For Derek – in memoriam


You; it is always you from the beginning,
a canoe full of words, a quiver of verbs;
a bailer in the stern un-nerved by language,
flowing how Troumassee once flowed from your heart
seaward; calabash displacing bilge
in a rhythmical flood like  discarded lines
from a poem, not just because they are not
beautiful, but since they cannot fit.

I never told you how I have found solace
in your themes; an inner peace, even in grief.
Let me do so before it’s too late for you
to understand this prodigal returning
to say thanks, Maestro, with a net of words cast
along a beach, hoping for sprats... without you,
‘the might-have-been may never have been birthed.’

Without you, there may never have been Robert,
Kendel, maybe Jane; Goddard, or Adrian,
or Luciens’ gift – Vladimir, listed here
in order of birth, not fame; and countless more.
I may never have written one drivelling line
had I not  stumbled on 25 Poems
on a dark shelf waiting for the touch of light.

Without you, with tiller in hand to steer us
clear of yawning cliffs, with their jaws ajar,
welcomes debates about floundered lines; on coasts
that bear the scars of many wrecks; where words snap
at words, never to see sunrise or sunset
as they should be seen — imagined  like the green
flash raving it’s iridescent light briefly over
a cobalt sea that only you can see now.

The sea follows Odysseus, outward bound,
spreading his net of words everywhere: New York,
Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad, Boston,
trawling, trudging, trawling, different lights, trawling;
neon, phosphorescent, thinning with the smog
of cities, jacketed in pale gray, hauling
like commerce, light up and down main streets, Sharpening
metaphor meant for one poem but follows
them all like a theme throughout.

After so many, many years, you return
to your island; you never left. Your canoe
appears at dusk; gauges the distance between
islet and bay, a Cyclops, eye in the hold,
with your catch; never forgetting manchineel
stings when rain. Gauguin came, in watercolours,
preserved your villages, so you could find them
intact like the morning you left, before he
himself left for Tahiti.

Women flock to the bay on pilgrimages
for fish. The bay that could be Roseau, Dennery,
or Gros Islet. They hear you come back for good;
remembering bottle green eyes, weak kneed, they sink
in sand. News of Odysseus returning
is blown on conch shell horns, Afa, Augistin,
even soft spoken Hounakin, who never
bothered with race once food reach on the table
and their children eat, come too. ‘Poopa da was fete...’

We will always celebrate in your words,
the same gift you gave freely like parts of speech —
incantations; alliterations; lines —
Similes grow in ink from your penless nib...
Why suddenly have all the metaphors gone
scarce, they are all in your net, there is no fresh
crop, except those that come by sea in a conch’s
echo and murmur like cockles retreating
under the sand defiant to the tide’s pull –

You have been the yardstick by which we measure
gabardine to make our suits for  christenings,
first communions, weddings, even death... Leave us
to dismantle the hieroglyphics, if we can...

Your ‘Adamic task,’ the harvesting of sound
began when the sea crab burst through sand, pincers
alert, pecking at familiar things: mango
skin, pomegranate seeds, and – forget the and,
the list is too long to repeat. You join worlds
together with less. Greece is not a nation
in the Aegean, but the Caribbean
sea. The earth shakes continuously dreaming
of cataclysms worlds apart, lines misplaced
in time  with text and history, present assumes
its proper place – words soliciting other words.

Still I never told you how much I have learnt
about the world, repeating your lines — should I?
But your task is not yet done; it just begin -

DIXON Mac Donald

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