by Tina Barr
says after Independence they left
without teaching the wasps to make honey.
We talk about the tree of good and evil,
how drink or smoke comes to live inside us,
like a duppy. They're hungry so the girls
go down beside the cruise ships and give
themselves for money. He shows me
a walking stick carved with fangs, Marley's
face, a pineapple and the word Jamaica.
there was only the hut he constructed
from aluminum and bamboo; he sells spin toys
made with chestnuts, maracas filled with coffee beans, bowls from calabash,
of brown seeds from flame trees. Now
there are fifteen shack shops; their owners
had babies, and found a way to eat. Resorts
toss the fish heads, the bones from pork roasts. Along the roads, egrets, riding
chestnut cows, eat
off their eyes. There are fruit trees all over, papaya, banana,
plantain, ackee that's poison
until it splits open. My eyes take in layers
of teal, turquoise, navy, a streak of green
against a coral reef. The wind blows past
my ears, carrying the voice of a child, the racket
of stays against a mast. Those mountains hid
the Maroons, when the sound of gazelle horns
blew freedom. Under the palm-thatch kiosk
man sells liquored juices; yellow-eyed
crows sit, small judges in the rafters.
Visitors, beer-bellied, sagging, stumble with drink,
line a sidewalk to gamble on small racing crabs.
Dexter was born in a barn somewhere in this parish.
He says god is around, the way the wind
blows palms. We can't see wind, only its roving
through the fronds, turning the ends, each green
spear threaded on the spindle of the wind.
Copyright ©2003 Tina Barr
first published in The Antioch Review, and now appears
in The Gathering Eye, winner of the Tupelo Press Editor's
Prize, and due out this year from Tupelo
purchase a copy of The
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