I bruise the way the most secreted,
most tender part of a thigh exposed
purples then blues. No spit-shine shoes,
I'm dirt you can't wash from your feet.
Wherever you go, know I'm the wind
accosting the trees, the howling night
of your sea. Try to leave me, I'll pin you
between a rock and a hard place; will hunt you,
even as you erase your tracks
with the tail ends of your skirt. You think
I'm gristle, begging to be chewed?
No, my love: I'm bone. Rather: the sound
bone makes when it snaps. That ditty
lingering in you, like ruin.
Hour of Duppy and Dream
All my life I have been pursued by whispers--
What pickney so greedy it consume its own mumma?
I was born at the time of day between night
and morning, the hour of duppy and dream.
My mother's screams seamed the world I left
and the one I entered, her spirit extinguished
the instant mine lit. Before consciousness
took hold, I knew my life would be marked
by her sorrow, pressed into my skin;
by her laughter, broken stones that fill my mouth.
Now when wind gathers at the edge of dawn,
I listen for her wail rattling through cane
to recall: no one asks for the meal
that leaves us ever wanting. Yet we eat.
The Parable of the Wayward Child
Yu know how yu can see car careening
before it even start accelerate? Is same
with she. In the crib she bawl, she bawl
till she cyan done. All her life as if
she in a race with ruin. I know I wasting
mi breath fi hope one day she go realise
wanting nuh mek yu special. Even I--
who cotch-up miself on the side a precipice
one time and was schupid enough
fi think it a place fi set up shop--
did wake-up quick-quick once mi foot slip.
When edge draw near fi true
only a fool nuh accept the idea of falling
plenty-plenty different from the drop.
Now I'm a Mother
What does the world look like? Sublime, you ask, now I'm a mother?
Sometimes. But, thing is, I also suck limes now I'm a mother.
Watch me whirl, a spinning top, kaleidoscopic universe of hurry.
Always in a flurry, I'm anxiety's mime now I'm a mother.
Everything I've said and done has come back to bite me in the ass.
Humility's what I'm learning--time after time--now I'm a mother.
You hear the same lament on talk shows, in self-help books, at water coolers:
I was too blind/young/foolish to see. I was in my prime. Now I'm a mother.
My friend expounds: each of you are remote, a theory based on his own mother.
I can't help wondering--is loneliness my crime now I'm a mother?
In the end, I couldn't keep-up the charade: my child figured out I was no God.
What a relief! It was exhausting, perfection's climb. Now, I'm a mother.
Nothing about it is sublime? you try again. Younger version of me, take heart:
of course there are days that chime a perfect rhyme now I'm a mother.
My real name's Dispenser-of-Bandaids but call me Earth, if you would rather.
It's all the same to me. Even Shara is just a pseudonym now I'm a mother.
Poems from Madwoman (forthcoming, Alice James Books, US, 2017; Peepal Tree Press, UK, 2017), reprinted by permission of the author.