Sentinel Poetry (Online) #38 The International Journal of Poetry &
Graphics Monthly ISSN 1479-425X
Sentinel Poetry (Online) #38
The International Journal of Poetry & Graphics Monthly
The slave ship shell-shock dark
as the night-filled gourd
Cavernous as a grave fault
The viewer’s mind
stretches to fit.
Fails to grasp
we come to it
the child’s body flexed
not yet shelled out.
At the heart of this search
Outside: the Sun has his eye on
the truth that spirals out of ( )hell.
Torn from the vine in a place of moist
heat and shade where I was growing,
skin once plump and reddish, glowing.
Suddenly, a job lot. Indiscriminately
thrown in, we are jumbled, shaken up,
rolled together, little knowing our fate
or destination, till black and shrivelled
by the sun, looking all alike now, we are
tumbled into hold of a ship for forty days
and forty nights (we guess – for black
is the fenestration).
Disgorged, spilled out, shell-shocked
I come parched and dried, my head
emptied, till shock-still I come to rest,
shelled-out, buck-naked. In the mad
ensuing scramble, who will come
who will come sample me,
view me, choose me, sort me out
for grade and quality, drive me home
to crush me, use me? Know that alone
I’m of little value, like a peppercorn
rental. All together, we can pepper
your arse with shot.
Over time, despite our treatment,
you’ll see, survivors stay pungent
and hot. You can beat me senseless,
grind me down, crush me to bits, to
powder. You can never lose my bite
on your tongue, my hold on your senses:
forever I’ll linger and cling.
In your mad scramble to possess,
devour me, remember, if you’d only
allow me to do a strip-tease, slow, peel off
my black skin, you’d be pleased –
or shocked – to discover: I’m white below.
Torn from the vine from another world
to tame the wildness of the juice, assigned
with bill and hoe to field or factory, chained
by the voracious hunger of the cane
the world’s rapacious appetite for sweetness
How place names of my servitude mock me:
Hermitage, Lethe, Retreat, Retirement, Content,
Each with the Great House squatting
on the highest eminence
the Sugar Works overlooking
my master’s eye unyielding
the overseer unblinking
the black specks
At shell blow assembled the broken-down
bodies, the job-lots scrambled into gangs
like beads on a string O not pearls no
unmatched pairings the random bindings
like cane trash no not like the cane pieces
laid out geometric and given names
The First House
Homeless, Deminán and his brothers
orphaned and wandering forefathers,
Winds of Four Quarters, blew hither
and yon until
Turtle Woman stopped them
in their tracks: the first mating. Said:
I am ready for nesting. Said: Build me
a house. Untrained, but undaunted
(in the way of such heroes) they each
took a corner of the world, stood like
pillars to anchor it and strained and
puffed to lift high the roof of sky,
which billowed out and in (they had
a hell of a time controlling it) until
it righted itself and domed into
the model of Turtle Woman’s shell.
And so we were born in the House
of our Great Mother, our crabbed
and comforting genitor, who still bears
our first house on her back.
You think I’ve stayed home all my life,
moving at snail’s pace, sneakily living off
another’s labour? You think I’ve nought
to leave behind but empty shell? Come:
study me. Take my chambered shell apart.
Brace yourself for whirlwinds
coiled at my heart.
(After viewing Botero)
He’s rumbled them, sketched them skin
stretched taut as drum.
Leaving flesh to make its ample statement
is so wise.
The rhythms of their stories freeze us
in black pearl eyes.
Trophy wife, power object,
your lustre fading
from neglect, pull
that rope from around
your neck. Don't you
want to be free?
Come now, break the spell.
Let each pearl be.
Or cast them
before swine. What have you
to lose? Honour,
like the pearl,
is already used. Keep a single
pearl for contemplation
of the kingdom within,
or injest it for melancholy,
madness, and other
Better yet, count it
a blessing, save
Too many lives
for this string.