This piece originally appeared in Issue 3.3 (Fall 2007).
On King George’s Crowning
On King George's crowning, the interviewee said they all got sweets and little goodies, and when they come by boat, some come as stowaways. Once they collect money for this woman's fare. Others come, a fiver tight in their pockets, like my grandfather when he escaped from the belly of the crown and never spoke of it again. Others not bring overcoat— no one told them how air moves vampires through bone, erases memory matter. Some dress in suits tropical style, as the ship moved its shaky hand over the old surface of the sea. They arrive, say 'I born Jamaican, I die Jamaican,' take a bite of the sweet, hand to mouth, take the test of motherland's history—bitter—replied, when asked if they spoke the Queen's English; Enoch Powell's rivers of blood forming a new oxygen, scarlet-marked as they sliced through London fog; iris recording life, how it is: Houses of Parliament, Big Ben in the grey dank; a room, a galvanized tub to wash, emerge baptized; the city soot, a new glove for the body; the signs reading no Irish or blacks or dogs, not wanted but take your money, just the same. Some, some, carry hope like luggage, others not so sure-footed, others not so childlike in believing all what this mother have to say. Some bring formal names, leave pet ones behind, whisper night bougainvillaea. How this country cold, cold, cold through and through and no tea hot enough to warm you, or hand friendly enough to pry open the dark days, bring morning brightness. Some come, stay, patience worn thin like paper, hearts tough as old bread, and letters back home with every copper earned from the Double Decker, brow wipe of the sick, hammer of nail into two by four—if they let you, if you not too dark for their liking. Some, some, come long way, did bite of the sweet. Motherless mother's milk. Ol' Englan' cryin' crocodile tear for her lost chil'ren.
Here, the body, as a sentence, conducts a treading, never touching the bottom, yet all things submerge here. The mouth of the city speaks you in, its gesture mapped on a grid of sorrow, the old brick crumbling its own fable day by day. You see, I came to the city briefed in its ways, my childhood resurrected by Lime Cordial, Earl Grey and Salad Cream; the BBC; a million coronations; a cacophony of British marching bands; how de say Queenie ate rat when she come to Belize. Yes, I came to know the tiny shifts spoken by the eyes, the minute violences of lips souring as milk. I re-studied the thing that killed the autumn trace of light in my parents' generation. I made weapons of my words, watched the Thames, daily, nightly for clues.
What Comes Between
Careless. Been forgetting names, entries to the city, incapacitated recollections of streets born to ask where are you from? this heart of amnesia takes broken journeys to windows marks faces as appearances in momentary sun makes map dissolve words primordial what lingers is not fact only detail of buildings, things said before, slippery after.
Staghorn, elkhorn and brain coral expose sharp, boney remains. Colonies grow, breeding. Billions of singular polyps form a chorus over limestone skeletons, each one mother birthing calcium carbonate; mouth, tentacle and gut perched on the brittle bed they cultivate: thin life veils the dead. Polyps swell towards nationhood but wound when careless boat or swimmer knocks them—injure one, injure all. The soft coral rejects hardness for flexibility, holds limestone secret inside its corpus, while its exterior drag shouts a flamboyance of reds, yellows and purples. Feathered fans of sabellidaes sway, patiently seeking hands of Ziegfeld Girls, as Pleistocene coral cuts the shoreline of Ambergris Caye—an area big enough to bend it like Beckham. This Barrier Reef thrives a million years, far back as northern glaciers that imprison water. Its length splinters into segments exiled by deep arteries where sacrificial plankton and oxygen are brought twice daily by the Caribbean blue, to feed hungry polyps, the reef creatures, the old colonies that never die.