Travels with a daughter.
Somewhere, 2009 (For my mother and Pat's daughter) I woke up with the need to call Thought I would just dial your number (long since disconnected, I know) and say happy birthday into the void or in chorus with the mechanical woman exhorting me to check the number and dial again later The voice is not without sympathy A familiar accent chiding me gently don't be afraid to try again Or is it that everything sounds softer faintly musical almost comical in an island voice? I hung up and filled out the birthday card instead The one I bought before the end and never got a chance to send I licked a stamp stuck it on and added the sticker via air mail thinking of all the words we exchanged that way because you never reached the computer age and I was always worlds away In the blinding sun and sticky heat I walked ten minutes to the white mailbox (Post before 5 pm, next day delivery guaranteed--except it always took six weeks). The card will be returned to me in the new year I know stamped Moved. No forwarding address. Try again later.
Jamaica 2006 You wanted to come with me to say goodbye to the grandmother you knew as a voice She loved you through her songs on the phone Down the Way where her nights were anything but gay You could sing all the lyrics although you'd been to the island only once when you were two Please, can I come with you Thirteen hours to Germany Eight hours from there to New York Then another four Just to see your mother weep in planes and airports and to watch a suddenly aged aunt taking photographs of someone No longer there Yes, I wanted you with me but could not say yes to this brightly illuminated circus of pain, anger and regret Afterwards, though, we would smile you and me thinking of the song you last sang to her When Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney She told everyone about it Just listen to this one, no my granddaughter sing it to me When Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney Christmas then was still in your head and we were sure she'd be around for the next one and many more songs
Paris then & now Is she your daughter? They used to ask my mother The way they now ask me People too ignorant To think before They speak We enter the art gallery You and me Elle est si mignonne The woman there says Smiling artificially Ah oui? Merci And then inevitably Comes le question Is she your daughter? They have no clue What this must be doing to you As it did to me When I watched my mother's puzzled face Turning slowly to rage An anger that seeped out And infected me Making me sit for hours In the sun Turning deep-brown So I could stop hearing fools Run their mouths Is she your daughter?
Tokyo 2005 Arigato you said to cabdrivers shopkeepers and the lady who gave you a fan The summer heat drenched me in misery as I banged my head against the implacable wall of language and smiles so coolly polite But you quickly learned that a well-placed arigato could cause the bricks to tumble softly and silently down like cherry--yes--cherry blossoms
Siem Reap, Cambodia 2004 Mommy, look, that man Has only one leg You stare, fascinated Why does he have only one leg Your voice is clear Cutting through the chatter Of the tourist throngs Gazing in wonder At trees growing through stone Not so loud, I scold you But the man sitting on the ground With the carved peg beside him And his flute across his lap Smiles at me, at you He whispers something To his two companions Who also have musical instruments And limbs missing They play And as the melody wafts out You begin singing along in sudden delight Old Macdonald had a farm
Myanmar (Burma) 2002 Black Mercedes limos With tinted glass Emerge from the night Like a line of hearses Waved to their positions By white-gloved Gun-toting Guards Their faces Carved from teak The cars Discharge their riders Sarong-clad Heavy men Broad of shoulder And large of belly Each step they take Echoes their power Despite the incongruous Little leather thongs On their feet toenails immaculately clipped of course I watch this procession Of generals With unease Unable to completely quell The flutterings of fear But you, oblivious still Cry out in the night "bye bye" And several of these mighty men Turn their heads to stare at you Hard mouths ready to bark An order But disarmed by your little-girl giggle One by one They somehow manage To crack A smile
Jamaica 2002 The mango juice slid down your chin dripped onto your powder-blue dress you bit into the flesh of the fruit you held so tightly your face a portrait of childish delight and when more nectar rolled down your arm drawing an orange line from wrist to elbow your tongue swept a clean path just the way mine used to from elbow to wrist your grandmother-- older, smaller than the last time I saw her-- laughed at you and shook her head "Mi pickney come home," she said.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Journal of Caribbean Literatures|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2013|
|Previous Article:||"Good Lord ... he looked to her like a soukougnan": the warring aspects of Vodou and Christianity in Maryse Conde's Windward Heights.|
|Next Article:||Shadow Man, Jamaica.|