Subraj Singh


i. her

hearth of the home beating holy red
in a dress scarlet as blood, scarlet as a bride
one hand cradles sorrow, a sleeping child
one hand pushing away the lonely night
a flame, small as a star, burns in the mind
igniting the wedding-pyre memory, home
of a constellation of people who live in the light,
revolving around the heart flame
around the sun and moon, in scarlet and white
as Sita waits for her freedom, her fiery fate

ii. him

hearth of the home beating holy red
in a dress scarlet as blood, scarlet as a bride
right hand, a mountain range of bruised knuckles
left hand, a bottle of rum, held high as a torch
then falling like a star, a meteor of glass and fire
kissing the hissing flame, erupting in shards of sparks
like confetti on a wedding day, like ash and dust
glowing with life on cremation day, like waves of love
unrolling with all the fury of an inferno as she screams
like Holika, with ember eyes and a tongue of lies

iii. it

hearth of the home beating holy red
in a dress scarlet as blood, scarlet as a bride
in bolts of crimson flame stitched by my own hands
that wrap the body of the house and the souls within,
washing the home clean, scrubbing the sin
from walls, peeling misery from floorboards,
eating heartache in wide mouthfuls of smoke,
skin against skin, lava against flesh, I hold them close,
and lavish their bodies with my burning caress,
as their souls slowly birth out of their skulls again



To the National Drama Company’s Performance of Ole Higue

‘ole woman wid de wrinkled skin’
an’ de young, fiery actress within,
new blood to de stage, each spin
ushering in the new age
where mask don’ have to fit right
so we can see de sin beneath de skin
where walk mean dance
so dat de ancestors can wake pon de beat of feet
an’ join in
where house is cloth an’ cloth is wood
so walls can fall easy as breeze
easy as de poor villageman soul,
him who have nothing to protect him own
with, but bony curtains, thin as slave-clothes,
brittle as sticks
crack crack crack
the ole higue come in
the politician come in
the thiefman come in
the seaspray babying sickness come in
crack crack crack
she twirling like spirit breaking she mind in
she grinning like de witch inself come with de wind
like death when you kiss snake-sting
like moonlight on fairmaid bristling all she fin
crack crack crack
watch how them watching though
eyes lit
like fireballs
burning from the beauty
of dis strangeness
of dis sameness
that they breathe in
that they breathe in
that they breathe in


in a red house shivering above a graveyard,
my father bellowed so loudly, I hoped his lungs would burst.
I wished for his howl to pierce itself,
that he would start
and stop
and die
that the demon within his body,
that swilled his glass of greed for him,
that leaped out of his checkbook on payday
to play
––––––to slay
to sing
––––––to sting
to fight
––––––to bite
that it would cut its own anger at the throat,
and his world of screams and the dead,
of ghosts lingering under the house painted in red,
would come rumbling down on his head,
a punctured balloon sailing down
broken butterflies’ wings fluttering down
to the ground

Subraj Singh is a Guyanese writer. His poem, ‘Cremation,’ was inspired by Kavita Vidya Ganness’ ‘Dust,’ Robinson Jeffers’ ‘Cremation,’ and the fire-related deaths and domestic violence that plague women in Guyana. ‘To the National Drama Company’s Performance of Ole Higue’ was inspired by a play, a dramatisation of Wordsworth McAndrew’s ‘Ole Higue’ that was directed by Al Creighton Jr. of the National Drama Company of Guyana. Singh has won the Guyana Prize for Literature, was shortlisted for the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize, and was a fellow of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.