Tue | Aug 3, 2021
MEETING GROUND

Honouring, celebrating and remembering fathers

Published:Sunday | June 20, 2021 | 12:07 AM

These poems are reminders of how great and important fathers are in our lives. Meeting Ground hopes you fully experience the journey in the bouquet of poems. Happy Father's Day to our strong and beautiful fathers. A special shout-out to my dad, Oswald Lim, and my poetry fathers, Prof Mervyn Morris, Prof Eddie Baugh, Dr St Hope Earl McKenzie and always remembering Wayne Vincent Brown. Kwame Dawes, though mentor, would be considered too young to be called father (by me) –Ann-Margaret Lim.

On The Birth of My Son

For Kekeli

No sharp screams, although after they lifted him,

his brown body covered in the soft film of clay,

he thumped the air and made sounds.

They plucked him out from the ribbons of flesh,

the neat line in her skin, with the chord

taut around his neck. And it was only in that

instant of limbs, umbilicus, slick hair

and the glare of the OR’s blue light,

the crowd in green uniforms around us,

that I knew that the fluttering in my chest

was not from the trauma, the rush, the sprint

to extract him breathing, alive, it was

the revelation of his penis, the sound

of the word, son, its alien sobering, and the rush

of every image, every fear, every silence,

every tension, every broken meaning.

– Kwame Dawes: Jamaican living in the United States – from Impossible Flying: Peepal Tree Press: 2007

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The Wizard

On the day I was born, I met a wizard,

his big afro, like a halo.

He sometimes wore robes, sometimes dashikis

and there was fire in his face when he named me.

"Imago dei" he said;

Wizard-speak for:

“You are unique. You are anointed.

The divine lives within you.”

I was a toddler on his knee,

bruised forefinger raised with my wet face,

my world collapsed into the calamity

of a scratch, a slight, a need for attention.

“Woman blow” he said;

Wizard-speak for:

“This is pain. It is real. You are strong.

It will not best you.”

I was a teenage witness

as his hands closed around her gnarled fingers

and she leaned into him,

her desolation like scorched earth.

“Liberation love” he said;

Wizard-speak for:

“Stranger, you are our sister.

We will find the rain together.”

I was a seeker in the fog,

my head swivelling to every siren song,

my footfalls uncertain

until he came alongside me

“Buy truth” he said, “and do not sell it”;

Wizard-speak for:

“Seek wisdom. Make her your sage.

Follow her with courage.”

On the day I was born, I met a wizard.

I saw him in the pulpit and in the ghetto.

I saw him with the dignitaries

and with the sick and dying.

I saw him in the university and on the street corner.

I saw him write books and sing songs.

I saw him fight for justice and create new worlds.

But mostly, I saw him at breakfast,

when he picked me up from school,

when we composed music and wrote poetry,

when we laboured together, waist deep in service,

when he reasoned me through my choices,

when he affirmed and comforted without a word.

I see him now in our living room,

surrounded by his issue,

a wizard still speaking, still loving, still giving,

his magic twinkling in his ageing eyes.

– Makesha Evans Spence: Jamaican living in the United States

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Origami

My father weaves stories

at night, right out of his head

and before our shame trees grow

and we are still of an age to scream

daddy daddy daddy!! each evening

in greeting,

we hear of the land-walking,

dinner-jacket-wearing shark,

Sylvester, who terrifies tourists, waiters

and everybody who doesn’t know

(as we do) he’s pescetarian.

I hear stories of my father.

Once, that he laid on the floor

in his suit

mid- some big meeting

citing back discomfort and,

I believe it, since my father was

the only person in jeans

at my high school graduation.

My father and I share stories

and sometimes discover

in each other, truth or myth

but on our bad days, my father

and I exchange words and he

looks at this version of his face

and calls it stubborn and we

reflect each other’s darker

shadows until one of us folds

like a dinner napkin since

neither of us can take ourselves

too seriously.

– Rhea Manley: Jamaica

The House Tchaikovsky Built

what did he see in Tchaikovsky?

a builder, he raised houses

and children

the downstairs garage a subconscious

subterranean workshop cave

at night a devouring electric saw growled and screamed

interfering with the TV signal upstairs

we waited for all-clear sound and vision

longing for ordinary transmission

I played punk rock on the family

stereo: anarchy in the living room

the walls rolled their eyes

a whole lot of noise

he played sarah vaughan, joe turner, louis, ella

bop debop, top 40 radio

tchaikovsky

tall and bearded crossing the room to release

music from its cover those big fingers

weather hard hands holding vinyl

ready for the 1812

my sinking heart and rolling eyes

a whole lot of noise

he taught me how to build a house

in summer when the gods are gracious

to young soldiers

the plans laid out across two workhorses

weapons ready

first slow and sure the digging

the mud sodden trenches for foundations

upon these the structure stands or falls

violins and handsaw the bow across

sharp sound slices rising under the great blue eyes

the floor a violent passion nailed

then orchestral sweet

confirmed level

on the scaffold the lift and blows

the joists the sounds of war

brass and the drill

battle bells and planing

cannons and drums

thunder hammer storms

the taste of sawdust motes and cymbal echoes

in swirling air

master and maestro constructing

dwellings to dream in

the hammer beating still

in my chest

my chest

my chest

the hammer

– Fiona Stevens ( New Zealand)

---------

In Remembrance

Dear Daddy,

How do you say goodbye to a figure who always seems larger than life?

With a mind a mile a minute, fathoms deep?

Whose accomplishments instil awe, yet were never selfish.

Whose laughter and song could not be contained by any room.

Who didn’t just listen to choruses and orchestras, but immersed self for the moment.

Whose pensive face was only that - full of thought

A freeze frame that would crack in a heartbeat to reveal a smile, a “Well …”,

Then an upward gaze as you sought to give the most helpful answer.

Ask anything.

And anyone could.

My Dad.

There will never be a page, a book that would hold all there is to say and all that you mean to me.

One night, driving as we spoke about the moon,

You said,

“Olivia, not everyone has their attention brought to the beauty of the moon.

The beauty in nature,”

I marvelled at that truth then

And only so much because you had indeed done so for me along with Mummy,

And I was and still am so grateful.

All the things you held in esteem are woven into me.

By example you taught,

By sharing and opening up experiences,

By being someone to truly look up to,

How do you say goodbye to someone like that?

Well …

I

Look at my legs, my face

Feel in my step, my gait

Love my country

Remember my history

Revere creation

With joy, with passion, create, create

Mind I am part of a greater whole

Try

Help

Don’t give up should I ever fall

or falter,

Daddy, I never say goodbye at all.

With love,

Your daughter

– Olivia Wilmot

------

Elegy for Esau

(1)

I wanted to stop writing

Poems of pain

That bleed on white page

That cried black-inked tears.

But then, my father died

And the sorrow returned

To my pen flooded it

With memories of his life

his passing.

So now, it’s as if

My pen controls my hand

And writes elegies

Lamenting the loss

Of the world’s warmest soul.

(2)

I wanted to start writing

Poems of power

That energize life

That lift people up

Just like my father did

But then he died

And the pen took to mourning

His memory his life

his passing.

– Nicholas Alexander: Jamaican living in the US