Poems from Pitch Lake by Andre Bagoo


Image Courtesy of Martin Russell. Shared via a Creative Commons license.


The Haircut

I don’t remember my first haircut
but I remember who did it.
My mother, in those days, was spry
her clippers singing a complicated melody
setting loose frayed edges,
making room for growth, like
cutting grass, like cutting cane, my head
tenderly in her hands, black hair slipping
between fingers. The years.

She can’t cut my hair now
and to this man in the noisy salon
my head might as well be a coconut
nothing precious, nothing he hasn’t seen,
salt and pepper threads falling to the
tired floor, his blade
a cutlass thrashing.





Black like a mind at night
swallowing a canary and
white dove mid-flight
as monogamous as crows
despite a campaign of gun
and dynamite their flock grows
kiskadee kiskadee kiskadee
stealing sugar from kitchen bowls
soul of echo no echo now bodies
vanish among light poles.



La Brea

Cyril’s eyes are watery and grey
as though the decades working here
have turned him into the lake,
the water’s edge fringed by flowers growing like
flame, Bird of Paradise they call them
yet, this is hell by any name.
———-In Trinidad, everyone knows
the Pitch Lake but few have been
few have seen the dark and strange
surface, the vast dirt a mind of its own:
asphalt lake as constant as change.
———-‘You can’t go in alone,’
Cyril says, ‘because it will
swallow you whole.’ Here, when it rains,
the difference between east and west, north
and south, between past and present, blurs, lost
objects once swallowed whole come
out again, like a poem
in a bottle drifting to shore.



The Gym

These men know
you tear muscle
for it to grow
stronger, bigger –
the heart opening
as far as it can go.




Andre Bagoo is a poet and journalist working in Trinidad. His second book of poems, BURN, was published by Shearsman Books in 2015.