs tight to their abdomens; poems squirming in the road-kill on the dead zone of my walk home, grotesque pretty â€˜lil things trying to vibrate new wet wings the right rhythm to fly, land in my brain just short of a rhyme, maybe pupate and live as a song in time if they donâ€™t die. But in the savage garden out there most of them never even make it to ears let alone forgotten in a book at the bottom of a chest in a closet where the silverfish feed and breed Funny, Iâ€™ve never even seen more than one silverfish at a time; strange solitary insect like the poet inspired. There are poems hidden in the creations pinned to my wooden walls, nestled in the images that release me. There are poems sleeping in my dreams, half remembered, awake only in the periphery of my subconscious mind; red and hiding.
Debarun Sarkar Interview with a Working Class Poet The following are seven questions I had a chance to ask a working class poet over a span of a week. I "There isn't a lot by the way of poetry that has not been communicated about the notion of 'place'. There are very distinct city poets, suburban poets, rural poets. Agha Shahid Ali's work for example reeks of abandonment, melancholia and mourning, the diasporic blues, Hoshang Merchant's work of indiscriminate travel and wisdom, Divesh Wadhawan's Bombay of the western suburbs or Namdeo Dhasal's Bombay. How do you think your notion of place, belonging works?" "When the dust blows across the city, minutes or hours before the stormy rain strikes. That is where I belong. Among the dust and pollution, in hope of acidic rain bringing down the particles of the long industrial chimneys to dirty the ground level building painting them black and in the process cleaning the IT glass clad buildings." II "In some of your work politics is privileged more than the poetic, the lyrical, the sublime. This turn towards bleak realism and also tract like rants, how do you defend it as poetry?" "Tomorrow go sit beside the mad man sleeping on the streets and drink with him for a while if he accepts the offer. Romanticize after that. Ask me this question then." "What if Ginsberg asked you that question?" "When Ginsberg would have found God, only then he would have had the right to ask me that question. Otherwise his myths are as good as the mad man's on the road. III "You like quoting Nietzsche, that women can't write poetry." "Yes. Because I am a woman." IV "Does the fact that you are a migrant help you associate with a certain subject position." "Yes, that of the dust and the wind. The cosmos The working class. Your stupidity and naivety is unnerving." V "Do you write from memory or immediately to draw an analogy with the painter." "I want to sleep."
VI "You did not answer the question yesterday." "Let's cook some meat today." VII "Have you been working on something new?" "Yes. The medicines are working." ________________ "Interview with a Working Class Poet" was first published in Dryland: Los Angeles Underground Art & Writing (Vol/Issue 7, Summer 2017), pp 21-22.
Obediah Smith Jackson Pollock out of what life was what he was putting on canvas, dripping, splashing, being poured what Pollock had done- was doing the public and other artists thought anyone can do it my kid can do it the paints he painted with monochromatic paintings or paintings with whatever variety of colors certainly did come in cans his paintings though whether his marks, his images were made with a brush or a stick or poured directly out of paint cans his paintings came out of him, they were out poured from his life, the life of Pollock and no other - born in 1912 died in 1956 - his life was a complex life indeed his abuse of alcohol, clinically an alcoholic from age 17 155
no, not just anyone was capablewas able to make his paintings anyone could out pour paint from paint cans or use a brush or use a stick to let paint drip what only he had though was the life that he had lived person that he was, vessel containing his life out of this latter vessel his art would have come to a far far greater extent than what came in cans than what just anyone could do with brush or stick from which paints dripped it does not matter, said Pollock what instrument was being used to apply the paint - brush or stick or turkey basters - what mattered was that something was being said no one but Pollock you see, could say what Pollock had to say could say exactly what Pollock said
VIII THE NEW WORLD IMAGINATION
Jerome Teelucksingh La Vega Estate The ponds of murky water are home for the caimans, ducks and amphibians, whilst patrons weave among the aroma of the ornamentals, admiring the kaleidoscope flowers with soft petals. Hybrid fruit trees are pregnant and await delivery. Royal peacocks cautiously display their rainbow plumage, they proudly strut away from prying humans in nearby foliage. A hungry iguana scurries away in the bushes, a sleeping sage will soon spread its wings at nightfall. Dancing colours morph into butterflies each with unique livery.
Divali Celebrations See the clean hands placing ghee in the earthen vessel on grass green, a moist wick carries the flame as good overcomes evil that made you sick. Mother Lakshmi smiles also at the miles of electronic lights. Hands with mehindi neatly drape the sari on arms that once worked the lands. Young men in the village bend bamboo, eyeing future wives they hope to woo. Later in dusty grounds, they burst bamboo filling air with loud sounds. Rangoli designs adorn the entrance of the mandir and beautifies the morn, skilled hands paint murtis for devotees to cleanse their lives of taint. Friends who had kurma, saheena, parsad and sada roti, pumpkin are all glad. Old ears listen to classical and Ramleela songs from distant years, they remember the dance moves from the black and white Indian movies. The simple light of the deyas begins to eliminate spiritual blight.
Ian McDonald The Great Tree heaviness in the air huge clouds built all day after midnight the storm struck brutally tempest of sound wind lashing the dark forest almighty crack of thunder joined a lightning flash blinding white filled the room we all jumped up morning saw the tallest tree split open
stood out towering mighty under heaven star-witnessed before our fatherâ€™s fathers lived along its length the long wound raw and black knew we were in the presence of a great death for miles and miles the river people came to see hushed sad-eyed slow they came and went called a sawmiller the tree was dangerous more hard wind might bring it to a crash three old men asked before the tree was cut ceremony of ancient reverence for what on earth is sacred simple blessing not taking long fire in a gourd the ancients passed around and lifted to the sky some simple words and at the end they bowed when it was cut in pieces it was hard to look
Stravinskyâ€™s Fingers I can understand when death beckons at the last I will find it hard to go will not want to leave the beauty of the world green trees swaying in the wind the sea's scent arbours hummingbird-haunted wing-flash blue and gold sun breaking through clouds at the day's end never-ending newness of things to sum it up you know just the wonder of what comes next grandson ball at his feet shouting with joy one morning wake when there will be no other morning no more to ask my friends what else what else do without the companionship of love infinity of small signals and exchanges understanding perfectly what each means to each continually Stravinsky in whose mind songs of the wild earth soared all his life think what that must mean in his last days last hours it is recorded "made his fingers into little hooks of flesh" as if to catch hold cling to those he loved to life
Master-Spirits of Guyana In a long life I have read the books and been taught the deeds and studied the scholarship and seen the art of the famous in many great countries of the world. The work of some of our own in this small corner where I have lived and which is blessed and which I love is as exceedingly good as the best I have seen or known about anywhere. Such men are geniuses on a par with any. Here are five my life has been enriched to know. These memories are no more than a few sparks snatched from the fire of their lives. These were encounters I will never forget. From almost the first day I arrived in Guyana in 1955 I got to know Martin Carter. I had read some of his already famous “revolutionary” poems and the power of their perfectly expressed scorn and anger made them immediately memorable. I began to meet him regularly and knew at once that he was exceptional, his presence filling much more than its share of space, and that his poetry would from then on be a strong influence. There were times when we were in especially frequent contact – when he was Bookers’ Chief Information Officer between 1959 and 1967 and especially when, as joint editor with George Lamming, he was helping to prepare the New World publication to mark Guyana’s Independence in 1966 and I was assisting David de Caires in getting the publication financed and into print. When Martin was at Bookers he was not what you would call an ordinary runof-the-mill administrator but while there he played a particularly strong part in the process of Guyanisation which helped transform the old, colonial, expatriate–staffed upper structure and made nationalization when it came later a relatively natural and non-disruptive development. But it was always the “poems man” that I loved like a, sometimes wayward, brother. And it was always his marvelous poetry which as the years went by filled me with what I can only call reverence for a work of man of everlasting value. After Martin suffered a stroke he never fully recovered and was not able to write poetry. But after a while he was capable again of speaking in his old style and often with intense passion as of old. At one of his last dinners with a small group of friends we listened with no thought of interrupting as he spoke with wonderful clarity and love of the poetry of W.B. Yeats. He said the greatest poem ever written was Yeats’s poem “Among School Children” and he called for it to be read. Miles Fitzpatrick, I remember, got Yeats’s Collected Poems from his library and Rupert Roopnarine read the poem beautifully and, again I remember so well, Martin with head in hand listening and by the time the last lines were read tears were glistening in his eyes: “Oh chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? Oh body swayed to music, Oh brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?” At the time Martin died in December, 1997, Georgetown was in an uproar after the general election. President Janet Jagan could not attend Martin’s funeral mass at the Church of 160
the Sacred Heart in Main Street because of fears for her safety. She sent me a note asking me in her absence to read the eulogy she had written for him at his funeral. When I got up to read it the noise outside the Church was so loud I do not think the words could be heard. But I was pleased to shout them as loudly as I could because they named him a great man of the people, a great human being, a great poet and a great Guyanese and those words deserved to be heard. The English poet William Wordsworth once asked the question, “What is a poet?” In the answer he gave to his own question I recognize fully and precisely my friend Martin: “The rock of defence of human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the Poet’s thoughts are everywhere; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favourite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge – it is as immortal as the heart of man.” I once went fishing in the Lama Conservancy with Aubrey Williams. I caught nothing but Aubrey caught a couple of good-sized lukanani. Their colours shone as they lay dying in the bottom of the boat but by the time we got back to the Lama guesthouse the beautiful life-colours of the lukanani had faded in death. Aubrey made me a comparison. The paintings he composed in his imagination gleamed with the colours of heaven but by the time he got them on to the canvas they had grown dull and he was woebegone. He tried mightily to preserve the originals that hid in his imagination but mostly he failed. Composition was a sort of death. This seemed astonishing to me. To me and others his great series of paintings blaze with the undying fire of genius. I found Aubrey the most overwhelming physical presence I ever encountered. Aubrey’s joy and laughter and praise of all the earth was an elemental force which lifted everyone around him. He told me when he went into the deep forest he and the friends with him would seek out a forest giant and embrace it with their joined arms until they sensed its spirit enter them like light or a thunder in the heart. This was not a game. This was how he worshipped and prepared his mind for work. He summoned Gods to preside. Whenever I met Aubrey and talked with him and when he gave me his huge hug before leaving my home I felt afterwards that it was not good enough to live an ordinary life. Soon after I arrived in British Guiana in 1955 I met Wilson Harris. Arthur Seymour had introduced me to his writing by giving me a copy of Wilson’s strange and powerful poem “Eternity to Season.” Wilson was a professional surveyor and spent much of his time in the forest and savannahs whose great spirits invaded his imagination forever. When he was in town I used to meet him at Martin Carter’s home. Wilson had a smile which crinkled his face until his eyes nearly closed and a very distinctive, slow, quiet tone of voice. But when he was inspired by the ideas teeming in his mind his low voice would rise and rise as he read out loud passages he had written to express his thoughts and his speaking of the words would 161
become a sort of chant and soon he would be raising his hand to strike Martin or me on the arm or knee as we sat near him quite hard and harder to punctuate and emphasise what was tumbling out of his mind. “You see!” he would say. “You see! You see!” I might not always see. But I felt. Some passages he read were incomprehensible to me. Some I remember being as beautiful and clear yet shadowy as forest rivers. At the time he may have been composing that extraordinary, visionary, wholly original work later published in England as Palace of the Peacock – so I like to think those passages he beat upon my knee may have been the first announcements of his genius! After Wilson went to London I did not see much of him. But I sent him copies of my own books of poetry written over the years and he always replied with a kind and thoughtful handwritten note. And whenever I visited him in his London home he and his beloved wife Margaret were the very soul of courtesy and kindness. He would explain to me the latest of the strange paths his thinking had taken towards truth and eternity. I could seldom follow him very far down those mystic paths. (In one meeting he said that the findings of the quantum physicists were beginning to enter into his thinking). But I was always left at the end of our times together with the sense that my own imagination was being stressed and stretched to the very edge of joining him beyond the ordinary world we live in to find the age-old spirit and greater power that guides our immortal selves and shapes our universal destiny. Denis Williams’s masterpiece was probably the work Prehistoric Guiana published in 2003. In that magisterial book we have the work of Denis Williams, archaeologist and anthropologist of worldwide stature. But Denis, astonishingly, was much more than that. He was certainly one of the most extraordinary men I have ever met in my life. In my day to day experience only Martin Carter matched him as a creative presence in the nation. When those two men died within a year of each other in 1997/98 you could almost feel the world of art and sensibility in Guyana grow narrower in imagination, meaner in spirit, shallower in intellect, smaller in stature, weaker in all that inspires humanity to do its best. When Denis returned to Guyana from Africa in 1968 I met and got to know him. He went into the interior to farm and write and paint. I used to send books and magazines to him in his forest domain and he never failed to thank me in letters which I treasured for their wonderful range of interest, depth of reflection and lucid literary expression. From that time when I first got to know him well he seemed to me, in the variety of his passions and enthusiasms, a sort of West Indian Leonardo Da Vinci. He seemed filled with that fervent eagerness to understand all the world’s mysteries which the scientist Louis Pasteur called “the inner god, which leads to everything.” There is a passage about Da Vinci, that greatest of all Renaissance men, which could have described Denis as I remember in him the tumult of his enthusiasms: “It seemed that nothing was impossible for him, that he could attempt anything – and understand anything. He composed treatise after treatise; with supreme self-confidence he sought to penetrate the secrets of art, water, air, mankind, the world. He was interested in 162
geology, in fossils, in ancient architectures and in the formation of mountains. He investigated the origins of milk, colic, tears, drunkenness, madness and dreams. He talked of writing what the soul is. He dreamed of flying like an eagle or a kite and began to draw plans of flying machines. Alongside a drawing of a bird in a cage he wrote: “my thoughts turn to hope.”” Denis was continuously bursting with creative energy. In a recent article by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, I have read that creative fecundity of this kind is what distinguishes the truly gifted. The difference between Johann Sebastian Bach, for instance, and his long-forgotten musical peers is that they had a handful of ideas to their names whereas Bach in his lifetime created more than a thousand full-fledged musical compositions. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones band tells how they had to discard hundreds and hundreds of ideas and lyrics before they were left with the classic album Exile on Main Street. Partly at least a genius is a genius because he comes out with a staggering number of insights, theories, random interesting perceptions, unexpected connections between different points of view, all pouring out in a stream very likely to yield a final array of original concepts and finished creations. Denis’s creativity was expressed in an extraordinary variety of ways. Some men write novels, some are celebrated painters, some compile works of deep scholarship, some edit important magazines, some make brilliant careers of lecturing and teaching, some are devoted keepers of a nation’s heritage. And in each case what these men do so well is enough to make them famous and fill their lives with value. But Denis Williams did all these things with passion and intelligence mixed to a high pitch of achievement. And, beyond the myriad public achievements, it is well known – and I can certify – that his private conversation was a full and stimulating education all by itself. There is an African saying that when an old man full of wisdom dies a whole library is burned down. When Denis died not only a library burned but whole galleries of art and the imagination went up in flames. Then there was the master spirit who lived in our midst. Philip Moore died at a patriarchal 90. His life-work is a glory of his land. I believe he is one of the world’s great artists. His paintings and sculptures should grace famous galleries and perhaps one day they will. For the time being let us feel fortunate that his mysterious, darkly shimmering, meticulously crafted, Afric-centred, shaman-inspired masterworks are available for viewing in Guyana. A day will come when they will be universally revered. Once I visited Philip where he lived when he was in Georgetown. The place was filled with his work hung and propped on walls and occupying tables and chairs. He showed me around. I was in a daze. There were many wondrous works in progress. Then in his small bedroom he showed me an extraordinary thing. It was a coverlet of some sort, the material perhaps oil-skin or the stretched and stitched hides of animals. Philip had painted over every inch of both its surfaces in the most brilliant colours in interlocking patterns of suns and moons and stars and crosses and crescents and hearts and priests or prophets in white robes. In the dark it dazzled me. A universcape, he called it.
Philip said when he felt a weakness in himself, when he felt exhausted by the world, he would lie down and wrap this coverlet around him and rest alone and gradually he would revive, slowly his soul would clear, slowly his vision would come back to him, his dreamclothed spirit would strengthen and at last he would be ready to do his work again. “Wrapped in my cloak of dreams”. Naturally I have remembered such a beautiful and wondrous thing ever since. And it has seemed to me that all these exceptional human beings whom we call geniuses, and one of which Philip Moore most certainly was, one way or another, actually or figuratively, clothe themselves with dreams when it is needed to bring forth their miracles of achievement.
Nancy Anne Miller Swimming Lessons The poet from the B.V.I. said she never learned to swim even though all beaches with their frilly bathing skirts opened up to all islanders. Her genes remember the fear of water, ancestors held in the mouth of a ship the ocean tried to expunge, while it heaved and rolled. Vomit them through the cracked veneer of the vessel’s curved lips. The masters never allowed lessons lest slaves would flee. Who saw the surf as chains, a net pulling them down under. Not clouds of light, one could ride, feel free. Not where a body could float, not belong to anyone. Waves breaking over their shoulders into surf like wings.
Yesha Townsend of the water
He had left the ‘jacket and tie’ garden party after twenty minutes of people looking at him till he miraged. Jada in her pale purple dress would be looking now, politely trying to close conversations and darting her eyes around the heads of the other guests to find him. The dress licking her heels with the softest crest - he unbuttoned the neck of the shirt she had bought him four months earlier, for that interview for that job he never got - she checks behind the thick of trees at the far end of the garden, at the waiters’ station, the bathrooms, the fountain, a hand rests on her shoulder Jada you have to meet Bryan, he’s from the Museum of Modern Science in Seattle she pulls her smile to strain - He crosses the tennis courts where a kid with braids is battling a machine shooting yellow balls to her at 80mph - the guests are guzzling themselves of prosecco and expensive laughter, Jada pulls one from the pit of her stomach, a shot put of a delivery - he wraps his tie around his hand to climb the barbed fence at the end of quiet cobbled street and lands on the other side in an invasiveness of green champagne glasses and the sun’s bleeding of the sky and the glittering of teeth and mouths opening and closing in formal pandemonium, she looks down in her emptying glass the wine looking like gilded tears - he reaches the sand and sinks into it - she looks up and smiles - he contemplates the water.
⌣⌣⌣⌣⌣⌣⌣⌣⌣⌣ The day they buried Aias it was raining. The initial walk to the gravesite had been one accompanied by a persistent drizzle, rain that grandmothers called sickly rain “rain that will have you sneezing in a second, ‘cause it’s easily underestimated.” By the time the pall bearers were lowering him in the ground the sky had opened. Neatly ironed dress pants were sticking to the legs of the men, dresses clung to the curves of the women making them reminiscent of a hellenistic beauty, a winged victory - salt spray blown from prow adornment. Sideways’ mother held so much water that day she looked as if she could’ve up and floated down the street, into the harbor and out to an eternity of ocean. There were moments when the pastor swallowed, stopped and re-spit whatever scripture was trying to make light of his tongue but was faltering under the pelting sky. There was a moment that Sideways looked up in the midst of everyone cowering under the rain, he tried, against better bodily judgment to breathe it all in. He sputtered and ended up drinking half his weight in sorrow that day. That day the rain washed every trace of tear from the faces of the mourners. ‘Till you couldn’t tell if people were weeping or becoming one with the weather.
Someone at the party asked about him, Jada, where did that fellow that you came with go? He was quite the character huh? This was DickMars, resident misogynist, racist, misanthrope and all around human scourge. RichardMartin K. SmithConyers III, from money found the attitude and from name found the office - his was two doors up from hers. Oh he had to leave, there was an emergency. At the basketball court no doubt. (Dick laughs) Oh come on Jada, I’m only
joking. He had on an interesting pair of shoes, what did you say he did again? (Jada raised her wine glass to her lips) He’s an ocean. (and swallowed)
Sideways locked gaze withstared at the waves. The sand drizzled off of his black shell tops that were starting to wear through the permanent marker he colored in on the rough spots. The pink sifteding around him, the dead-ing of the coral and sea things, that washed up to a mass grave that found toes in the summer, camera flashes and (oh my Gosh, look at how pink it is!) That finds bottles of all shapes scooping it to rest on shelves or in decorative glasses on the mantle for those to boast “That sand right there is from Bermuda!”, Tthat knew itself to be nothing more than the rinsing of blood red, the memory of something gone, the product of the dead all brilliant and beautiful, ashen and ashes.
The day Sideways met Jada a hurricane hit the island. In actuality the hurricane was supposed to hit two days later, but it sped up and smacked everyone by surprise. Hurricane Wade 2 came for early dinner when he was supposed to be coming for a much later breakfast. They all met (Sideways, Wade and Jada) at a youth lock-in event put on by the east end youth center. Sideways’ mother had made him and Aias go on the basis that they would meet new people and socialize. Well, that would Sideways socialize, Aias already had the socialization thing down pat. He didn’t even have to try, everyone loved him girls and guys alike. He would simply saunter into a room raise his chin the right way and everyone would be smitten. Daps were pounded, lashes were over blinked and Aias yet again commanded the area. Aias frequently called upon his past life resources and memories to thwart the binding of social awkward-ness;, Don Juan showed up in his cheekbones and resonated his speech, Hendrix in his hands (he always knew what to do with his hands) they lay cooly at his side, or by the thumbs in his jean pockets, or flitting fluid and philharmonic conductor like through the air as his gesticulations composed the oxygen around him to a sonata. Sideways knew not how to pull words wildly out of the air and dance them with his hands, he knew his shoulders and the comfort of them to his ears. He knew nothing else.
Hurricane Wade (c. 1992) was a tropical disturbance that moved 100 nautical miles east of Puerto Rico on July 19 before undergoing rapid intensification on July 21 where it quickly gained hurricane status as a category 3 storm. The storm attained its peak intensity with winds of 135 mph (215 km/h) and a barometric pressure of 958 mbar (hPa; 28.29 inHg). The storm briefly weakened to a category two and then unexpectedly underwent a second phase of rapid intensification on July 23 at one point reaching the rate of explosive intensification with the central pressure decreasing at 2.5 mbar per hour. By 1830 UTC, Wade had re-attained hurricane intensity and at 2345 UTC, the center passed directly over Bermuda with winds of 85 mph (140 km/h). Soon after, the storm reached its secondary peak intensity with winds of 90 mph (150 km/h) and a minimum pressure of 974 mbar (hPa; 28.76 inHg).
Just before midnight of the lock-in everyone kinda knew something wasn’t right, when the first window of the one of the upper table-tennis arena turned sleeping rooms blew out and splattered droplets of glass over the sleeping bags that lie on the floor. Wade was knocking, mothers were greying their hairs, the phone would not stop ringing and every kid in the building started to cry.3 Jada found Sideways in a corner by himself cross-legged and staring off into the nothing of air. She tapped his knee and the rain strung the roof, he looked up and the wind howled andthe electricity blew out seconds after that, and theyogether they went together headfirst into the storm.4
shit got real. Wade /wād/ from Old English wadan ‘move onward,’ also ‘penetrate,’ from a Germanic word meaning ‘go (through),’ from an Indo-European root shared by Latin vadere ‘go,’ as in vade mecum. From the Latin vāde (“go, walk”), the second-person singular present active imperative of vādō (“I go, I walk”) + mēcum (“with me”); vade mecum literally meaning "go with me”. 4
When Sideways was born he didn’t breathe for over two minutes. At around thirty seconds after cord cut the Doctorr. raised a silent alarm, the nurses stuck the little sucking thing up his nose to and in his mouth clear his passageways, they rubbed his chest. At one minute past cord cut the Doctor asked for the oxygen, at two minutes Ssideways opened his eyes, but didn’t cry and didn’t breathe. - Shira asked for him, cried over his silence, the Ddoctor said nothing - they were way past the days of spanking bottoms of those who did not want to transition into the world of rising and receding lungs. At two minutes ten seconds post cord cut, they started CPR, the Doctor asked for the intubation tube., Aat two minutes twenty eight seconds at the invasion of gloved fingers in his mouth and the closing distance of a tube to his face he opened his chest and sucked in the sharp nothing all around him. 5
Birth is the occasion when babies breathe for the first time. 172
IX ON THE CANVAS OF THE WORLD
Mezan Morrison Under The House dinner a daughter sits under her father’s house her mother serves a daughter dutty gyal and yam red dirt, her dining table and she thinks it wouldn’t be so bad if the worms and cockroaches didn't invite themselves lunch the makeshift cricket pitch at the centre of the community is empty, a bunch of girls gossip under the last guango tree no longer concerned with a daughter living under her father’s house they have learnt that silence is a girl’s duty. dessert when her father brings ice-cream a daughter is allowed inside he takes her into the bathroom positions her in a bubblegum bubble bath and cleans her until he is satisfied a daughter no longer cries or eats the ice-cream breakfast her father goes to work takes a fried egg sandwich and coffee and drives off to another world her mother doesn’t throw food under the house today she cannot face a daughter with ice-cream on her cheeks and fingers she tip-toes to the shop and leaves the worms and cockroaches to feast on a daughter who will never
have to eat ice-cream again. Dee Horne Hearing Langston Hughes Hearing Langston Hughes read his poem about rivers of races assimilated like the muddy Mississippi route of slaves sold and those escaping North I see how you see yourself sold out bought in to an assimilationist lie always secretly despising those you claim to love until at last the truth will out and you can no longer lie together torn asunder this dream destroyed this â€œhouse dividedâ€? you must leave this land remains ashes. Philip Armbrister The Vagrant perhaps she left him may be for dead may be for life perhaps the stress the ravenous cancer harvesting his motherâ€™s body perhaps the rejection his emaciated father 175
lure of coke rum sensi perhaps the belief false belief of work more he puts in more he gets out perhaps the disease its incurability irresistibility of sex perhaps the children those awful children irretrievable seeds what makes a man dressed in purple shirt yellow converse bowed head scratch his baggy ass pick up a roadside butt smoke the shit out of it? Nancy Anne Miller Antique Star Map Round as a crystal ball, one might turn to find a path, hold in oneâ€™s hand, cup a drop in the ocean. This one has a star in the middle, like a Bermuda Sand Dollar, I would find on Coral Beach, the tides washed over, spent. A pin cushion where precise points prick the dark. A childâ€™s circle of marbles, large planets knock out smaller ones: taws hit peewees. The nineteenth century one is full of flying figures, a Sistine Chapel for ship captains, where one looks up to feel the muscle of 176
myths ripple the heavens. Capricorn’s bow and arrow, a shipmate’s sextant used to negotiate the skies, to find a seaworthy mark.
Seahorse No need for wings or legs in the buoyant tide of the ocean. The f hole in a cello where the music seeps through. Miscellaneous notes in the waves symphony. Shaped like a pick I used to clean Lacquer’s hooves, removed earth from the iron shoe so he could soar higher when sweat poured down his back salty as the ocean’s surf, smelling of the undersea. Wendy Fulton Steginsky Day-O Hearing Harry Belafonte sear and caramelize his way through this song is like being basted with spumes of sea spray, drizzled over sunburned arms, or being wrapped in sunfish sails swollen as bulging cheeks blowing out birthday candles. Midsummer’s zesty thrill of skimming behind the Boston Whaler, carving a wake beyond Mullet Bay’s glazed waters.
Alan C. Smith Something I Saw While Walking The Dog Like a purse or glove in the road is a toad, squashed and flattened, sunbaked, cured and tanned, not far from the spot where the car happened, on the creatureâ€™s last night, to claim its short life.
A Lake I wonder what happens to the lake in the summer. Why it doesn't dry up. Silent memories of yesteryears drown in the lake as you circle over it on the plane. But the water does not ever disappear completely, moving round and round in the ecosphere, adding shades of colors to the memories and the photographs in the trunk with the changing moisture in the air like the filtered photographs of the Internet, disfiguring data points, destroying traces.
X A FUTURE THEY MUST LEARN
Bryana Valverde-DeBartolo Touched I loved a man, his lips and fingertips rolling over the mounds and hills that are me— a ruined city.
Untouched Sweetheart, men going to tell you all kinds of thing. Them boys rude! From the time we 11, 13, and Aunty Flow visit, they telling us what to do and feel. How we so young and sweet, how we flowering like the orchid, rare, exotic, and sometimeish. How we ripenin’ on the branch like a Julie mango, thickening up the air, seasonal sweetness, from green to orangey flesh on the tree. They see passion fruit on the vine, just like birds, humming, waiting ‘til it ripe enough. Sometimes not even ready to eat yet— and they take a bite. Them man, blue in they face, watching. Just because it was ‘so’ don’t mean is ‘so’ today! Just because they say— I need a man in front, a child behind, one in my belly, one on my hip, Don’t mean I have to listen, and don’t mean I harden.
It just mean— I don’t want to be told when I ready. I ready, when I say I ready. One man say Empower yourself, pose and show off. Another say Repress, woman, get back in the house. Sweetheart, men going to tell you all kinds of thing. When them boys rude, remember we the fruit, and they thirsty. Richard Georges Proverbs i. Death’s ladder is there for all to climb God fashion man from mud and put him right back when he done. ii. the one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way a meandering man on this cracked pebble, an ancient wreck -
bone in the Atlantic’s
a wandering woman waits on the congress of thrashers in the guava tree a
iii. dead man can’t carry dead up de hill Beneath a cracking sky, a jumbie stands on her grave pointing at the white-washed stones of the cemetery wall. Here she must draw up
a femur, some philanges, a hip, and half a jaw-bone to wield at the laughing night. Her empty eyes measure the hill - its steepness, the blindness of its climbing corners â€“ and the sheer impracticality of her burdens laid down at its summit, her shadowy sockets filled with the morningâ€™s bleeding light.
iv. rock stone down river bottom donâ€™t know when de sun hot Under the creased concrete bridge, the ghut trickles a tear. On the slick bank, a rotting rooster rests wings spread in mocked flight, beak agape in co co rico his silent crows echo a perishing dawn co co rico. The water runs cool as a penny under the pillow. The stone smoothed by flood and famine if asked could tell of slave and tsunami, or of when it was a rough rock perched on the hillside and a radiant rooster crowed co co lo.
v. nicknames are used in case the Devil comes asking
Restricted to notarized documents and letters formed cautiously in black ink, penned by the dictates and spaces of church and state, steeple and flag, the Devil knocks on doors with a flick of his tail, and hisses a name between his forked tongue and perfect teeth.
Twanda Rolle PAPER LOVE Like paper You can hold it Half bent or torn It’s white oleander As winds blow It blossoms in time. Paper unwritten Can be written on It’s vulnerable Paper love origamied? What you get Is what you’ve bent. If you bend it will bend As your hands and fingers Mold creases It succumbs Responding to Every touch of your fingers. Paper lies staring Clean and bare Sometimes unruled But wanting
To be ruled Needing that ink to become one. Like paper unwritten Thin and fragile Loving in ink Marked up like this And marked up like that Crushed like this And crushed like that Into balls. If unrolled It will reveal Crumpled wrinkled lines Mending paper love? Carefully caressing creases? Smoothing and smudging out creases? Itâ€™s futile! Creases are forever on paper love Psychologically stained Creasing the heart like this Paper edges are sharp They cut the heart With paper blades. Paper is soft yet hardest on the heart. Paper is pliable Crushed Crushed Rolled into balls THROWN AWAY IN BINS
Obediah Smith How Heavy was my Suitcase in my Two Arms sometimes, the Herculean effort, the super-human strength, to leap acrossto bridge the gaps, the joints in the processin the journey of the life I live- I've lived to negotiate- to get across to make the links that my life- that living has required to carry on to go on- to keep going to keep making it and making it making pieces fit, parts fit the past connect with connect to what/when follows has taken strength/endurance I did not know I had and over and over again that leap of faith, coupled with leap after leap, actually... Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming The Last Washerwoman All the river stones have turned green with spongy moss, neon bright in the sunshine. No more laundry scrubbed clean by the washerwoman, who is a goddess,
who is a river crab, sometimes, now lean. A hermit in her forest glade deafened by the drone of washing machine. Mean-spirited ones no longer catch sight of a crone begging beside the ravine.
What We Want Of Love so much we desire of love so much that it be perfect that it be absolute that it take us across astonishing gulfs of danger and harm and hurt and fear that it heal all wounds inflicted by the world when we are young that it be passionate set fire to the skies of day and night that as it grows it should continually reward us that it should strengthen us greatly that it should be honey on the bread of life a gleam of beauty always present that it should bear rich fruit only when the last comes as it must all we want of love is narrowed down whom we love not be glamorous or strong or brave or exciting or providing everything what mattered once does not matter now do not leave me leave me to the black night coming be with me be with me one day one hour one more day one hour more be with me one more hour one last hour forever
CONTRIBUTORS Rashaun J. Allen holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from SUNY Stony Brook and is the first Fulbright scholar in the program’s history. He has independently published poetry chapbooks: A Walk Through Brooklyn and In The Moment. He has been published in TSR: The Southampton Review, Tishman Review, Rigorous and Auburn Avenue. When not writing or thinking about writing, he runs to scream at the top of his lungs the moment he crosses the finish line. Find more of his work at www.rashaunjallen.com. Jason Allen-Paisant: is a Jamaican poet who lives in Leeds, England, and is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Leeds. Jason is also a 2015 Callaloo Creative Writing Fellow. His poetry has appeared in sx salon and The Cossack Review, and is forthcoming in Callaloo. Philip Armbrister: is a lover of poetry and writing and music. Several publications in a variety of journals. Interest in thought and imagination. Tanesha Baptiste: is a former student of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. There, she pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Literature. Always fond of reading, she began to write at the age of 10 years old. At the Ellerslie School and the Combermere School she began to gain more passion for the arts, and decided on it as a life goal. She hopes to become an author of many fiction and non-fiction works in the future. Stewart Brown: is trying to make the most of his retirement from a career in university teaching by spending as much time as possible back in the Caribbean. He is the author of Elsewhere: new and selected poems and Tourist,Traveller, Troublemaker: essays on Poetry (both Peepal Tree Press) and editor of volumes of critical essays on Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite and Martin Carter. He has edited or co-edited several anthologies of Caribbean writing, including: The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories (with John Wickham) and 'The Oxford Book of Caribbean Poetry' (with Mark McWatt) and most recently 'The Bowling was Superfine: West Indian writers on West Indian cricket with Ian McDonald (Peepal Tree Press). A collection of his own 'West Indian' poems is slated with Cane Arrow Press for 2018 and he continues to work on his crossover visual art project 'Babel: beautiful, unsayable, meaningless, profound', versions of which have been exhibited in Tanzania, Barbados, Guyana and around the U.K. in the last few years. He is an honorary senior research Fellow in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham, UK. Ernestia M. Fraser: poems have appeared in Tongues of the Ocean, The Caribbean Writer, Quiddity, Emerge Literary Journal, Blackberry, New York Dreaming, St. Somewhere Journal and Caribbean Quarterly. Henry Fraser: Senator, Professor Emeritus, Retired Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences and Founding Director, Chronic Disease Research Centre, UWI, Cave Hill Campus; author of 100 plus medical and scientific papers on medical education, hypertension, obesity, drug treatment, elderly, medical history etc., Sunday columnist for many years, currently writing “Things that Matter”, Sunday Advocate. Public Orator, Cave Hill 1992 – 2010 and National Public Orator 1998 – 2013. Parallel careers in Architectural History, writer, artist, CBC-TV productions
Treasures of Barbados, Pillars of Worship and Parliament 375; many books on Barbados heritage and architecture; Past President, Barbados National Trust, Chair of Task Force for Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a World Heritage site. Wendy Fulton Steginsky: is the author of The Tide of Bermuda’s Light (Aldrich Press, 2014) and Let This Be Enough (Aldrich Press, 2016). She attributes her love for poetry to growing up on the shores of Bermuda where the sea’s rhythms seeped into her bones and stayed. Her work has been published in Bermuda Anthology of Poetry, Bermuda Reading and Writing Festival Companion, Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts, US 1 Worksheets, online at tongues of the ocean, Wild River Review and featured in, Making Magic: Beauty in Word and Image at the James Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Richard Georges: is a writer, editor, and lecturer in the British Virgin Islands. His poetry has appeared in Smartish Pace, sx salon, Barrelhouse, The Caribbean Writer, and Wasafiri. Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming: is a Trinidadian-Bahamian Mechanical/Building Services Engineer, poet, fiction writer, and artist. She is the author of two poetry collections: Immortelle and Bhandaaraa Poems (Proverse Hong Kong, 2011), which contains some of her artwork and which was shortlisted for the inaugural International Proverse Prize for Literature and Curry Flavour (Peepal Tree Press, 2000). She has won several literary prizes including the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association 2001 Short Story Competition and was shortlisted for the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize for Fiction in 2013. Dee Horne: is a creative writer and an English professor at the University of Northern British Columbia. She has published many of her poems in national and international literary journals. Her poems have appeared in peer reviewed literary journals: The Fiddlehead, POUi: The Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing, Landscapes: the Journal of the International Centre for Landscape and Language, The Raven Review, and stonestone. She and her spouse have family in Barbados and visit whenever they can. Dahlia James-Williams: is a Jamaican teacher, artist and poet. She grew up in the parish of St. Mary and later moved to Kingston to start her tertiary education at Shortwood Teachers’ College. After graduating, Dahlia spent a year teaching Art at her alma mater, Mary Mount High School. Her career then led her into primary education where she taught for a number of years. Dahlia later pursued a BA. in Visual Arts at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus and subsequently a BA, MPhil in Cultural Studies at the same institution Anthony Kellman: is a Barbadian poet, novelist and musician. He is the author of five acclaimed books of poetry including Limestone, the first published epic poem from Barbados. He’s published three novels, most recently Tracing Jaja, for which he won the 2018 Casa de la Américas Literary Award in the Category of Anglophone Caribbean Literature, the first Barbadian writer of his generation to do so. Other awards include a USA National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship and Barbados’s Prime Minister's award. His writings have appeared in Caribbean and international literary periodicals and his music featured on National Public Radio (USA), the BBC, and in the Caribbean. He edited the first full-length U.S anthology of English-language Caribbean poetry, Crossing Water, and he is the originator of the poetic form Tuk Verse, based on the metrics of Barbados’s indigenous folk music.
L N Little: I have had a love affair with words for my entire life and as such have been writing from an early age. In addition to prose fiction, I've written plays and screenplays. One play was performed as part of the L.O.L. festival hosted by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 2009. This year, one of my short stories was longlisted for the inaugural Small Islands Anthology; while as a screenwriter, I've been privileged to have a short screenplay of mine earn the designations of finalist, official selection, and be shortlisted at various international film festivals. Ayanna Gillian Lloyd: is a fiction and creative non-fiction writer from Trinidad and Tobago. Her work has been published in The Caribbean Writer, Moko Magazine, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism and is forthcoming in Callaloo : A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters. She is an alumna of the Cropper Foundation Residential Workshop for Caribbean Writers and the Callaloo Journal Creative Writing Workshop. In 2014, she was featured in the Bocas Lit Fest “Who’s Next?” segment and her life writing was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. In 2016 her fiction received the second-place prize in the Small Axe Literary Competition. She is currently pursuing the MA Creative Writing Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Ian McDonald: (See pg. 12) Althea Romeo Mark: is an educator and writer who grew up in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. She has lived and taught in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, USA, Liberia (1976-1990), London, England (1990-1991), and in Switzerland since 1991. She writes poetry and short stories and has been published in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, USA, England, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Colombia, India, UK, Kenya, Liberia, and Switzerland. Her last poetry collection, If Only the Dust Would Settle, was published in 2009. Recent publications include poems “Going Where the Roof is Vast,” “What Poseidon Tosses Up”, “If We Could Buy A Miracle” in DoveTales: Refugee and the Displaced, An International Journal of the Arts, 2017; “Aqui Me Quedo,”, “Carte Blanche” in POUi: The Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing, no. XVII, University of the West Indies, 2016; “The Old Cat on Our Street” and “Nameless Road” in The Caribbean Writer, Vol. 30, Dec. 2016, “An Immigrant Story, The Arts and Self-Knowledge,” and book review of If Only the Dust Would Settle by Valerie Knowles-Combie in The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, Vol. 9, Summer 2016, “Rope,” “Cookbook,” and “Liberian Devil Comes to Town at Christmas” in DoveTales: Family and Cultural Identity, An International Journal of the Arts, 2016. “Runners in the Marathon of Time,” in WomanSpeak: A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Ed. Lynn Sweeting.Vol.8, 2016; poem “Camp,” in Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters, Issue 8, March 2016 (http://mokomagazine.org/wordpress/issue-8-march-2016/); featured poet in Kwee: Liberian Literary Magazine, February issue, 2016. Nancy Anne Miller: is a Bermudian poet with four books : Somersault (Guernica Editions), Because There Was No Sea (Anaphora Literary Press), Immigrant’s Autumn (Aldrich Press), and Water Logged (Aldrich Press). Star Map is forthcoming in 2016 (Future Cycle Press). She is a MacDowell Fellow published in Edinburgh Review, Agenda, Magma, New Welsh Review, Stand, Postcolonial Text, The International Literary Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, The Dalhousie Review, The Moth, The New Ulster, The Caribbean Writer, Bim, The Arts Journal, POUi, 189
Wasafiri, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Journal of Postcolonial Writing among others. She teaches poetry workshops in Bermuda. Carol Mitchell: is the author of fourteen children's books based in the Caribbean. Children reading these books get an engaging peek into the culture, history, and geography of the Caribbean. Her work for adult audiences has appeared in the Institute of Caribbean Studies, Akashic Books: Mondays are Murder series, and POUi: The Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing among other places. She blogs with several other authors at NovelSpaces and maintains her own blog. Carol is a professional editor and the Founder of CaribbeanReads Publishing which focuses its work on publishing books by authors of the Caribbean Mezan Morrison: is a Freelance Film and TV professional and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona. She attended the Los Angeles Film School in 2008. On returning to Jamaica, Mezan co-directed an award winning short film Grow Jamaica Grow, and wrote and directed Ding, a short film that screened at Kingston on the Edge Urban Art Festival (2013). A Calabash Literary Fund Fellow, her poetry has been published in Susumba’s Book Bag, Firestick, The Caribbean Writer, The Jamaica Observer’s Bookends and On The Dark Path: An Anthology of Fairy Tale Poetry. Summer School, a TV pilot that was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the nationally recognized Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s (JCDC) Creative Writing Competition (2014). Jody Rathgeb: grew up in Western Pennsylvania. A former journalist and freelance magazine writer, she moved in 2003 to the Turks and Caicos Islands and began writing fiction. Her stories have appeared in several magazines and her novel, Fish-Eye Lens, has been published by Belle Isle Books. She now divides her time between North Caicos Island and Richmond, Va. Her website is www.jodyrathgeb.com. Nadine Rogers: is a Trinidadian residing in Washington, DC. She received a BA in English Literature from UWI Cave Hill. Her work has appeared in The Caribbean Writer (Volume 22), Calabash: A Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters (Volume 3, issues 1 and 2), The Squaw Valley Review 2003, and Off the Page, a video installation by Witness Tree Literary Arts in New York. Nadine is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Rod Jellama Workshop at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. She holds a PhD in Health Policy and Management from Johns Hopkins University. Twanda Rolle: is a poet, teacher and painter. She has won gold and silver awards for her poetry in Jamaica from the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC). Two of her paintings were previously published in Gravel and her poetry in various publications. Eric Rose: is a Senior Information Officer at the Bahamas Information Services, performing the duties of a journalist, photojournalist and is a former acting editor, with his work in many dailies and online. He received The Bahamas’ National Youth Achievement Award in 1992 and the Caribfest Award for Excellence in Literature in 1994 from the College of The Bahamas.
He shares his poetry on several broadcasts and at concerts and festivals, including Carifesta IX in 2006 and Carifesta X in 2008. He also read poetry before two consecutive Bahamian Governors-General, co-hosted a number of poetry shows and a limited production of “Lorraine Hainsberry: A Work in Progress,” in Atlanta, GA, showcased his original poem “Fairy Tales.” In print, his poetry has represented The Bahamas in the Carifesta Anthology of Poetry and has appeared in four issues of POUi. While attaining his International Masters in Beijing, China, Mr. Rose became the first foreigner to win a top prize in the prestigious Ying Shi Ju (Mandarin Chinese for ‘taking photos, telling story, being together’) photography competition, which had been running for 12 years. Debarun Sarkar: is currently a doctoral student at the Department of Sociology, University of Mumbai. He is based out of Calcutta and is an editor at The Murmur House. Recent writings can be found in The Oddville Press, Visitant, Tittynope Zine, Dryland, Aainanagar among others. Victoria Sarne: is a creative thinker, poet and writer. She has worn many professional hats. In a previous life she owned a spa; was marketing director for a land development company; ran as a local political candidate and founded and chaired a shelter for abused women and children in Canada. She has lived in England, Canada and the Caribbean. At 77 years old she now owns LifeLines Writing Service, writes a newspaper column, has published six books of poetry and in 2016 published her first biography; in 2017 she is finishing her autobiography – hoping for sooner rather than later. Rajendra Shepherd: is a writer, journalist and artist who works at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine. His published works include La haine de la diablesse and audio story Emily’s Keeper. His novel-in-progress was shortlisted by Myriad Editions in 2015 and was a nominee for the Aeon Award in 2015. His non-fiction book Tilt – the gaze that changes everything: 90 ways to rule your world is a transformative work on language of the self and is available on Amazon.com for Kindle and in all major bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago. Alan C. Smith: is a Bermudian writer, performer and visual artist. He has been published in POUi, In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself, Caribbean Writer, Under the Moon and Over the Sea: A Collection of Caribbean Poems, Poems United: A Commonwealth Anthology, Bermuda Anthology of Poetry, Volumes I and II, I wish I could tell you: Bermuda Anthology of Children’s Literature and Young Adult Stories, Chroma, Wildriver Review, COCK NO.7, writers in the crowd, tongues of the ocean and other publications. He has performed in Bermuda, North America, the Caribbean and the UK. Website: www.acsartist.com Obediah Smith: was born on New Providence, in the Bahamas, in 1954. He has so far published 20 books of poetry. At University of Miami and University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, he participated in writers workshops facilitated by Lorna Goodison, Earl Lovelace, Grace Nichols, Merle Collins, and Mervyn Morris. He attended Memphis State University, 1973 to 1976 and majored in Speech & Drama and Biology. 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. Obediah was the Poetry Workshop facilitator for the Bahamas Writers Summers Institute, in 2009 and again in 2011. His poems in English are included in literary journals and anthologies throughout the Caribbean, in the USA, England and Kenya, and his poems, translated into Spanish, are included in anthologies in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and Spain. In 2011 and 2012, for five months, he lived in Mexico City. He attended Kistrech Poetry Festival in Kisii, Kenya, in 2014. Since this festival, he has remained in Africa, spending these three years in ten African countries. Dorsia Smith Silva: is an 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), Critical and Feminist Perspectives on Caribbean Mothering (2013), Mothers, Mothering, and Globalization (2017), and Mothers and Daughters (2017) and editor of Latina/Chicana Mothering (2011). She is currently co-editing two books: Travelin’ Mama: Mothers, Mothering and Travel and Mothering, Community, and Friendship. Her poetry has been recently published in Rigorous, Adanna, and Mothers and Daughters. Jerome Teelucksingh: is a Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine and has published a novel Back of the Net and three collections of plays: Builders of the Caribbean, Time for Bacchanal and Fete, Marriage and Murder. His short story, “Cricket in the Caribbean” was published in the 2010 issue of Caribbean Writer. His short fiction “The Tourist” appeared in the 2011 issue of IUP Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Yesha Townsend: is a Bermudian writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition and is currently pursuing an MA in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has served as the mentor and coach for the Bermuda National Youth Poetry Slam Team by way of The Chewstick Foundation’s youth poetry program ‘Break the Chains.’ Her work has been published in The Bermudian Magazine, BerMemes, and the Bermuda Anthology of Memoir & Creative Non-Fiction. She has performed as a rapper, poet and prose writer; notably at TEDxBermuda 2015, and the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Brooklyn, NY 2016 and LeroyFest 2015 and 2016. She’s in a band called DONNA. Her writing explores queerness through the lens of the black Caribbean experience. She writes of home, of hurricanes, of Bermudian history, mythology and folklore. Alicia Valasse: is an educator and writer from St Lucia. A former Youth Parliamentarian, violinist and national delegate to the Commonwealth Youth Forum 7, she has served her island in the areas of youth work, literary arts and conservation locally and internationally. Apart from participating in youth advocacy initiatives, she has written for local publications Talk About Life, Listen to our Hearts and Lucian Consumer Guide. Regionally, she served as a reviewer for conservation giant WIDECAST in 2005 and a writer for O.E.C.S. business magazine The Analyst. Her work has also been published in Harlequin Magazine in England and Susumba’s Book Bag in Jamaica. She was awarded the prize for Creative Journalism at the 2013 National Arts Festival and the award for the Most Outstanding Youth in Literary Arts at the 2012 National Youth Awards (St. Lucia). She serves as a co-columnist for the Saint Lucia Voice column Island Neighbours.
Bryana Valverde-DeBartolo: holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Hofstra University. This collection of original poetry explores themes of hybridity, nature, and transformation against the textured backdrop of Caribbean and Western motifs. The pieces collectively assemble and disassemble the spaces of transition, creating an explorative journey of experiences.
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