“Fog” by Patricia Turnbull

For Mr Matiwen

My Muse in deep freeze
even before this lockdown,
I returned in this dread season
for no apparent reason
to fleshing out
a poem I’d put on hold
a poem for the old, cold storage man
of my childhood.

In the middle of covid thoughts
clumping my b/locked mind
like whelks on rock in low tide;
in the middle of all this dying
weighing down the world
like an end times kokma,
my words strain for meaning
my lines sag, want form.

In the middle of a poem desperate
to go
somewhere, anywhere
from this state of going nowhere,
the old man’s grandson shows up.
In a blocked up/locked down fog,
this boy I knew from Conway
over fifty years ago
just comes to mind.

Usually, such memories melt and
usually, you try to carry on.
So I proceeded to retrieve the poem
from cold storage. This time
I saw the old man differently,

Surrounded by the salt
of the earth,
so outrageously free.
To us he was defined only
by his Cayenne gold and big
old house full of freezers, holding
maléwé meat and fish on ice
for 25 cents a night.

Only now could I see
his vulnerability.
I changed the poem. I cut it
fine fine like my mother’s
well-versed boning of balawoo
and released him from cold storage
into living memory.

The next day I heard
his grandson had died.

 

 

Patricia Turnbull (born 1952) is a Saint Lucian and British Virgin Islands poet. She has won the Cedars Prize for Excellence in Contemporary Poetry (1991), the James Michener Fellowship (1993), among other honors.

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