BRAVE flowers--that I could gallant it like you,
And be as little vain!
You come abroad, and make a harmless show,
And to your beds of earth again.
You are not proud: you know your birth:
For your embroider'd garments are from earth.
You do obey your months and times, but I
Would have it ever Spring:
My fate would know no Winter, never die,
Nor think of such a thing.
O that I could my bed of earth but view
And smile, and look as cheerfully as you!
O teach me to see Death and not to fear,
But rather to take truce!
How often have I seen you at a bier,
And there look fresh and spruce!
You fragrant flowers! then teach me, that my breath
Like yours may sweeten and perfume my death.
Jasmattie live in bruk-
Down hut big like Bata shoe-box,
Beat clothes, weed yard, chop wood, feed fowl
For this body and that body and every blasted body
Fetch water, all day water like if the
Whole slow-flowing Canje river God create
Just for she one bucket.
Till she foot bottom crack and she hand cut-up
And curse swarm from she mouth like red ants
And she cough blood on the ground but mash it in:
Because Jasmattie heart hard, she mind set hard.
To hustle save she one-one penny,
Because one-one dutty make dam cross the Canje
And she son Harrilal got to go school in Georgetown
Must wear clean starch pants, or they go laugh at he,
Strap leather on he foot, and he must read book,
Learn talk proper, take exam, go to England university,
Not turn out like he rum-sucker chamar dadee.
For my mother..(May I inherit half her strength)
My mother loved my father
I write this as an absolute
in this my thirtieth year
the year to discard absolutes
he appeared, her fate disguised,
as a sunday player in a cricket match,
he had ridden from a country
one hundred miles south of hers.
She tells me he dressed the part,
visiting dandy, maroon blazer,
cream serge pants, seam like razor
and the beret and the two-tone shoes.
My father stopped to speak to her sister,
till he looked and saw her by the oleander,
sure in the kingdom of my blue-eyed grandmother.
He never played the cricket match that day.
He wooed her with words and he won her.
He had nothing but words to woo her,
on a visit to distant Kingston he wrote,
“I stood on the corner of King Street and looked,
and not one woman in that town was lovely as you.”
My mother was a child of the petite bourgeoisie
studying to be a teacher, she oiled her hands
to hold pens.
My father barely knew his father, his mother died young,
he was a boy who grew with his granny.
My mother’s trousseau came by steamer through the snows
where her sisters Albertha of the cheekbones and the
perennial Rose, combed Jewlit backstreets with French-
turned names for Doris’s wedding things.
Such a wedding Harvey River, Hanover, had never seen.
Who anywhere had seen a veil fifteen chantilly yards long?
and a crepe de chine dress with inlets of silk godettes
and a neck-line clasped with jeweled pins!
And on her wedding day she wept. For it was a brazen bride in those days who smiled.
and her bouquet looked for the world like a sheaf of wheat
against the unknown of her belly,
a sheaf of wheat backed by maidenhair fern, representing Harvey River her face washed by something other than river water.
My father made one assertive move, he took the imported cherub down from the heights of the cake and dropped it in the soft territory between her breasts…and she cried.
When I came to know my mother many years later, I knew her as the figure who sat at the first thing I learned to read: “SINGER,” and she breast-fed my brother while she sewed; and she taught us to read while she sewed and she sat in judgment over all our disputes as she sewed.
She could work miracles, she would make a garment from a square of cloth in a span that defied time. Or feed twenty people on a stew made from fallen-from-the-head cabbage leaves...