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Shadow Man, Jamaica.

Shadow Man, Jamaica

   Soaping clothes in a rainforest pool
   she hears a voice cry, "You won't go back
   to your everyday life the same person."
   A church group from Duluth begins
   climbing the famous waterfall.
   Holding hands, a daisy chain, they edge
   along the switchback ledges, foam
   cuffing their ankles. After soloing
   "Come Mr. Tally Man, tally me ba-nah-nah"
   the guide pauses and the climbers
   repeat it, then the phrases that follow,
   like a choral oath of office.

   Smoothing her children's shirts and pants,
   colorful as reef dwellers, to dry over boulders
   she thinks of her husband's clothing.
   "Where things start is not where is going end,"
   he told her one early morning last week
   when he came home from Tweedy Flamboyan's
   Rum Shop and tore up his work clothes.
   He twisted her ear and shouted, "You listening
   now? No more I wear a shirt say
   Public Works, no more opening graves
   and repairing politicians' tombs
   the sea wind have better use for
   the waterfall is quiet now. Jitneys
   have taken the climbers down macadam
   to vendors awaiting them. A voice
   drifts up, "Doan miss I have place mats
   fashion from bark of satinwood,
   our nation tree. It look so you want them,
   true? The artist scene it say
   right here, Wash Day, West Indies."

   She watched her husband mix a dove's
   dried blood with rainforest seeds
   and sprinkle that on burning charcoal.
   He breathed deeply over the altar,
   chanting, eyes closed for second sight.
   Dressed all in white, he tells whoever
   will listen at Tweedy Flamboyan's
   how he'll conjure for clients a charm
   against obeahmen who can steal your
   shadow for vengeance and replace it
   with the shadow of a dying person.

   The shy Antillean warbler,
   its blue-black sheen and orange
   throat--she whistles its territorial call
   she has practiced every wash day
   and smiles to hear an answer upstream.
   This morning she thought, but didn't say,
   that the shadow her husband cast was not his.

Thomas Reiter

Monmouth University

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Author:Reiter, Thomas
Publication:Journal of Caribbean Literatures
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2013
Previous Article:Travels with a daughter.
Next Article:The Dance: Sapphire Beach, St. Thomas, 1970.

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