“Erasure” by Lynn Sweeting

 Image Courtesy of Bernd Thaller. Shared via a Creative Commons license.


Someone is always leaving,
The last visit on the way to the airport,
The sad face at the door looking back,
They say something but I
Hear the words under the words:
So glad it is you stuck here and not me.
The neighbourhood is too old
To be desirable, too young to be historic,
The house next door has a crumbling front wall,
The garage is boarded up with plywood.
I avoid all the neighbours and they me,
They see the bottle in my pigeon plum tree
And know to keep their distance.
My house has five rooms that can’t be seen
by Google Earth for the tree canopy,
Poinciana, Cassia, Pine, Gum Elemi,
Encircle us like spirit ancestors and ring
With the silver bells of the last cicadas
And nothing else but the silence of the birds.

A man with no voice gestures at cars at the light,
Bougainvillea on the wall drops dead of sun,
A limping woman walks the sidewalk with a box
Or a white sandwich board sign saying, “Repent.”
Someone is always rolling up the window.
Rain-rotted houses disintegrate into traffic,
Empty hotels, highways, obliterate the sea,
I don’t take long drives to nowhere anymore,
West Bay doesn’t follow the coast anymore,
I don’t always know where I am anymore,
Only that I’m in a place where no one knows me.
Fifty three years I have lived here,
Anonymous as a pig on a factory farm,
Invisible as the breath of a ghost long gone,
My hands can’t take hold of the dark sunlight,
My voice calls out without answer or echo,
I am the only one for a thousand miles to hear it
Even as the faceless crowds press closer,
Like each one of them, I am lonely as a moon.

Someone is always forgetting.
Protest marchers think they’re the first to march.
Priests think they’re the first to smudge the altar.
The electorate can’t recall its own humanity.
Women don’t remember their own radical mothers.
The poet can’t remember what she’s writing for.
Amnesia is the national condition,
The people when they look see no reflection
Of themselves in any of a thousand mirrors.
Someone is always shocked to see me out,
They congratulate me for making it to the bar,
Cheer me on as they think they ought to do,
But I hear the words underneath the words:
I can’t believe you come outside at all.
This is the way the memory of self is erased.
I smile, play along to keep them comfortable,
Write notes to myself on crumpled, damp napkins,
I see my face looking back at me in the mirror words,
This is the way the memory of self is restored.


Lynn Sweeting is a Bahamian writer. Her poetry has been anthologized in The Caribbean Writer (which awarded her the 1997 Charlotte and Isidore Paewonsky Prize for Poetry), Poui, Sisters of Caliban, A Multilingual Anthology edited by M.J. Fenwick, The Journal of The Bahamas Association for Cultural Studies, The Carifesta X Anthology, Tongues of the Ocean, and Small Axe. She received Second Prize in the 2014 Small Axe Literary Competition, and was long listed for the 2015 Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize for Poetry. She is founding editor and publisher of WomanSpeak, A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, based in Nassau, Commonwealth of The Bahamas.