Saturday, August 25, 2012

MY INSPIRATION


 Priest died on Wednesday. Yes, meager, googly-eyed Priest. We called him ‘Priest.’ I don’t know how he got the name; he certainly had it before I was born or for as long as I can remember. He had it so long no one ever really remembered what his real name was – except Ludy, the woman he lived with for all of their adult lives but never married. Priest said marriage was a “conspiracy to keep TheBlackRace brainwashed,” although he never explained how.

 Priest saw everything as a “conspiracy against TheBlackRace,” and would launch into a long tirade admonishing us to beware. None of it really made sense to us back then but that never stopped him. In his more lucid moments he would gather us around the fire in the backyard, boil up some topitambu or peewah for us and tell us stories, mostly fascinating, while we ploughed into the steaming bowls of goodies. We asked him once why he never gave us chataigne, which I loved, and of course he said chataigne was a “conspiracy to keep TheBlackRace down, farting stink and outcast from decent society”. I didn’t care; I loved them anyway. But Priest was adamant.

  The day the worst hurricane that ever hit the island came and left a path of destruction in its wake, Priest was liming by the rum shop as per usual, refusing steadfastly to seek the safety of home. He said “Hurricane is one big conspiracy against TheBlackRace to keep us poor, suffering, and dependent on handouts from Massa.” So he stayed at the rum shop downing glass after glass of mountain dew straight. After the hurricane left, they found Priest sprawled off across the rumshop counter in a drunken stupor. The next day, a Guardian reporter interview Priest. He gave them a blow-by-blow commentary on the hurricane – never mind he was barely conscious for most of it. He said he looked the hurricane straight in the eye and fired one every time it tried to toss him up.
  “No hurricane goin scare me way!” he explained. “I ain't scared o’ nutten Massa throw at me! They could bring Papa God heself, if they think he white! In fact, if he used to be white back in the day, he ain’t no more for the amount of hard work they make him undergo in this here hot sun, ” he said, “ Yes, back in the day I used to have teeth and a head full o’ jet black hair, too. I was real good lookin – a ladykiller.”
 “Yeah me looks does fool people. The reporter lady ask me how old I is – you know how they like to put two commas behind your name with your age in between – like Mr. Priest, 45, . . . like if people ain’t go believe what you do or say if they ain’t see your age along with it. Boy, 12, hit by bus . . . . Franklin Prescott, 32, taken into custody this morning . . . But this time they ask the wrong person. I don’t play that. I explain to she at length that don’t mind how I ain’t have no teeth and how I have all this gray hair, I ain’t that old. Is take I take after me mother; she side o’ the family does always look older than they age, I say, and I give them a broad smile as first hand evidence.”

  Well that was the picture that they had plastered on the front page of the Guardian, and since he did not tell them how old he was because he said he would pose for free but they would have to pay to know his age, they wrote ‘Mr. Priest, 50 (he suspect they choose to err on the side of youth so as not to piss him off), rides out the storm.’ Priest became the village superstar after that, at least in his own mind. He carried that newspaper clipping everywhere and was never shy about pulling it, all crumpled and dirty, out of his back pocket, the same one with the petit quart of rum with the label peeling off at the corners, and showing to all and sundry whether they wanted to see it or not. He even had it in the cemetery waving it like a flag when they buried Sailorman’s two year-old daughter, the village’s sole hurricane fatality.

 “Man, Priest,” Ludy told him, “Why you don’t put that damn thing away? Nobody trying to see your damn bald-pated mouth this hour.”
 Well, Priest sprung forward like a daylight saving clock in April. They had to hold him back from grappling her. It was as though he was a full twenty-something years younger.
 “ You lucky I love you,” he said, “Otherwise I woulda give you one confounded kick.” And he swung around and fired his right leg in the air, swiping pure wind as usual. Ludy, accustomed to such grand charges from him, only laughed, and continued what she was doing, humming a calypso.

 Apart from Ludy, nobody dared defy Priest. He would fix those large, bulging, unblinking, bloodshot eyes on you and dare you to contradict him. And once you looked away in concession, he would shout,  “Heroes of war! Not a man move!” But you couldn’t, even if you wanted to because his eyes had already fixed you in your place.

 But where Ludy was concerned, he was no hero. Priest knew it was a losing battle. “Every Napoleon have their Waterloo,” was his theory about the “profound phenomenon” of her hold over him. Yes, Priest knew how to turn on the speechifying when he wanted to impress, although he was not always so careful with in-context usage. He used to tell the fellas that he was a graduate of Joan Hawkins University in The Big Apple.

 “You could see you ain’t go to no damn university,” Sarge, the more literate among the fellas used to tell him, “First of all is John Hopkins not Joan Hawkins, and secondly, it in Maryland, not The Big Apple.”
 “Hear allyou Johnnies-Come-Lately. Is not yesterday I went there you know. You think I born yesterday like allyou pissin-tail lil fellas? I have clothes older than every last one of you. They move the damn place and change the name after I graduate. Read up some more. Educate yourselves.” And if Ludy was within earshot, she’d let out a long, drawn-out steups and cut her eyes at him. And he would shut up forthwith.

 Ludy was a tall, striking woman totally unconscious of her uncommon good looks. If you saw only a head shot of her you would not be able to tell she was a powerfully built woman, at least 5’ 11” and carrying almost 300 lbs. In weight, she outfoxed Priest more than two to one. Ludy’s flesh was tight and supple and did not jiggle, except when she wanted it to. She walked proud, head held high, and back erect, not crouching into herself like some tall people do when they're ashamed of their height. She was a woman in possession of herself; she knew she was tall, and she used it to her advantage. At least a head and a half taller than Priest, she had a way of standing up with her legs planted firmly apart and hands akimbo and looking down at him, letting him know she meant business, wilting him instantly with that hawk-like stare. Whenever people in the village pissed her off, she’d turn around, raise up her dress and shake her backside in their face, which was the worst possible insult even worse than giving people the finger. Priest was not the only one who dared not tangle with her. But it would be no pretty picture to imagine her holding Priest in a headlock or sending him careening with one backhand slap if he only stepped out of line. I always wanted to be like her when I grew up, but I didn’t mind falling short by a couple inches and a whole lot of pounds.

  They were the oddest couple imaginable, and yet, there was this glue that held them together. Despite the to-ing and fro-ing, they were thick like molasses. Ludy was a water carrier on the government road works project, the one they used to call PRWP (People’s Road Works Program). She left home at five every morning six days a week and was back home by nine, before Priest even finished that night's dream of a grander tomorrow. Everybody wanted a PRWP job but few were lucky enough to get their names on the list. The haters called Ludy “Lie Down Ludy” because of how they supposed she got her name moved to the top of the list so quickly. But Ludy did not need to beg, bribe, buy, bully, nor bed her way into any job. Her reputation went far and wide so people respected her without her having to ask. In fact, she was getting a job for Priest, too, but he say he did not want “no damn slave work.”

  “Like allyou ain’t hear Massa Day Done, or what?”

  So Ludy went to work every day and brought in the steady paycheck while Priest spent every waking moment either in the rumshop, holding forth on the street corner for the listening pleasure of a handful of sycophants, or writing poetry, philosophical and/or political treatise about every topic that caught his fancy, and selling hand-written copies to whoever would buy. Sometimes he hopped a taxi and went to the airport to sell because, as he said, “That is where you find the educated people -- going away. They leavin' this country in grap. Like allyou ain’t hear bout the brain drain or what?”

  Sometimes again he used to take a bus down to The People’s Parliament in the heart of town, but he said there was too much competition down there – “every dog and his brother in that place is either political pundit, philosopher, poet, or all three.” At least he had a steady clientele in the village where they saw him as the local sage. He used to copy the poems in a kind of Gothic calligraphy style on homemade parchment scrolls. He used bamboo and colored ribbons to string them so people could hang them up on their walls for decoration, even if they could not read, which was the case for most people in the village.

  Sometimes he added illustrations . . . pharaohs, ankhs, birds, triangles, and other Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols. He said the Egyptians were the most erudite people God created. Priest had poems written about Hatchepsut, Tutmosis, Rameses and Tutankhamun. He said the only one Massa know about is Johnny-Come –Lately King Tut, but he was not the most powerful Pharoah, just filthy rich and smart as hell because he knew how to perpetuate his legacy. He said TheBlackRace descended from the Egyptians. “We have a heritage of royalty long before slavery.” We begged him to tell us the story because we knew how he liked to tell stories, but he kept putting us off with,

  “Allyou brains ain’t ready for that one yet, man! It real high. Even serious scholars don’t believe it! When allyou get a lil older, a lil further along.” He said the same thing to the fellas by the rumshop although many of them were of his age cohort.   “Them things too deep, man! Allyou ain’t erudite enough. It don’t make sense. Allyou ain’t goin’ understand. Take my advice, stick to politics in this country, current affairs and such like -- the baby stuff. You got to creep before you walk. Let me tell allyou bout last election bacchanal – spectacular, man, spectacular.”

  And he held forth late into the night until the fellas started drifting off one by one before they got into trouble with their madams. When they all left, he would go back in and help Sailorman close the place up, for which he’d get a refill of the petit quart, and then he’d head home. They say Ludy used to set up in the living room in a wing chair facing the door, waiting for him to stagger through, reeking of alcohol. She would deflect the rum-soaked kiss he would pelt her way, then propel herself out of the chair and go to warm his dinner, all the while flinging a volley of vituperation in his direction. In admonition, they say, Priest would recite a few lines of his homegrown poetry with pointed message.

  "It is a stated fact of this human nation   That woe unto man is woman   Can’t live with them and sure as hell   Don’t want to live without them   But God! The aggravation   Of my situation"

  Belly full, he’d collapse across the bed, but if Ludy even tried to take his shoes off, he would sit right up straight and resume reciting poetry as alert as ever. The whole village knew because Ludy told everybody, and Priest was proud of it.

  And Priest could beat a cutter like you never heard before. In his more sober moments he played with Sello and the boys for the Best Village Folk Dance troup, but only when he felt so moved. Then he’d tie a red band around his head, fix his eyes on the ceiling, and all you saw were not his hands moving but the swift brown hard-to-follow streak they became as he beat a wicked rhythm on that cutter. And you saw the rivulets of perspiration coursing down his bare scrawny brown chest as he chanted,

 “Shango! O lay e-lay a Baba lwa!  O lay e-lay a Baba lwa!  O lay e-lay a Baba lwa!  Shango! O lay e-lay a Baba lwa!”

 You could tell he was transformed and in another world where he walked alone but somehow he always kept time and knew to emerge from his trance with a hard toss of his head and instantly wind down when the lead dancer came up and tapped the drum at the close of the dance. He taught all the young players all they knew about beating the cutter. Since he rarely played, we did not get to see that side of him very much. We were more familiar with Priest the philosopher, the preacher, the griot, the sage, the one who was always spouting a homegrown theory on any and everything, all of them firmly grounded in “Massa conspiracy against TheBlackRace.” We liked to listen to him tell stories of profound occurrences simplified for our juvenile consumption.

  Wide-eyed we sat around him, our mouths opened to catch every word that fell from his lips. And every so often we would hear Ludy’s voice shouting out from inside,
 “Priest, you ain’t tired lying to the people children?”

 If they were lies, we did not care; they were nonetheless fascinating, and at nights long after we had been tucked into our beds, we’d lie there reliving those fantasy scenes in our minds. Priest had a way of inserting you into the story without even consciously trying – the voice modulations, the onomatopoeia, the character role assumptions, the hand gestures, the shoulder jerking, the facial contortions and above all, the improvisations, the way he sprang up from his seat and strutted around, sometimes dropping to his knees, or bobbing and weaving or even crawling on all fours or rolling on the ground or crouching as the story demanded.

And now he was gone.

  That night, after getting the news, I lay in bed trying to figure out the energy called ‘life force,’ and how it could up and abandon such a vibrant person just so. I was trying to comprehend, despite what I heard on Sundays, where did it go. Did he know that he was dead? Did he see the white light we hear so much about? Or a black one reserved specially for TheBlackRace? Did he resist or did he willingly merge into the mist with a chorus of black angels? And was he reciting poetry and holding them enthralled with his stories? And, above all, how was he managing without the rumshop and without Ludy to keep him in check? I had no answers for any of these mindboggling questions. Somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind, I could not accept that he was no longer with us. There were some people I always expected to be there and he was one of them. I kept hoping to wake up from a confusing dream.

  I went to the wake. For one last time, Priest was the center of attraction. I wanted to see him lying there. I felt maybe if I looked at him hard enough he’d get right up and tell me a story. So I elbowed my way through the press of mourners until I stood squarely facing that polished casket with the shiny brass handles. The entire lid was opened, propped up so we could pay our respects. He lay there -- a waxen effigy, with a close-mouthed, stretch-lipped smile plastered across his grey face, skin taut over those high cheekbones. Ludy sat there next to him in a sky-blue dress with red Hibiscus flowers, dry-eyed and looking as powerful as ever, smiling, greeting people, chatting, shaking hands and waving her humungous arm in the direction of food.

 Some people were whispering about how she was being disrespectful, but I understood. That was exactly the way Priest would have wanted it. Ludy and I understood him but the undertakers that dressed him didn’t. He was dressed the way he never wanted nor needed to dress in life -- in a black suit, white shirt, crisp turned-down collar and black bow tie. He was clean-shaven and his face seemed powdered and painted. In short, it did not look like Priest. It was not the way he would have wanted to go out. And on top of it they were playing somber, funeral dirges like “Take My Hand Precious Lord” and “Nearer My God to Thee.”

  It didn’t seem right somehow. I wanted him to sit up and object to the send-off they were giving him. I expected that at any moment I’d see him spring up, bob and weave, drag off the bow tie and dinner suit and say, “What the hell allyou think it is at all? What the arse is all this kissmearse pappyshow about? And, too besides, stop the damn crocodile tears. Put on some pan and kaiso music. Beat the drums. Hand me that cutter and bring that red piece o' cloth let me tie me head. Bring the mountain dew. Let we fire one for the road.” And after firing one, he’d call everybody to gather around him and tell us one last story –- for the road.

  But even though my eyes bored holes into him willing him to wake up, he did not budge. Slowly the realization settled. There’d be no more stories unless we told them ourselves. So, I thought of all the stories he used to tell us. I remembered them all as if I had heard them just yesterday. I smiled at him and assured him that I’d pass them on. I could have sworn he winked at me and blew a whiff of his storytelling spirit my way. I, too, smiled, no longer ill at ease. And even now as I tell of him, I can feel him at my right shoulder winking his approval.

© KalyPsouL 08.25.12

Sunday, July 10, 2011

WHY MOTHERS CRY

WHY MOTHERS CRY

I
It happened just like that one day. I had been wearing my contact lenses for two straight weeks without ever taking them out at nights for cleaning like I was supposed to. When I finally did, my eyes were red, sore sandy, itchy, tired and gummy. I switched to glasses but could barely stand the discomfort of my eyes. I grew scared. I am a teacher, a researcher, a writer. I spend much of my time, reading, writing, working . . . eyes locked to a computer screen. Without sight, I’ll be done for. I need my eyes. I hoped I had not destroyed them for good with reckless behavior. With that thought at the back of my mind, and after several days of glasses wearing without much relief, I gave up on reading and sat to watch a movie on BET.

So there I was watching a father fight to save his son from the gang life of South Central LA. It was like seeing my own life flash before my eyes. My son did not have such a dad prepared to fight for his son’s life, to fight his son’s battles at his side, or even to disturb his watching of television, playing of poker, carousing or serial drinking and s----talking to say wazzup, son. (Yes, I said it). I realized there and then that I no longer needed to go through the repeated frustration of calling for moral, not to mention financial, support and hearing him go through the now familiar waddling paces of ducking responsibility. We have God; we don’t need him. Never really did, and now never will. I realized we had all the help we needed. Now while I am not a person who could cry easily -- I consider tears a sign of weakness -- I could not stop the copious flow that overcame me at that moment. By the time the final credits rolled I was sitting there with a renewed sense of peace. It was then that I realized my eyes were no longer sore, itchy, sticky or grainy. The red burning sensation was gone. I could see clearly now. The tears had washed it all away together with the long-lingering anguish of this mother’s soul. Did you know that tears heal?

Now I know why mothers cry.


II
But there comes a time when tears become just tears. They no longer heal. Like you, they just ask why? A child is born and you look with wonder upon that beautiful innocent face staring up at you gurgling – you, the center of its world. If you are there it doesn’t matter who else is not, and if you are not there, it doesn’t matter who else is. It’s your first baby; the father has long fled the coop, and is now pecking at other nests. You are wondering why the baby won’t stop crying. It suddenly dawns on you that it did not come with a manual and neither can you send it back. But wait – there’s help. There’s someone who has gone through this several times before – too many times to count -- since the beginning of time. And so, that omniscient one becomes your personal Baby’s First Years manual. Gripe? Check. Fever? Check. Colic? Check. Flip those pages. Scour that source of ancient wisdom. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

And then those first years pass, and that child finds his sea-legs. Gradually, you fade into the background with each passing year. Before you know it, he’s eighteen – and a legal adult. Old enough to work, to marry without your consent, to drive, and to vote, though not yet to drink and for that you are thankful. He can even prevent you from having access to his grades, from inquiring about his academic progress or even his medical status. He’s an adult now. He can even pick his own God now and place to worship or not as he chooses. And maybe he does, but maybe he doesn’t and over that you no longer have any control. And Lord help him if he’s a black young man in the US South (AmeriKKKa) now that you no longer walk with him and hold his hand.

You thought your role would stop as he attained adulthood, but No. Go check volume two or three of four or five or . . . as the case may be. Yes, they come in volumes like encyclopedia graduated according to age. The one in which 18 lies is entitled, Mom, You Cannot Hide Me From God. God, in fact, is the least of your worries. There are many other things – horrible things, people and experiences – that you cannot hide him from. So what do you do? You ask God to do it for you. And you keep on asking because perhaps someday he will hear . . . and even answer.

Yes, I know now why mothers pray.


III
So how do you manage in the event that the very thing you prayed won’t happen happens? I met a mother once who had no more prayers or tears left. She had lost her only son – her only child – her four point Oh so heart-achingly handsome, 20 year old son -- to suicide as a result of depression when his girlfriend left him. She has cried her heart out and walked through a hell she had, of necessity, to bear alone. She has discovered that the stages of grief are not seven but innumerable and that they do not move in linear progression but can tack back to square one just when you least expect. She has intellectually, though not emotionally, come to terms with the immutable fact that he is never coming back. She has lamented for what would have, could have, should have, been. She has dried up the supposedly everlasting wellspring of her soul’s tears.

But now she can sleep at nights. You see, she knows he is not out there on the streets, a young black man in the south, and thus subject to a random, completely arbitrary and race-profiled stop by some over-zealous limb of the law that can easily lead to the commencement of yet another living nightmare – as if she needs more. She no longer slows down to look and wonder and hope not to see a recognizable color or make, bumper sticker or tag plate whenever she sees a pulled-over car in front of malevolently flashing blue lights. In the late night and wee hours of the morning, she no longer lies awake waiting . . . just waiting. She no longer listens for the hum of the engine or the creak of the door or the footsteps on the stairs or the rummaging in the fridge and every conceivable cupboard in the kitchen. She no longer looks forward to the flood of relief that follows. You see, for her, the worst has already happened. And in some inexplicable and mind-boggling way, she finds a reason to give thanks.

And yes, I know now why
mothers give thanks.

And why they pray

And why they never
ever
feel
afraid
to
cry.


©KalyPsouL
07.10.11


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just Thinking

Just thinking . . . of freedom
Trembling eons of fear
Encrusted in hard cast of mail
Iron links corrugated nails
Bare-breasted sorrow
Buried deep within
Neath smiling-faced mirth
And hearty laughter
Lies an isolation doused in pain
Sensibilities worn in
Years upon years
Of agony
Anguish burning
Bright
And In solitude
til it waxes over and rolls off
Like molten tallow grease
Into crevices of shame
And all the while
Outstretched arms
Reach up
Hoping
to touch
A better day.

©Kalypsoul
10.19.09

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Inaugural Day




I was there! I drove up all the way from the ATL a few days before to beat the crowds and get myself acclimatized to the DC cold. Things seemed pretty calm until Monday; I was not sufficiently arctic blast-proof to brave the weather for the Sunday inauguration opening concert.


My inaugural experience was hiked up a notch on the day before the actual inauguration, however, when I decided to make a trip of reconnaissance to the Mall and the Capitol to scout out the terrain, identify warming-up stations within easy reach, and map out a ‘Dan Plan’ for the big day. I also had the presence of mind to secure newspapers with last minute maps and instructions about street closings, where to go and not go, what and who to bring and not bring etc. I knew that I had to get photos of the Capitol and the staging area there and then because with an invitation, but no color-coded ticket, I would not stand a snowball's chance in hell to get within shouting distance of the presidential party on the following day. I used that day, too, to secure my Obama Metro smart card as well as all my Inauguration paraphernalia (largely for the sake of posterity) like any red-blooded historian would. Armed with my “I was there!” and “Camelot II” buttons, and my “Dream Realized” Tee-shirt, I discovered I could also combine the need for warmth with the desire to capture pieces of history for history, so I grabbed an Obama/Biden fleece jacket and a “44th President OBAMA” toque, but for the sake of maintaining the semblance of belt-tightening sanity which these economic times demand, I had to refuse the “First Family” gloves.


It was a vendor's paradise, trust me! Every soi-disant itinerant retailer and his or her momma from every imaginable corner of the USA was out there peddling a hustle, complete with accompanying jingle, for example, "Target sold out, but I didn't!" Every conceivable assortment of trinket on sale was emblazoned with something pertaining to the President-elect, the First Lady to-be, the beautifully well-behaved kids and bearing the date 01-20-09. Have you ever seen what the ‘Unite the Nation’ bipartisan mascot looks like? Let’s just coin a name for it: either “Eledonk” or “Donkephant” will do, whichever you prefer, but, let me tell you, it was most present on outsized star-spangled buttons that were selling like hot bread. Imagine if you will the peddlers out-hawking each other with cries of “Presidential water-bottles anyone?” “Get your Obama Key chains over here?” “Miniature Barack dolls!” “President Obama coins here!” “Discount Inauguration Posters!” “Obama 2009 Calendars!” “Fist-Bump Fridge Magnets” “First Lady coffee mugs for the lady you left at home!” or (my favorite) “Inaugural long-sleeved Tees $15 here!” competing with “ $20 over here! Mine come with gloves!” So what to do? Well, how about trying a Statue of Liberty crown, or Uncle Sam tall top hat, a stars-and-stripes ski-mask or a ‘Got Hope’ fake tattoo? And even if all you ever wanted was to get a photo of yourself with your arm carelessly flung across the shoulder of the President-elect, or standing between him and Lincoln, you could pose with a cardboard cut-out for a fee. By the time I returned home that night, given the degree of feeling (or lack thereof) in my fingers and toes, I knew Inauguration Day, which was expected to be even colder, would be no picnic. Nothing short of death, not even serious contagion, was going to stop me from showing up, however.


So, I was up long before the alarm the following morning. Well prepared with toe and hand warmers, three pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, thermal underwear, wig for head warmth, meniscal-reinforcement kneebands, sandwiches as per good advice, smelling salts from the Caribbean foodstore– just in case, Obama adornments, hand-sanitizer and other essentials to stave off port-a-potty blues, I sallied forth like an ancient warrior decorated all down my front with “war medals” prepared to do battle with nature and the elements. A common air of unbridled excitement bonded strangers together as we rode the Metro packed in like sardines. A virtual tropical rainforest of people, we emerged at Metro Center and were immediately directed to make our way to 19th and H. “WTF! ¡No me digas! Good thing I discarded the fashion boots!” But don’t worry! Whether you were dressed strictly for display or if you merely felt AARP-qualified, you could pay a few dollars to share a buggy or get a make-shift tandem bicycle ride to the destination. Entrepreneurial creativity and resourcefulness were certainly not in short supply out there that day. But not me, with comfy arch-support walking shoes, I opted for a brisk stride and much-needed, long-overdue exercise.


After walking several blocks together with waves upon waves of fellow celebrants, I was virtually propelled onto The Mall at the westernmost end. I walked past the solidly frozen pond, gave high-fives to someone waving a Trini flag here and another a joint US/Kenyan flag there, and immediately sought a good viewing vantage point. With wind chill considered, it was 17F or about -8C and I was out there on The Mall for 8 full hours, dancing constantly, long after they stopped airing footage from the Sunday concert, only to keep hypothermia of the extremities at bay. Beastly penguin and polar bear temperatures, let me tell you! But who cared? It was a time to soak in the excitement, meet new and not-quite-so-new people, greet long-time-no-see friends, or hope your boss didn’t spot you on camera while reporting sick again or killing your grandmother for the third time already this year. It was a time to ask fellow Inaugural enthusiasts the Numero Uno question on the ‘Top Ten’ list, "Where you from?" and to gleefully receive responses geographically splayed across the globe and with a whole lot of TMI thrown in for good measure.


I positioned myself strategically directly under a Jumbotron, although all the way down by the Washington Memorial. Oblivious of the tens of thousands left out after they closed The Mall gates, or the hundreds of thousands who were in there but too far from vantage points to either see or hear anything, I witnessed the whole sheebang from the first abeng to the last note – all clearly on that Jumbotron -- and was immersed in the excitement of the 2million plus on the mall. Don't let them you 1.8 million. They lie! It was a wall-to-wall mass of squished-up, squirming, teeming humanity, so much so that if you were fainting, the sheer press of bodies would have kept you afloat). I witnessed the exhilaration, the tears, the joy, the laughter, the pride, the camaraderie, in its entirety, and all the while I was beastly cold and dog-tired of standing, but supremely happy.


Only those who were there could have experienced some of the things that the TV cameras definitely could not pick up: the people waving nation flags from every conceivable rinconcito del mundo, those bearing signs of “CANADIANS (or whoever else) for OBAMA,” those with faces painted in red ,white and blue or with a big ‘O,’ those handing out real pink ‘Pink Slips for Bush,’ those distributing 'ARREST BUSH' cards complete with website URLs, the ones all the way from Boston giving out free bags of pretzels in the interest of 'Snacks for Change,' those groups of K-12 school children all wearing bright yellow backpacks or red toques for easy identification – they had come from far-off places like Selma AL, ATL, LA and NOLA. Then there were the inevitable US flag, hand-warmer, and cotton candy vendors unflappably weaving their way to quick prosperity through the dense crowd. And you couldn’t miss the man dressed in the Bill Clinton mask bearing the sign ‘Make Out Not War’? Seriously, not kidding! I will always remember the pre-ceremony long periods of restless impatience evenly punctuated by 2mile-long equally enthusiastic chants of “NO MORE BUSH!” and “O-BAMA!” And who can forget the unabashed, scandalous peals of laughter from the standing 2million when the emcee said, “You may please take your seats now!” and the boisterous boos for George W, his momma and his poppa (Only in America! LOL!) And last, but far from least, the religious zealots there for the sole purpose of prophesying “brimstone and damnation in that place where the worm dieth not and the fire is unquenchable” for those who would dare make the mistake of equating Obama to the Messiah. But no one took umbrage; these few were simply like a couple hawks of spittle in a sea of joy and an ocean of tears flowing both from youthful eyes shining hopeful in the expectation of change and from eyes grown dim with age and the anguish of a lifetime of second-class citizenship, those who had lived through the time when there was white water and black water and lived to tell the tale. Those were the ones who brought their many generations to catch a glimpse of history being turned on its head. There were those who begged, stole and/or borrowed to get there, those who rode in, drove in, railed in, sailed in, biked in, hiked in, flew in or grew in, $20-Chinese-bussed it in or literally just in, those who weren't even sure how they got there or were getting back home and didn't care whether or not they did. “Hmm! Amazing how this DC place could grow on a body!”


Yes, I survived over-extended, death-defying, daredevil exposure to subzero temperatures and witnessed history. And, as a result of careful management of food and drink intake and temporary postponement of my daily dose of diuretic HBP medication, I am elated to report that I have no first-hand, eye witness, insider update on the port-a-potty situation for you. All I can say for certain is that nothing stopped the party!


Finally out of The Mall, we found all streets closed to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The limbs of the law kept directing us farther and farther westward. ¿Por qué? ¡No sé! What I do know is that panic almost struck when I began seeing signs announcing 22nd. . . 23rd. . .24th.. . . 25th Streets and counting. Damn near ended up in Virginia before we were allowed to tack North, then backtrack East to Farragut West or Metro Center. But first, a pause or two for a cause -- Subway for restroom not food (for their own good, they ought to give serious consideration to selling hot drinks in winter), then Starbucks for some to-die-for coffee, and we were lucky to make it in through the door before freezing our behinds off in the sidewalk queue that snaked its way up from the end of the block and around the corner. The only seats we could find were outside, so we warmed up, so to speak, in the frigid air and laughed at the audacity (pun intended) of the emcee who had urged us to return to the self-same Mall to watch the rest of it on the self-same Jumbotrons, the parade route being packed to capacity, he said, and closed off long before the inauguration ceremony even began. Well I just had a few choice words to say aout that, “ L-M-B-A-O!” I mean, let’s face it, even for the most faithful of troopers and the best of historians, somewhere in the downward slide of the mercury, there comes a point in time at which common sense and the natural drive to self-preservation must take over and ultimately prevail.


Well past that point, I had no choice but to return to the sheltered coziness of home to strip off some layers and watch the parade on TV with a glass (not cup) of liquid warmth in my hand. And while we are on the subject of inaugural parades and fiery sustenance, let me take this opportunity to say, Dear President and First Lady Obama, please know that we would not have loved you any less or been less jubilant if you had opted for the plush warmth of the limo, preferably with a sip or two of some steaming hot chocolate, instead of braving that bone-chilling wintry walk down Pennsylvania Avenue with far less than Eskimo gear. Yet another good reason why I could never be President!


In the final analysis, though, no one can deny that, like a good soldier, I stayed the course in the trenches well beyond the call of duty or reason, in fact, well beyond what would normally be deemed humanly possible for anyone with my tropical blood. And so it came to pass, that later on that said midwinter inaugural day, with a clear conscience and fully satisfied heart, I knew I could afford to rest easy and become a parade onlooker and ball attendee from a comfy couch, or even die happy now that the world had been turned upside down.



©Kalypsoul
Updated version
02.18.09
Original version 01.22.09.

Monday, February 04, 2008

SUPER TUESDAY

Super Tuesday . . . a resident alien reflects. . . .

Somewhere in the early dawn of well-trodden savannah grass under the bleachers, lying pisteratically inebriated, chugging like Smoky Joe, a superannuated djab malaise sans half the costume sleeps, while strewn all around him are used condoms and discarded cellophane wrappers in rainbow color, evidence of the abandon of Carnival Monday night. Soon it go be the magnificent display of Carnival Tuesday pretty mas competition, for which this little island lives and breathes and daily counts down the jumbie beads in that special calabash calendar; it is the pageantry for which, annually this place welcomes the world. Carnival Tuesday is the highpoint of every native’s year, every year in every native’s every lifetime.

I used to live for this time. I counted my mother’s birthday as exactly ten months and a day after carnival, not exactly three weeks before Christmas, if you get my drift. Life’s watersheds were ranked based on how close to or how far removed from Carnival they were. I had my first major surgery on Carnival Tuesday, right there in the General Hospital across from the Grand Savannah where the competitions were taking place. I forget what year that was but I will always remember it was a Carnival time. Lying in my bed, fresh out of the operating theater, my floating organs jumped in sync to the Despers rhythm section. I even had a few visits from erstwhile masqueraders in full costume, but none from those friends too busy partying to study me.—you know, the usual suspects.

Yet another Carnival Tuesday, playing sailors ashore in a-much-reduced-from-Carnival Monday Burrokeets, I almost massacre another crew member who roll up too close to my husband for my comfort, though to his absolute and way-too-salacious delight. It was another Carnival Tuesday when I got a huge gash in my foot from the loose wires sticking out of the Queen of the Band’s costume. That day I ended up in the same hospital getting sutures. That was when the honey fled the moon in indecent haste and we had our first argument. He left me there and returned to his section; you see, for him, it was either that or suffer a premature end to enjoyment until yet another too-distant next Carnival.

At Carnival time, too, I gave birth to my first and only born, and henceforth did double-duty babysitting the neighborhood children hastily discarded by die-hard masquerading parents for annual birthday celebrations en mi casa. I did not mind; I was at home and could watch it on TV, listen on radio and immerse myself in the excitement that seeps through your every pore, quite in spite of yourself.

So having survived eight years out of costume, I figured I had kicked the habit. I was a fully recovered Carnival addict. So it was not too difficult to survive 13 years of no Carnival or rather, of Carnival Tuesday sitting at my desk or teaching a class about all matters profound having nothing whatsoever to do with Carnival, if indeed such a thing is even possible as a true Trini will argue. All inclusive fetes, Sprangalang and Tommy, Machel, 3Canal, Sugar Aloes and Crazy, Minshall, blue devils, Panorama and Exodus were all submerged memories. I thought about it; read about it; talked about it; but could survive easily away from its presence. You see I was and always will be Trini to de bone; I did not have to do anything to prove that and nothing I did would ever take that away. There was no contest, no trophy or Fedex Cup up for grabs, and I was not trying to pull a Serena. I am Kalypsoul – Carnival is me and I is Carnival—immutable identity-- no stress, no pressure. Trini to de bone.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I suddenly realized that the same Super Tuesday, that has singularly dominated my thoughts, sentiments, anxieties, hopes and dreams, is actually Carnival Tuesday, for which, much to my consternation, I had not spared a thought, so caught up was I in the throes of a highly potent dose of Obamafever. IMMEDIATE RESIDENT ALIEN IDENTITY CRISIS. What manner of thing is this that could dislodge with such impunity the Carnival berthed firmly in every gene of my Trini-born soul? It warrants some analysis.

For many years I resisted the pull of the American dream, existed on the margins of American social, cultural and political life, and saw my job as a divine overseas mission and myself as a mere sojourner, a transient worker in the vineyard following wherever the footsteps of the spirit led. I did not live here; I existed, biding my time until I could return to the land of my birth to live out the rest of my years in the sun and above all, in peace. I lived for the times though, short, few and far between, when I could escape to Caribbean climes, far away from the petty squabbles of Republicans and Democrats. I was a tourist, viewing the lives and loves of the US natives dispassionately or sometimes even with mild amusement, and always from a safe distance. I lived among them but knew for sure I would never be of them. I had a country – fatherland and motherland -- where, under that same silk cotton tree back-a-yard, my navel string was buried. I was here for a short while, as the length of whiles go, and, having a penchant for traveling light, needed not collect additional baggage in transit. But as every seasoned tourist knows, not every souvenir can fit into a suitcase and it is not always possible to answer in the affirmative when asked at the border, “and did you pack this yourself?”

The first inkling that I had excess baggage of unknown origin came a couple years back when, after two fun weeks frolicking in the Caribbean sun, my mind turned inevitably to home – not place of origin, but place of most immediate familiarity, where resided all the accoutrement and sundry other appurtenances vital to my continued existence – job, child, 401Ks, bank accounts, clothes, flash drives, desk top, photo albums, documents, writing portfolio . . . you know. . .stuff. Yes, I yearned for home, and having felt, too, for the very first time the urge to applaud on touchdown at Hartsfield, I shuffled the sentiment to the bottom of the pack and gave it not a second thought. That is, until someone asked me if I would jump at the chance to return home today, if given the option.

For a mere nano-second, I hesitated, but long enough to analyze the significance of the pause. I realized that, after two or three weeks, all the reasons why I left in the first place, would come rushing back, bringing with them that same claustrophobia within which I was buried prior to migration. I had visions of all the things I cannot allow myself to revisit -- except in my dreams, which do have the power to weave a wand of magical erasure and out of nothing create the stuff that dreams are made of.

Just a fleeting moment's lapse, I told myself, as nostalgia for my Caribbean home lurks around every corner. Everything I see, smell, touch, hear and taste or feel either reminds me of, or makes me long for, the sights, sounds, smells, flavors and feel of home. I go somewhere and its déjà vu of home; I just have to open my mouth and I am reminded of home or if I am not, some heavily-accented, loud-mouthed, obnoxious, English-butchering Joe or Joan Public will never fail to remind me with some inane remark like, “Oh you have an accent! Where are you from?” expecting, I guess, a well-rehearsed apology for self and place of origin, topped by a 'GodBlessAmericaLandoftheFreeandHomeoftheBrave' spiel. And for God’s sake, don’t noignorantbody ever refer to the Caribbean as “the islands” in my earshot again! For you it may be your cheap, sun-filled playground where you get your one opportunity to strut your crumpled, faded, green-backed condescension to your little heart’s content -- feel free, but while you are at it, please respect that for me and several million others this is home.

I had told myself I’ll retire as soon as my child graduates from college and head South of the Key West border to the place I call home. But return is easier said than done. There are certain don’t's that come with the concept of return. You see, there are roots and fruits to consider. Funny, but roots are living things that continue to grow deep and strong wherever you stand too long, even where you did not intend to tarry. And even funnier, roots have a way of sprouting branches, subsidiary roots but just as binding. And roots have a way of pulling you back, reining you in just when you think you have escaped. And then, there are the fruits. . binding in one way if you have them, and in an entirely different way if you have not yet been fruitful. Either way, plans of return are smoked.

So you finally understand and acknowledge reluctantly to self that permanence of return can exist only in the realm of imagination. That is when you slowly and tentatively begin to acquire the outward signs of that inward resignation. You buy a house; for the first time you even . . heaven forbid . . .consider citizenship, all the while telling yourself it means nothing, just the upholstery of temporary comfort. . . nothing more.

And then, out of the clear blue, just when I was minding my own business, comes Obamafever. And you find yourself swept off your feet and propelled forward in this Billowing tide, rushing pell-mell toward change. So exciting and empowering, you cannot help but surrender to its power. The force has possessed you so completely that as Super Tuesday rolls around, you do not even give a thought to the Carnival fever sweeping your little nation. You spend Dimanche Gras watching reruns of the presidential debate on MTV and thinking how he (Obama) ‘kilt’ the competition, and e-mailing friends with requests to join the ObamaforChange grassroots group you have just started. J’Ouvert morning you wake up to the strains of Black Eye Peas singing with Obama “Yes we can!”

It is like the 60’s all over again – watching Woodstock or MLK or X on TV, or with your ears peeled to the radio while Eric Williams holds forth in The People's Parliament of Woodford Square and hands over the keys to your nation's future to you -- the schoolchildren. You sense an agency and urgency so profound it defies definition, description and denial. You are shaken to the core by an excitement so tangible you can almost touch it. You know where this is heading and you want to be there with it. Almost in spite of yourself, you have become part of the wave of the future, the movement that has brought hope to America and to the world and has renewed your faith in the power of global change.

In the eyes of many you may be just a spit in the ocean that is America – just as insignificant and just as disdained; you may be just a island goldfish swimming out of time in this vast aquarium; you may be just a resident alien – not yet a US citizen, but somewhere deep within you, it suddenly becomes clear – you are part of a global movement for change that knows no country, no bounds. Carnival and Mardi Gras have become one with Super Tuesday and it does not matter where you originally hailed from because you now belong to the OBAMANATION.



©Kalypsoul.
02.04.08

Saturday, February 02, 2008

CONTIGO

Contigo

I like the way your arms enfold me
And your body rests so gently on mine
Or the way angles and curves enclose each other
And merge into become one never ending whole
I like the way our unacquainted tongues meld
in sweet unison
Speaking the same language
. . . for once . . .
even understanding
I like the way we come home to nest
After a long day’s work
Wanting no more but to sit
Enfolding each other
Listening to the steady beat
Of the metronome within
We swim in style toward feelers outstretched
I like the way we cross time and space
And oceans deep
To flow together
In the silent memory of God

© Kalypsoul
12.14.05

PATHS CROSS

Just one of those days . . .
Locked in a gaze . . .
A-maze . . .
We meet . . .
We greet . . .

For a reason . . . every reason
A season . . . all seasons

One precious moment
Of serenity
I see
The timelessness of you and me
Merge into
Vast eternity

Fathomless . . .
Like the mind of God
Boundless . . .
Like His love

Now you . . .

Reach across . . .
Raging ocean of tranquil blue-tea
In whose depths still our forefathers lie
Tearful children of the sea
Yearning for life-giving unity
With Nzinga . . . and Zuwena . . . and Yaa
There in lush green Mwafrika

Glide on, stately and pacific
Across the measureless Atlantic
Realm of Papa Dambala
And the mysterious Yemanja

Skim over foam-whipped peak
And fog-dipped bleak

Ride on, dusky thane
The wind, your silent, fleet-footed steed
Fly on, majestic eagle
Full-fledged and free
Master of all you see
Sail on the ocean breeze

Was it only yesterday
Those laughing eyes
Probed my depths
Unmasked my lies
Seeing all
Sweeping all
Intense . . .
Peeling back layers
Of hard-nosed pretense

‘Til trembling core
Laid bare
Of fear . . .
Of never wanting to care. . .
To feel . . .
To yield
To need . .
To concede . . .

Lying dormant
Almost dead
Tiny seed
Dry, withered, buried deep
‘Neath mounds of driven snow
Not wanting to grow . . .
Never needing to know . . .

Until You . . .

Watered by the well Spring
Of your vibrant soul
Warmed by the Sun-blast
Of your searing touch
Wooed by the Son-shine
Of your calming smile . . .
Wakening . . . wondering . . .
Wanting . . . ever so much

And so . . .

At break of dawn
A Rose is born
Radiant . . .
Quivering . . .
Fragrant . . .
Giving . . .
Tender petals in awe unfurl
Open to this strange, new, world

Engaging floods of furious rain . . .
Embracing storms of blinding pain . . .

Endearing rays of blazing light . . .
Enfolding walls of starless night . . .

Enthralled by all
Encompassing all

Whatever the season . . .
Needing no reason . . .

To love . . .
To live . . .
To be . . .

At last
Enjoying . . .
The immensity
Of . . .
Me



******



The most beautiful gardens bloom
In the heart

In your eyes and in your smile
My soul finds its resting place
And
Is refreshed


©Kalypsoul
8/8/99

PRINCESS

Princesses and kings-to-be
throwing coins to vain peasant seed
blowing streams of kisses
lapping up their every cheer
then palace-ward again

pillows drenched in blood and tears
hands twisted,wrung
hung out to dry
billowing sheets no longer white
stains of grief indelible

lives wasted lost forever
to human tenderness
joy and laughter
now forced memory like pearls forgot
of tallow grease aged,long cold


hearts lily frail
weeks-old, sere and dusty brown
faded images of togetherness
freedom, happiness, serenity
of soaring birds and grassy green

shimmering crystal droplets
perched in dazzling tentativity
upon delicately veined petals of yellow rose
watching the ripples play
hide and seek across the bay

wondering where do they go
where did it all go?
I too had it once, I know I did
eons and eons ago
then saw it all slip away

drip, drip, drip
ruddy drop following ruddy drop
while I stood helpless
marvelling at its beauty
Tell me

can it ever come again?
can we forever smile?

© Kalypsoul
09.15. 1997

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

AGENCY

AGENCY


All around me the clawing tentacles of darkest night swirl, jeering,
taunting, laughing at my indiscretion, hurling contemptuous invectives at me, pelting pellets of scorn by the handful, plunging me deeper into that mire of shame.

Did I kill him?
Absolutely.


And yet, I feel no guilt, no shame. My eyes focus on the center of the deepening vortex, the tiny bubbles of diaphanous, ethereal, kaleidoscopic color floating their way up to nuzzle my face, to cuddle me in their spreading warmth. Despite myself I smile, a smile that grows exponentially, finally bursting into peals of laughter. Laughter not cackling with evil, but effervescing into joy . . deep, soul-felt joy.

I used to love him once.
Even more than I loved me.


A love that knows no bounds. We sit side by side on the beach, burning skin touching burning skin, merging as one into the moonlight, listening to every gurgle, every gush, every tumble, every bellow, every crash as gentle swash produces powerful swell, breaks into a million pieces in the height of ecstasy and reproduces itself all over again. We tentatively touch and explore, seeking to recreate the movement of the waves. Natural perfection.

Yeah, we used to love each other then.


But seasons change and summer slips into fall. Then honey-dipped smiles turn down their corners, grit their teeth and grimace. She . . . silvery-tongued She . . . holds out a full, nectar-coated teat to him and greedily he drinks her in. And fall eases itself into winter. Leaves shrivel up, turn brown and dry, then die in the glorious afterglow, and we stand stripped bare of those fashionable threads we wear. Seeing for the first time the barrenness of our naked souls. Stark white and ugly. Then comes that December time when love lays itself down all feathered in the first whiffs of snow, and drifts calmly off to sleep. Then ushers in the freeze and limbs grow stiff.

I didn’t even know him then.

And winter rapes the very soul of summer hope. Slashes and burns and lays waste every once sun-kissed tree. Landscape rolls bare as far as the eyes could see. Huge mounds of ice hide red, ebbing heart that bleeds itself into frigidity, casting silent pleas of help to ears that fail to hear and eyes that cannot see.

Then what had he become to me?

The hunter’s report, the reaper’s scythe, the bulldozer’s roar, romping delight on freshly covered, petal-strewn grave, then stomping it some more.

So yes, I killed him.

I put an end to his charade, hastened love’s transition to that place called forgetfulness where only healing, no harm exists. I took his lame excuse for love, folded it carefully and tucked it eons far away. Now it lies cold below six plus feet of tainted earth, where it can neither feel nor flirt, nor feed nor on occasion hurt.

I killed him . . . and . . . so what?

Yes I feel neither shame nor guilt. You see it was either him or me. I killed him so that I could be. A reasonable choice, you must agree. So yes, I stand before you now, alive, joyous, and finally free, after a million years of misery, able for once just to be . . . me . . . simply because . . .

I killed my memory.

And I don’t give a s*** if history doesn’t absolve me.


© Kalypsoul
11.23.07

LABOR DAY

LABOR DAY

There will always be a Brooklyn
Greener pastures with saloon doors
On hinges that swing
This way and that
But do not conceal
Tall rawhide boots with silver spurs
A mouth-twisting, cigarette-dangling, gut-wrenching drawl
A holster slung low
And a trigger finger spinning
Its hardware like a dancing top

And yes,
There will always be
A brand new set of hundred n something sneakers
And boot cut jeans
And another ghetto-fab designer name
Splashed across scrawny chest
That heaves faster and faster
With each thought of
Colder, more glamorous climes
Of mistletoe and red-necked reindeer
And jolly old Saint Nicks
Stockings hanging laden from
Every mantelpiece
And crisp bright crackling fireplaces
And yes, molten marshmallow dangling from the end of sticks

And there will always be
Another cheap hooker-turned-PrettyWoman
With pinned up skirt, big hair and down-home crawl
Lingering defiantly
In the tropical blackness of the air
Eyes bright with hope
Glistening like so many dancing notes
On a tenor pan
Looking skyward
At yet another
Giant metal bird
Winging its way
To
Yet another
Brooklyn


Eyes that turn their noses up
At the tattered clothes of
Yet another wizened bum
Sprawled off
Sunning dirt-caked, all-exposed backside
On faded-green, paint-peeling bench
In Woodford Square
Thinking of the time
When he, too, lived the Brooklyn dream
But that was long ago
Long before the shackles snapped
And dropped him plump
In the middle of
This god-forsaken land
A land long forgot by time
Without a dime
And even longer before
He turned to
Very very petty crime
Yes
All in good time
While he still listened
To Valentino sing
“Trinidad is nice, Trinidad is a paradise.”
While young upstarts
Bushy-tailed and starry-eyed
Spend their only blue
On gilded grill
And crystal bling
And conjure up
Grandiose schemes
Of their very own
Brooklyn

Exploitation
Sexploitation
Touristication
no vindication
Yes
There will always be
For every immigrant- wannabe
Another
Brooklyn

But not for me

I don’t care if it never ever again have
Another Brooklyn
Cause in Brooklyn
No pretty glitter costume
no blue-painted, tail-wagging devils band
could ever look the same
or
feel the same
no headpiece
could fit so smooth
or look so good
cause there the sun does broil not blaze
to a cool 107 in the shade
and it does take that Yankee drawl
and gangsta hip-hop swagger
right outa your crawl
cause even when it hot it so damn cold
yuh cyah even jump chip or break away
an even yuh soul does feel so old
yes, even on Labor Day

Yes, yuh see
In Brooklyn
It ent have no doubles, chip-chip or boil corn vendor
Not even slashed-to-perfection-with one-cutlass-swipe coconut water
It ent have no parang, no chutney-soca
No Panorama, nor Grand Savannah
No Skinner Park, no bake n shark
No Maracas Bay on Ash Wednesday
No words like obzokee, ramajay,
mirasmie or tootoolbay
It ent even have Papa Bois or Sukuya
No La Djablesse or GanGan Sara

Yes, it hard . . . it real hard
Here every little joy does only have las lap
Every grand entrance call only final clap

Yes, I may be old, ugly an on top o dat, duncey
But it go take more dan greenbacks to fool me
Yuh see . . .
I know why dey call It Labor Day
So I ent goin no damn way
Plus I ent have nutten to prove
Mih name ent Stella an ah ent lorse no groove
Yes, I love mih lil country
Where talk ent jus cheap . .
It totally free
Where every taxi driver, every lime,r is a politician
Every sus-su or whe-whe banker a mathematician
In every street-corner shit-talker is a philosopher
An every black-hen chicken could be prime minister
Every dog an he sister could wave dey manifesto
Cause is always party time in Trinbago
Yes
Times may be hard, real, real hard
But dat doh mean ah want any damn green card
To tell de honest to goodness truth
Yuh see right there at de very root
Of dat same silk cotton tree
Is where my navel string done bury
So alien ent mih identity
I jus here in body only
Cause my yaad
Go always be
“Sweet, sweet Trinidad . . . “


©Kalypsoul
12/19/07

COCOYEA BROOM

Cocoyea Broom

And kids plucking out one by one
The few stray weeds. . .
I dream of papa lying there
with gray mustache and striped pajamas
hands clasped in final payer
like it never was in life. . .

I dream of mama
Frail and weak
But laughing singing and downing a glass of Old Oak
in one gulp
Puffing a pipe
And drinking a demi-tasse of café
Black and strong . . .

I remember
The festive strains of parang music
Cuatro, box base, mandolin
Hoarse cracked voices
With toothless grins
Bare feet and stained overalls
Coco-panyol day off
Black cake and pastelles
Ham and aguinaldos
serenals
Ponche-a-crema
And mucho mucho café
Full-skirted swirling dances
And appliquéd alpagatas. . .

I remember her raspy smoke-filled voice
Her trembling hands
Barely able to hold a flame to cigarette
dangling from pursed lips
strong veined hands
counting money from her shop . . .
holding down the fort
long after he was just a distant memory
long after all that was left of him
was that strange bump on his forehead . . .
and his gray felt hat
as gray as the satin lined box in which he lay. . .

I remember her holding us close to her
Huddled faces hidden in black and white
polka dotted skirt
screaming into muffling folds
where are they taking him?

I remember how
Smiles were all we had. . . .
watching it all through stained glass windows
on the world
Watching how life and death
Danced merrily with each other
As grandmothers continued to pick rice
As children never paused at play . . . .

Everything . . .
Was so simple then . . .

Simple, bare and swept clean
With
Cocoyea broom.

©Kalypsoul
10.21.07

Tiptoe

TIP-TOE

It was BIG, too!
Not huge –
for folks like you,
but to me -
yes, siree!
More than we could ever fill
And I was thrilled,
so thrilled that we
had to agree to. . .

Tip-toe, tip-toe gingerly
around his-story
in order to be.. .

divest myself urgently
of all that delineated me
shave head clean, for sure
change of nomenclature,
kill that mother twang,
forget all the latest slang
purify my very skin
from the likes of kith and kin,
ropa nueva was the price
acceptance of another Christ.

And it was clean
And so so green,
the kind you see
in fantasy
and envy’s eyes
romanticize.
And spot-out free.

And Yet . . .

Almost instantly,
engulfing me,
encapsulatingly,
enclosing mean Sargasso slime
pilfering rhythm and rhyme
force-feeding frenzy
gurgling gutter- a- lly.
Such indecent brevity
luna de miel sin honeybee.

Everywhere
A thousand sneers
grubby hands dart and dare
to sully this
unforced pair
of wistful bliss.
Mango pulp lips,
To caress and kiss.
And finally to slip
juicy ripened joyousness
onto warm expectant tongue.
Waiting too damn long. . .

But not raped uncut
from milky teat,
wasted life
on darkened street.
Rough shod in charge
on gutted stones –
with bruising,
unforgiving tones.

Tip-toe tip-toe silently
Even surreptitiously
Around, about, and in-between,
Safe from Mr Squeaky Clean.
No shut eye, no rock-back rest
No put’ em up, no lean-back fest
Must see the risen sun.

So I
had to just
up and run.
No backward gaze.
No time to laze
No shoes, no cardigan,
and such.
No contact lens, no keys, no watch
Under the gun,
Just had to run.

Until I
could breathe the air
of just one damn day without fear.
In country lane
And fluted panes
of tender scenes
and evergreen
where fairy queen
and lovers preen
adoringly.

Isn’t it fun-ny
how ‘tread carefully’
becomes
redundancy
when. . .
at last. . .
you are
FREE?


©Kalypsoul
05.06.07

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Saturday, October 22, 2005

In Your SPELL. . . (verse)

(in honor of Giles Hall, Spelman College)

You
stand there
Majestic red-bricked sight
Shuttered door in peeling white
Dwarfed by sheer tow’ring height
trellised four-storied light
Slated belfry pierce the night
world-wearied eyes dusted in speckled grey
Mirroring wisdom of many a day
Aged oak limbs yellowed and long
Fluting winter’s last swansong
On much trodden mould dusted in soft burnished gold
What secrets do they really hold?
You
Stand majestic
in December’s tired dance
Sagacity echoes in your very stance
Heads bow in humble obeisance
To your o’er pow’ring omniscience
So . . . can you tell . . .
Of TV camera lights blasting bold
Casting you in A Different World
Can you tell . . .
How Harriet and Sophia burned
And in Friendship Baptist turned
Their fervor
Into favor
Of those who yearned
To rise, and sit and learn
Like Miss Mamie from ole Decatur town
shut out, shut up, long before Brown
Etta, Ludie-Mae and Aunt Dell . . .
So Can you tell . . .
Of ancient lore, Anansi tales or more
of starched voices, ruffled pinafores
praising all homemaker’s score
Well . . .can you tell?
How many have graced these hallowed halls
how many tried within these walls
to rise up with the few
of dark accursed hue
What dainty little damsel queens
Emerged to grace this tidy scene
in white-gloved work hands
from this Southern land
And did you see. . .
When that poor child fell
Pinned ‘neath your sorrowing tree
You were there. . . so did you see?
And can you tell?
Your many secrets kept so well
Dear old G-I-L-E-S
I'm captive in
your SPELL!

© Kalypsoul 01.14.05

TGIF ( verse)

I used to love Friday!
Hi Day. . . I Day. . .My Day,
Believe-I-Can-Fly Day
Until that (Sigh!) Day
When Mr Lamé . . .

(Heaven’s Ambassador!)
slithered his way under my door
at a quarter to four
scent of her oozing from every pore
Just a friend and nothing more?
Sure!

Thought life would be a song. . .
He’ll love you long; he’ll love you strong!
Wait! Something’s just gone terribly wrong!
Hissing away with forked tongue!
So long!
See ya around!

So Mr. Lame
with string of letters to his name
hometown street acclaim… ing his fame
sophistication . . . he’s got game!
who every night ignited my flame
sank in a bite of poison and shame.
Came. . .
Then gave Dame Afrika his name.
Nothing has ever been the same.

Now it’s just Fried Day
Marinate, Simmer, and Slow-broiled Day
Cry Day, Lie Day
Wondering-Why Day

But NEVER ever
Roll-Over-and-Die Day
Just Pray-the-Most-High Day
That, perchance, someday . . .again I’ll say,
"Thank God It's Friday!"

© Kalypsoul, 2004.

MISSIN U ( verse)

To Dearest Lesly

Hey girl how long has it been?
Is it really all of nine teen
Almost twenty-four have gone
Since you and I did have some fun

Remember all the waves we made
And all the festive plans we laid
I knew you so well inside and out
As you knew me without a doubt

Best friends, no -- sisters to the heart
Although from worlds so far apart
Bridged chasms between black and white
Your friendship brought me calming light

We stayed the course through thick and thin
You helped me let the sOnshine in
Together we did laugh and weep
Eternal confidences keep

Relaxing on Maracas Bay
Chatting while our kids did play
Dancing with Sy at Tony’s Place
Royal Oak and a Coke to chase

Kicked back a laugh when we did meet
At Moon Over Bourbon Street
I think of you no less each day
You’re truly in my heart to stay

Is that your face in the rippling stream
Or didn’t we speak in last night’s dream
Is that your voice at the other end
So many messages I’d like to send

Say, what's your e-mail address there
Just read a good one I’d like to share
Call me or drop a line or so
How you’ve been I need to know

For the life of me I don’t know why
I search the crowds of passersby
To catch a glimpse, a flicker in the stare
A tinge of recognition there

Cause it has been truly quite a while
Since last I did see your smile
Nineteen months since my birthday
When you just upped and passed away

© Kalypsoul, Nov. 2004

Missin U ( my son, Carlton, Lesly and I)

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Your Voice

YOUR VOICE


Your voice
Washing over me
Cleansing
Cascading
Undulating
Eddying
Gently rising and falling
In cadences vibrating

Your Voice
Flowing over me
Poetic
Rhythmic
Melodic
Harmonic
Giving exquisite pleasure
my hills and denes to treasure

Your voice
Quivering over me
Strumming
Stroking
Smoothing
Soothing
Slipping, sliding, tenderness
like mellifluous Caress

© Kalypsoul. 07.17.05

PRISM

PRISM

I Need You
You -- enhance my sultriness
My seductress, lover-ness, diablesseness
Entice me, enfold me
Evocative me, provocative me
Swizzlin’ me, sizzlin’ me
Skintalizin’ me
Give entrance to enchantress
temptress in me –
swell my rising glow
rivers melt and flow
Tumultuousness
Tenderness
Togetherness
Craze me, faze me, daze me
Amaze me
A maze me

I Need You
You -- calming balm to spirit
and to soul –
and so to heart
if these are indeed separate and apart
as I’ve been told
spirit behold
creative soul
multi-chambered heart of gold
Voice my every forming word
seek being even as I am heard
Lifting lilting again and again
through narrowed passageways
of unspeakable pain

I Need You
You -- thoroughly known to me
Perfunctorily
Indelibly etched in memory
Identity
Fidelity
Essence of
Foreverhunger
Foreverthirst
Foreverlove
Foreverfirst
shared history, responsibility
duty, family, legacy
Everything in life to me
Eternally


I Need You
You -- tickle my soul
Bele drum roll
Dance, laughter, hilarity
Carousel and farmers in the dell
Simon sez me, twist me, twirl me
Tease me, please me
Caps me, collapse me
Ring me, sing me
Prepubescent me
Rummy
Riddle-a-ree
Romping, Carousing
like tomboy within
roughandtumbling
the joy I’m in

I Need You
You -- engage the mental me
Exquisite profundity
Discursive, paradigmatic, parabolic
Antithetic, synthetic, synoptic
Diagrammatic, Ism-atic
Intellectual giant ascetic
Strutting your philosophy
Supersize me
Parse and analyze me
Doctor me in blissfulness
Jingle jangle Headiness
Consumed, engulfed in happiness

I Need You
You -- welcome gate to sanctuary home
Nurturerprotectormother
Eternalwombincubator
Suckle on sustaining meat
Life-giving everlasting teat
Strengthen you
Lengthen you
From nothingness
To godliness
From potter’s mess
To firm-rooted flawlessness
Wondrous Adonis
Handsome in your manliness

I Need You
Multi-myraid you
Feed me
Fill me
Free me
Thrill me
From tangled wrong to fluted song
From prison night to prism light
From astride stately shining stern
Bring the bliss for which I yearn
Come sail anew in ecstasy
Wind-tossed multi-mirrored sea
Mirage Memory Majesty
Just as the multi-myriad me

I Need You

© Kalypsoul 07.17.05

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Wildflower

(To the art of perseverance)

Black Orchid, sensitive and mild,
wildflower emerging in tentative style.
Puffs of pollen, all comfy and nude,
fluffy like swans down, warm, cosy and smooth.
Gazes in wonder at this idyllic place;
lifts up a voice in this echoing space.
Fuzzy warm ducklings all gather around,
nuzzling together where caring is found.
Home for the one who has sought high and low;
don’t scurry away when the trumpeters blow!
You’ll find a friend here if you linger a while;
respite from the storm, my poetic child

© Kalypsoul
02/28/05

Beyond the Pale

BEYOND THE PALE

So one by one
They lay their heavy burdens down
Lay down life’s scabbard, hoe and toil
Lay down the tears and never-ending strife

Now one by one
Reach out their still world-weary hands
Step willingly beyond the pale
Full fathoms deep, last conscious senses fade

In serene smile
And varnished, cedar-lidded eyes
A future lost to yesteryear
And triumph tears the tempests of today

Far-seeing souls
Cold praying clasp, and ashen calm
Set fluid spirits free to roam
No bounds can harm, nor can the joy be told

At chasm’s edge
I peer into vast void of night
No clearer with fair light of dawn
Forgetfulness must be your trusted friend

Still satin sheen
Holds fast to love’s eternal dream
Through rusted coins and green’d shroud pins
Yet in ancestor’s lore you linger still


© Kalypsoul 03-26-05

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Poetry in Motion3

Eyelids closed
Young hearts burned
Birthday party candles dozed

Now . . .

Laughter gone
Flame grown cold
Feasting on pure faith alone


©Kalypsoul
02.05.05

Friday, February 04, 2005


Me in Cuba Posted by Hello

Visit to the Prime Minister

(Dr. Eric Eustace Williams, Premier/Prime Minister 1956-81).

Well awrite nah, yuh ent boun to push mih so
I come here long before you, yuh know
Well ah get een de bus an ah pay mih fare
An ah get orf by de roundsabout in St Claire
Ma’am could I help you? Dat is de guard at de gate
Ah comes to see de doc. Where is his orfice situate?
Sorry Ma’am but no visitors today
You may come back on Friday or nex week Monday
So you mean to say I get up long before three
Ketch de firs bus from quite San Souci
Sleep still in mih eye – ah com een town
Now all yuh people want to push mih around
Eh, eh! I is a citizen an ah knows mih right
Same ting ah was telling Vio de udder nite
Ah wants to see him right now, get dat straight
An doh gimme no talks; dis business cyah wait
How yuh watchin mih so like yuh tink ah mad
Hear nuh, I is a distinguish pusson here in dis Trinidad
Doh tell me yuh never hear bout me?
I marrid de biggest fowl tief in dis country
He nicer dan you wid yuh bald-pated mout
But A! A! Yuh know de man shovin mih out!
Mister, doh push yuh han in mih face. Ah say doh push yuh han in mih face!
Allyuh people wants to see ruction in dis place?
You telling me my face squashy like mud
But a mosquito bite you an spit out de blood
An yuh behind – it flat like a 100 meters race
Life nowadays ent as hard as yuh face
Corbeaux does pass yuh an steups fus yuh stink
An yuh face – it like a big shot kitchen; it have two sink
Doh talk bout yuh lip - it stretch out like it arskin for more
If ah had a dorg dorter, ah tek yuh for mih son in law
It look like every time yuh open yuh mout
Two teet does steups an walk out
An yuh head so big, it look like ah young whale
Wen it ready to put dong, doh forget, ah want a male
Yuh ent too big for mih to put yuh over mih knee
Yuh ever hear bout lil axe dat does cut dong big tree?
Look, jus carry mih to de man before ah start to cuss
Look mih five dollars done jumpin up in Vio purse
Doh tink I put orn nice dress, necklace an shoe
To come quite here to parade for you!
Awrite, jus wait here yuh go see wot yuh could do?
Yuh constipated chicken, yuh better hurry before I get blue!
An he so darm thin he could get a paunch if he swallow a channa
An he mout ben up like if it turning a corner
But de grass growin nice around here, eh!
Lemme siddong on de lawn til de bastard appear
Ah now sittin dong to enjoy de breeze
Miss Lady, Miss Lady, come dis way please!
Good morning Mr.Prime Minister I is Rose from San Souci
Yes suh is I who did want to see yuh urgently
An dat guard yuh have out dey, he comin out o he shell
An he more waste dong dan a sno-kone in hell
Dese young people eh! He ent even start to cut teet
Why de hell yuh ent sen he home to watch Sesame Street
Mih reason for comin? Well suh Vio bet mih five
Dat ah cyah get een here today to see yuh live’
Dat is all ah win, so tanks for letting mih een
Well is now Rose playin San Souci Queen!

© 1973

Poetry in Motion 1

Sunlight's warmth . . .
evoking hot desire
rhythmic explosion
of bronzed soulbursts

Rain . . .
fragrant and pure
bathing, cooling, coaxing . . .
silky soft, love blossoms