Image courtesy of David Knight.
Jesu, Revolutionary of the Tropics
like the tropical city,
was your presence full of the light,
the moon, full of the light,
unraveled a stack of arms.
Farewell to arms,
to the dying,
the Devil and the deep blue mourn,
the drowning of the sea…
from the porticos of love,
from Peru’s moving castles.
This is a poem for Jesu
who may be mestizo
or grimo, coolie or taino,
it does not matter now.
This is your poem,
heavy with contradictions,
pregnant as a woman,
gentle on its feet.
Once we prayed for miracles;
this year we ask for
burnt feet, sheaves of sun,
mouths of heart.
Jesu, come down
from Moriah, Morne La Selle.
Come with justice for Creole babes,
failing men, baby mamas.
Come, lord comrade,
this is your poem
scratched on elephant leaves,
tied with corded sticks,
sealed with ghee,
spices of the tharia.
And tomorrow when they ask
about balm in Gilead,
we will say:
Here is Gilead.
This tropical loam,
these sea-washed nights.
Scrolls of Silt
I wish more than ever to know your secrets,
gather your icons out of the dust,
hoard my desperate findings of land
rich with elegies, omitted villages,
record the discussions of pothounds
at dusk howling generational memories
of masters who filled La Ventaille
thresholds, working acronychal hopes
into songs of belonging.
In dreams I make pilgrimages
along your Amerindian rivers,
a sublime affair with mangroves,
caress the brow of your trinity hills.
I watch mystic documentaries
on old funerals of cane, seeing
again the procession of ashes
from Caroni. Cane was death,
tragic as a corbeaux’s moulting,
and evenings, bittersweet crape
covering the plains along the highway.
I follow my dream to the South land,
discover gray wharves after a funeral,
tracing in the hardened phlegm of port
buildings the hunger of a colonial
artisan bending his fingers for crumbs.
I have missed the undecided beauty
of these things; gift-assorted architecture;
colonial churches, your fickle paeans
of Tamarind trees after rain;
Gothic peerage of crepuscular bats
looting a grandmother’s yard
of its yellow, feudal mangoes.
I have missed the ceremony
of treks through bush, soles
composing a valley of drawn footsteps
arcane as Lines of Nazca,
the blood of labourers spilt and sealed
between warm beds of poui,
casting geoglpyhs of passages
in scrolls of silt.
Could I not with the eye
of Narcissus gaze at visions
of petite careme solstices?
Proud cocos of the coast,
in your bamboo brigade
you were my only Boeotian heroes,
ruling your lagoon kingdoms
from Paria’s gulf to Galeota point
with such mastery of time.
I have not forgotten how to praise you,
Solomonic throes for your
valiant battles with ancient curses.
I have not forsaken each vivid town,
timeless, nameless, huddled
in a cliff of deyas, cocoas leaning
conversationally toward the sea,
a road gathering penances
for a time to come,
And I miss most of all
the numinous tête-à-têtes
of Past and Present,
those two contrary characters
hogging the eaves of the Caribbean city.
Carnival Monday meet me in my yard
watching the moko jumbie walk
of a dry-foot lizard on a garden tile,
and I was catching the spirit of that
jaunty Monarch, who sudden and swift
with unbearable style, exit the door
of a sugar apple tree looking somehow
like a dealing wife; I was watching
the wall where two brown doves
were the loves of my life, unraveling
the spectacle of my early exile.
This Carnival Monday, when wives
shoulder the guilt of a masquerading
man who take the baby pram to
Port-of-Spain, I come back to the slight
miracle of my return, eight years up in the
people cold, God blue sky like a damn
dream then, now white clouds like
sails at sea, costumes floating by big
as ships; you playing you something
you could never be. I see a man with
jumbie eyes say, “This Carnival thing is
not for me.” But I not catching the spirit
anymore, not so sure what the riddles mean.
Eight years roaming that other sea
and my mother tongue had gone adrift
like a mother ship, a whole fleet of
memories following it. I not up for this
bacchanal oui, this mud rite and left
hand thumbing through history ‘cause
some saying old buckra time come
back with the passing grade the Commissioner
get and mas not hip. So I sit in the sea
of my yard, fix my thoughts to a quiet shore.
In the end I tell you, it was two doves
on the wall, the lizard who pass me like
a bad-ass chile that bring me back from that
reckless exile. I see a whole fete of colors
conspiring in the costume of a leaf, sun
wash out my ears, clean, like shell from the sea.
History Drops Litter
O land possessed by riverbends
of history, east of Point Gourde everything floats
in slow currents except memory.
The bloody course of centuries runs
your small parcels to town,
your farmed reservations are framed
in the hills, your zealous bird-watching is over.
Pink and orange Poui you once fed
like babies have grown up and left
the mountain passes.
Drugged swamps they held your gold
with foreign anchors, unwelcome yachts
stopped up Welcome Bay. Blue waves
gurgled goodbyes to dying fish
the river looked for comfort.
Ten acres of Arima Valley will fade
in three years. The Jewel of Brasso
sparkling in folds of moss
will be stolen and not missed.
The cliffs of Maracas wear a shaken look
as white-necked, a Jacobin steals nectar
from the cracked vat of an Immortelle.
Boissiere House, 2008
Remembering how in Trinidad
Woodford Square town houses
looked like quaint French ladies
left to grow Carib skin in hot weather.
You see them there downtown,
old-lady houses lifting their skirts,
pale eyebrows over windows
dyed to caramel arches.
Oh little gingerbread houses
built by sugar, scare us nevermore
with tales of white witches, brujas,
what children would buy those stories now?
Let us photograph you then
one last time, before this
comes down swift
as judgment, erases
your prim colonial angles,
razors your defenses,
flattens your perspective,
sells you quick to the highest bidder.
So soon we forget
our settlements, forgive?