Tue | Jul 16, 2019

Confluence – the meeting ground of continents

Published:Sunday | June 16, 2019 | 12:21 AM

Confluence - which is medium and a meeting ground of conversations between poets from New Zealand and Jamaica. We launch this path breaking initiative – bringing together literary minds, their thought processes and critically the people of the two countries together. Our first instalment focuses father-child relationship.

We, the curators of Confluence – the Meeting Ground - Shane Hollands from New Zealand and Ann-Margaret Lim from Jamaica - and Arts and Education wish all our readers Happy Father’s Day. We present a selection of poems from both countries honouring fathers in all their manifestations.

 

Sunday afternoon walks with my father

 

The wharf’s high rafters that Sunday

afternoon held a cathedral quiet,

the white-breasted devotions of pigeons.

The old bosun shuffled down from his stool,

ushered us in through the wicket gate.

My hand in my father’s, I walked whisperingly.

 

In my head the silence vibrates to the raucous

rhythms of loading day, jests and insults

hurled across the clang of tally machines,

the intense, knee-dipping canter of the bearers,

a human millipede hurrying the green

bunches into the hands of stevedores

who know the secrets of the dark hold,

and the engines shunting, shunting through

the night, coupling and uncoupling boxcars.

 

Now a wharf rat peeks out of a hole and turns

into a church mouse. We lean against

the bollards and overhear the water

whispering to the piles. The great ropes

lie like gentle serpents coiled in sleep.

 

This Sunday was to be special. At my father’s request

the bosun unlocked the boathouse door,

a side-chapel I had not entered before.

The single rowboat rocked content

on its tether: in the bilge the oarlocks lay casually

close. Every pulse beat whispered, “Rest!”

My father said, “Look!” and pointed. At first

I saw only the shimmer of dappled sunlight

until I caught the trick of looking, and, yes,

there, just under the surface, reaching

upwards, a great turtle, its caged ocean-

going hulk, the yellowed inverted prow

of a beak. The glazed eye looked past me.

I said nothing. The afternoon held its breath.

 

In memory’s dark green opaque it lolls

and clambers, a dull, heavy, heavy-lidded

perplexity, glimpse of primeval otherness

under the glint and surfaces of weekday

worlds, Sunday’s obstinate, slow

disquieting underside, the lap and suck

of black water, the compelling undertow.

 

Edward Baugh ( Jamaica)

(Taken from It Was the Singing, Sandberry Press: 2000)

 

 

# # #

 

Father

 

the tomatoes smelled of vinegar.

my father, raking blood-meal and chicken bones,

tethering each truss to the bamboo crucifix.

and us, bucktoothed and barefooted,

stubbing our toes along the garden path,

weaving chains of buttercups, dandelions,

tying them around our wrists.

we stockpiled cicada-husks from

the woodpile, blew translucent bodies

from our hands. and the yellow sky

sucked our salted skins. and the

blackbirds tittered, and hedgeblossom

snuck past the brick border.

and my father was the sundial

we stood around, all summer,

casting long shadows on the lawn.

 

Elizabeth Morton (New Zealand)

First appeared in Takahē 84 and Wolf (published by Mākaro Press: 2017)

 

# # #

 

Family Pictures

 

In spite of love

desire to be alone

haunts him like prophecy.

 

Observe: the baby chuckles,

gurgles his delight

that daddy-man is handy,

to be stared at, clawed at,

spitted-up upon;

the baby’s elder brother

laughs, or hugs, and nags

for popcorn or a pencil

or a trip.

 

And see: the frazzled wife

who jealously

protects the idol infant

from the smallest chance

of harm, and anxious

in the middle of the night

wakes up to coughs; and checks,

and loves, and screams

her nerves; but loves him

patient still: the wife

who sweets the bigger boy

and teases him through homework,

bright as play.

 

But you may not observe

(it is a private sanctuary)

the steady glowing power

that makes a man feel loved,

feel needed, all of time;

yet frees him, king of her

emotions, jockey of her

flesh, to cherish

his own corner

of the cage.

 

In spite of love

this dream:

to go alone

to where

the fishing boats are empty

on the beach

and no one knows

which man is

father, husband, victim,

king, the master of one cage.

from Peelin Orange

 

Mervyn Morris (Jamaica)

From Carcanet, 2017

 

# # #

 

My father is a fofo/ healer

 

Namulau’ulu Mikaio Avia 14.06.29 -27.10.16

 

When my daughter sings: You could put an ocean

between our love love love and it won’t keep us apart

 

there you are in the lump in my throat

there you are floating from between her pawpaw lips.

 

When she was two and a half and I walked towards you

in the hospital dragging my drip on a stand

 

the look you gave me, was all I needed to heal.

When she was eight and we didn’t know

 

it was only a year till you would disappear –

into the bottom of your Samoan backyard

 

entombed in tapa and lapa

overlooking the sea –

 

you looked at me and put your big hand on my head

I had the flu and was flying away soon and weeping.

 

It was all I needed to heal.

And now as I watch my child’s mango mouth sing about oceans

 

here is my fractured clavicle, my split eye brow –

the number of times I have fallen into the hard corners of things

 

in this kitchen, this sitting room

in the Kmart change-cubicle, right through the locked door

 

wearing my bra and undies, waking into the eyes of strangers –

here you come, sung in by my girl’s spell.

 

In through the front door of this house

looking at me with your other eyes

 

stretching your giant hand across the ocean

between Pulotu and Aotearoa, to place on my broken heart.

 

Tusiata Avia (New Zealand)

 

 

Notes:

tapa: traditional Samoan cloth

lapa: coral slabs used for traditional Samoan tombs

Pulotu: Samoan underworld

Aotearoa: New Zealand

 

# # #

 

Horseman of the morning

 

When my mother went into labour

My father rode a horse

To get the midwife.

 

He rode the six miles to and from,

No doubt thinking about their firstborn, a son,

Who had just dropped out of school.

 

And about the wife he had hurt over him,

And who was now about to bring forth a second child,

Who, he did not know then, would be me, another son.

 

On the rough and dark road,

He rode the horse hard I am sure, determined

To help bring this unknown person into the world.

 

That same year, 1943, Edna Manley carved

A piece that became my totem:

It is titled “Horse of the Morning.”

 

Earl McKenzie (Jamaica)

 

# # #

 

My Father

 

My Father

who art on Earth

blessed be thy nature

thy judgement come

thy is praised as noble by thy offspring.

You bestow upon me daily love

and forgive my mischief and inconsistencies

though I am not always worthy.

Thank you for steering me away from temptation

but I am stubborn and seem to only learn the hard way.

Thank you for guiding me away from evil

because of that it never stays in me long.

You are loved.

You are love.

You are

A-man.

 

Ria Masae (New Zealand)

 

# # #

 

Return

 

Here, in the bus shelter,

at the same time, every Saturday,

he awaits his passport to liberty,

to freedom to explore, to take in

the colours and life of the city.

They say his son died tragically,

and that, ever since, he has sought

solace and comfort in the markets,

in the aromas of memory that fill

the vibrancy of the village square,

in the soft warmth of the late

Spring sun, that soothes his soul.

 

Sam Clements (New Zealand)

 

# # #

 

Crystal chandeliers

 

“But will the timely crowd that has

you laughing loud help you dry your tears

when the new wears off of your crystal chandeliers” – from Charlie Pride’s Crystal Chandeliers

 

This Sunday I come to his house that smells of death

a spread of mannish water, fried sprat and curried goat

 

just to say hello. The closed windows hold time

no spirits will pass. The round, black wine rack holds

different rums; all that’s missing are glasses and an ice bucket.

 

At my home my mother keeps her sterling

silver ice bucket and prongs hidden

to be laid out only on Ralph Lauren

table cloths with the good plates. Crystal

glasses on Sundays are held with pinkies out.

 

My father says I remind him of her. I belong to her

need for acquisition from his decay. As if there are no

similarities between he and I, save for big toe and name.

 

I take a bottle of rum and leave. Later, I call our name

and tilt a drop to him from mother’s crystal glass.

 

Lesley Ann Wanliss ( Jamaica)

(first published in the Cordite poetry review series)

 

# # #

 

 

Peter

 

Empty pages in a diary.

A dead body floating past in a boat.

Don’t talk about the war.

 

Green mint ice cream with chocolate chips in the freezer

Holding my hand as we entered the morgue

Let’s do it.

 

Lawnmower hammering furiously

Not hearing protests from his sister

“Mind my lilies!”

Get it done.

 

A yellow sailing boat called “Fancy”

On deep grey waves, alone with the wind,

Face creased by the sea.

What were his thoughts out there?

Perhaps none.

 

Lists were good.

Distant shorebirds in muddy creeks.

Lists of birds he spotted in the town.

The last were the swallows of summer

where the handwriting slipped downwards

Losing track.

 

Fats Waller and Chopin, Stan Getz,

Abba’s Greatest Hits,

Torch songs and Shirley Bassey,

The piano before dinner.

“Le piano qui joue, les soirs.

ça me manque,”

Wrote a neighbor.

 

Tears in a hospital bed, D-Day anniversary on TV

A cooking show on TV (a Jamaican in shiny shirts)

The tsunami on TV,

Small birds at the feeder by his window.

The white scar on his right hand, from fire.

Fine white hair on his head,

Hands touching,

I’m praying, he said.

 

Watercolours in Jamaica,

Guiding our son’s hand.

Mutty on the radio,

Paw paw for breakfast,

A cold “R.S.” for lunch.

Sunshine, always sunshine, curiosity.

Rubbing noses, loud laughter,

Jamaican Folk Singers, noisy dinners.

No filter.

 

Don’t close the curtains, I like to see the sun rise,

He said.

 

 

Emma Lewis (Jamaica)

 

# # #

 

Change in the air

 

Your father is dead,

this event resonates and

cuts across the everyday and

draws me into situations

not of my own choosing.

 

Unwillingly I face up to it,

this responsibility

to mourn and

to celebrate,

to remember and

to forget.

 

Your dead dad watches

over your shoulder as you write this,

he nods at the combinations of

life and death and

joy and anger and

happiness and sorrow.

 

“That’s what its all about,” he says,

“Stick close but not too tight,

use me as protection until you

grow up straight and strong and true

into the love and into the light.”

 

David Merritt (New Zealand)