Wed | Apr 21, 2021

Meeting Ground: Valentine Edition

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2021 | 12:10 AM

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

The Dream

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

----

Cups

We drank from our pair of cups,

yours with delicate tones of cream

and grey,

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

sit together

in a dark cupboard.

– Earl McKenzie: (Jamaica)

Against Linearity: Peepal Tree Press: (Leeds, UK), 1992

------

Tropic Love

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

-------

Sea Bath

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

---------

Meeting-Point

(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