Meeting Ground: Valentine Edition
The gathering of verses below, from Caribbean-born poets, in the 2021 Meeting Ground Valentine edition, sing eloquently of experiences with love for: man, woman, child, ‘grandpa’ and the family unit. Enjoy – Ann-Margaret Lim
after Chagall and for Steve
In a house that is not a house
but a boat set sailing
in a landscape where darkened clouds and hills
merge and an angel hovers and rooster
like a sentinel guards,
or inside the house where a man consoles a woman
standing next to the bed where she sits,
a vase of flowers on the table at their side,
love, find us. And find us
inside the farmhouse we rented
which all winter let in cold and mice
through cracks in its stone,
where across the field outside our window
deer trekked leaving tracks in snow
as lying in bed, we watched.
If love is not this dream of itself
then it must be a waking to this dream.
If it is not a place in time
then it must be the action of placing
a vase of flowers deliberately
on a table inside a square of light.
– Shara McCallum (Jamaican living in the US
Madwoman, Peepal Tree Press (Leeds, UK), 2017
We drank from our pair of cups,
yours with delicate tones of cream
mine a deep unspeckled green,
and both with a band of brown
that linked us.
In the aura of our mornings
we held them with our affection
still warm in our fingers;
and we sipped from them
with the sweetness
of the night’s understandings
still on our lips.
Now you cannot drink from yours,
and I will not drink from mine alone;
so these silent witnesses
of our journey to each other
in a dark cupboard.
– Earl McKenzie: (Jamaica)
Against Linearity: Peepal Tree Press: (Leeds, UK), 1992
Gardening in the Tropics you hear poetry
in some unexpected places. Sitting on my
verandah last night I overheard two people
passing by. The woman said:
You don’t bring me flowers anymore
– or anything for the children.
My heart has turned to stone,
but I cannot put that in the pot.
Love me and my family, or leave me
to sit by the roadside and sell,
by the riverside, taking in washing,
by milady’s fire, cooking for my living.
I’m a woman with heavy responsibilities.
With my lot I’m prepared to be contented.
With your sweet words, Lover, tempt me
not, if you’ve come empty-handed.
– Olive Senior ( Jamaican living in Canada)
Gardening in the Tropics: Poems, McClellad & Stewart Inc. The Canadian Publishers, 1994
It is like the matted moss that creeps
on the slatish rock, half buried in dense sand,
licked by the lapping sea.
You wash our daughter in the waters,
wise of the ways the sea can be cleansing,
how the wild brine clears the night’s rattling
cough, rinses her nose of thick liquids.
Her protests dissolved in the clear waves,
she glows in the spinning sun.
I wash myself in view of the rippling hills,
baptise myself in this ocean’s quiet corners.
A school of translucent minnows appear
beside my legs, feeding on my murky sins.
– Richard Georges (Trinidadian living in the British Virgin Islands)
Make Us All Islands: Poems, Shearsman Books (UK), 2017
A Long Story
Grandpa, the bearer of fruits, chocolate and rum
even when we were too young,
insists on living alone.
Each month I collect him
for the trip to the doctor’s office
where he wreaks havoc on
the nurse and poor, old women
who he says he’d never look at
even if they were all that was left on earth.
But today, I go to get him,
the gate is locked.
I feel that everything will depend
on my speed. There is no time
to see my younger self sitting on his lap
eating big people food from his plate;
picking out mismatched outfits
that he wore to work, anyway;
splashing around in a bubble bath
while he sat on his throne
and closed major business deals
from the telephone mounted beside the toilet.
Jumping the six-foot gate was easy.
The sound of my long jeans skirt
ripping in the back from waist to hem
was like the scratch of a match.
There he was, crouched under a mango tree
in the backyard. His big, bulgy eyes
taking me in as if for the first time.
No more doctor. She sexy, sexy bad.
Big boned, big ass, big smile. Nice woman.
But no more doctor for a dying man.
– Tanya Shirley (Jamaica)
She Who Sleeps With Bones, Peepal Tree Press (Leeds, UK): 2009
(for George and my granddaughter, Zoe)
She had shed the “Uncle” at his bidding,
no doubt. “George,” she calls,
sure of her place at the summit of the world,
“may I come in?” The door opens, a glimpse
of white hair, and she runs into the room.
We watch her transition from outright refusal
to, “My George.” First, the array of balloons
he bought and blew up, himself, her three-year
old laughter artless, bursting free.
This playmate makes the funniest faces,
becomes her willing audience as she reads the stories
she contrives; she sings for him, she dances.
He sits reading silently. She, eyeing him
all the while, waits with the rarest patience.
Perhaps this book will teach him how to answer
all the “Why’s?” she’s heaping up,
or prompt him to another round of games.
Time, too, is playing its peculiar game:
old age recedes, philosophy declines, all titles bow.
Inside this room he is a child again, and she,
unwise as yet to his burden of years, lifts
it as lightly as the ball they toss between them,
or the yellow balloon floating outside the room.
– Esther Phillips (Barbados)
The Sea Needs No Ornament: Peepal Tree Press (Leeds, UK), 2020