Meeting Ground - 3 - Christmas Poetry Collaboration between Jamaica and Puerto Rico
In the third instalment of our series – Meeting Ground – the holiday poem from Puerto Rico recounts the migrant’s return home and healing Caribbean traditions.
In this edition Delores Gauntlett, like Mbala and John Figueroa before, writes of ‘the Jamaican’ Christmas breeze. She also writes of church going during the season and especially on new year’s eve
A Feast of Legacy
Borikén, the land of the noble lords,
cools in the mouth of diciembre.
I’ve become a migrant bird that returns once a year
to the land that birthed me
to the oceans that swept my feet
and the rocks that hardened them.
As my claws touch ground, I am delivered
into thick and wet heat that melts my layers.
I feel like a shiny, new snake. And I crawl back
into my forest of origin, for the end of year rituals
of our tradición.
The family gathers in my abuelos’ house.
My abuelos founded and built a small store on the first floor,
where they sold auto parts, to raise their familia.
My second home:
coffee, Caribbean food, car parts,
electric wiring, neighbours, herbs,
toys, orchids, figurines of saints.
Today the house chirps full of people and
the old vellonera -jukebox- plays vintage boleros from the campo.
They can be heard blocks away, but no one minds
-they dance and laugh, all the neighbours.
Abuelo is proud of his jukebox, he found it
and fixed it to look brand new.
A machine that can bend time.
Abuelo relishes the memories of his youth
as he dances alone, with a smile on his face,
beer in hand, eyes closed.
A mejunje of aromas leads you deeper into the house.
-rosemary and spices.
A pine tree lights the living room,
dressed in gold, white, and glass. Ceramic saints
and archangels surround the tree. We place
offerings of herbs and coins.
Abuela gifts me a glass bottle with aromatic water and plants.
This is a baño, an herbal bath for prosperity and open roads.
Ruda, yerbabuena, romero, red wine, honey, Florida water.
Blessings from our ancestors through her hands and voice.
The house is full and warm.
In the belly of the kitchen, the savoury heat
of roasted pork, yellow rice with gandules, potato salad,
boiled green bananas, cod salad with avocado, and ñame.
People buzz around, filling their plates.
We fill our bellies with the gifts passed down to us.
We celebrate that we are here,
family, hardship, joy.
And we set intentions for the future.
Borikén, land of the noble lords.
My heart is rooted in you and extends over oceans.
This root, the main artery,
pumps blood into my future,
leads energy into
my blood and chosen family
here and in other lands,
and back to me
across oceans, mountains, and skies,
through bodies, voices, digital lines,
and into each other’s ears,
These bonds beat to a rhythm, they breathe.
They are a dance, waking in your bones.
They can be heard miles away
and traced back
to the heart of a machine that can bend time.
shey Rivera ríos (Puerto Rico)
Under the trance of the essen tree
a brisk noonday breeze
wind-whistled its leaves as if spreading cheer
sailing across to the familiar churchyard
of convening thoughts about the Manger and the Cross
extending hope beyond the blank stare of the day
Where the old year brings a bigger gathering
that time of year when promises are refreshing as clean air
Under the trance of the essen tree
the brisk breeze backs up into what December does.
– Delores Gauntlett (Jamaica)
Editors: Loretta Collins Klobah – is a poet, translator, and professor of Caribbean Literature at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan.
Ann-Margaret Lim is the author of two poetry books – The Festival of Wild Orchid and Kingston Buttercup, published by Peepal Tree Press.
Maria Grau Perejoan is a lecturer at The University of the Balearic Islands in Mallorca (Spain) and a literary translator, specialising in Caribbean literature.