Poem by Joe O’Neill


Jackets draped on other, older headstones,
their sun glanced sweat veined cheekbones
glinting, two swaying neck-tied churchmen

slice silver-tongued shovels into disinterred
shell and coral, in crisp staccato a tick or so
laggard to the surf’s more measured unfurling,
and sling it into the fresh cut grave, tumbled
sums tallied in smothered drumbeat below.
Along the blistered wall, in work song tempo,
the Methodist Ladies’ Choir inhales and – in
wave upon wave of ever more deep-throated
groan – exhales its ancient, muscular tidings,
bids us empty ourselves to his. In the swelter
of the shelterless day, his spirit abides, walks
us toward the line of cars, strides once more
the mahogany corridors where he and his cadre
imagined nationhood to life, then scuds along
the cordillera, down Zion Hill Road to Capoons.
There, in seagrape shadow, a small island sloop
awaits. Sails snapping for a breeze, starlit course
set for Anegada, his final passage home begins.

Joe O’Neill is a former professor of English at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico. For the past 30 years, Mr. O’Neill has worked in the IT industry. He resides with his wife in Long Bay, Tortola (BVI) and Reston, Virginia. His poetry has appeared in The Caribbean Writer, the Journal of Caribbean Literatures, and Where I See the Sun-Contemporary Poetry of the British Virgin Islands (House of Nehesi).