MY MOTHER WAS A WHITE SHEET DRYING ON THE LINE. Wooden clothespins held her tight as she lifted and snapped and filled like a sail. At night, when she covered me, I inhaled lily of the valley, burning leaves, the starched collar of a nurse’s uniform and the stillness of a recently abandoned room. She taught me how to iron the creases out of a man’s shirt after all the men had disappeared. My mother played piano by ear in the basement. A long line of hungry people gathered outside to hear her play. They wanted news from home. Overhead, handkerchiefs fluttered in the breeze. Little telegrams sent but never delivered.
I had to see La Bohème again just to
make sure for there was a little part of
me that kept the regret though when I tried
the argument again I used both hands
in order to explain and I was especially
sensitive to the landlord for I lived
both inside and outside even when I was angry
I paid my debts for I have listened to
and lived with grasshoppers and they bore me, but
Mimi, Mimi, when your hand dropped every
woman in my row was weeping and I
gave in too instead of gripping the armrest
or rubbing the back of my head; I loved it the most that
you lived inside and outside too, the snowdrop
was what you thought of, wasn’t it? You were
the one who came back, three times, it was your stubbornness,
your loyalty. One time I stood in the street
and watched a moon so thin the clouds went through it
as if there were no body, as if the cold
was so relentless nothing could live there, you with
the blackened cancle, you who stitched the lily.
Even with its shitload of artifacts, the everyday
is radiant, while the banal is opaque and often
obscure. I prefer the latter, with its murky
agate, mushroom, ochre background music –
its corridor of lurk. One hardly knows where
one stands with/in the banal. Walls come
together with hardly a seam. Wherever we are, we
feel we have always been. Poe, for all his special
effects, is rather banal in his approach to the
supernatural, i.e. overly familiar. Against the
inarticulate velvet of this mood, one grasps at
the everyday for relief. Thus any object can
bring us back with the fast-acting power of
aspirin. Any object shines.
Not knowing the difference between Heaven
And Paradise, he called them both Heaven.
So when he shrugged at the thought of a god
Blanched in the lights of implausible heights,
Thumbing the armrests of a throne, that was
Heaven. And when he stared out at the sea,
Feeling familiar to himself at last,
He called that Heaven, too. And nothing changed
About either Paradise or Heaven
For it: Paradise retained its earthen
Glamour; and Heaven, because it can’t stand
For anything on its own, like the color
Of rice or a bomb, was happy to play
Along, was happy just to be happy
For once, and not an excuse for mayhem.
‘The truth is I’m not /a fist fighter,’ writes Raymond Antrobus, ‘I’m all heart, no technique.’ Readers who fall for this streetwise feint may miss out on the subtle technique – from the pantoum and sestina to dramatic monologue and erasure – of The Perseverance. But this literary debut is all heart, too. Heart plus technique. All delivered in a voice that resists over-simple categorization. As a poet of d/Deaf experience, his verse gestures toward a world beyond sound. As a Jamaican/British poet, he deconstructs the racialized empire of signs from within. Perhaps that slash between verses and signs is where the truth is.
That Boxing Day morning, I would hear the familiar, far-off gowls and
over Keenaghan and Aughanlig
of a pack of beagles, old dogs disinclined to chase a car suddenly quite
themselves, pups coming helter-skelter
across the plowlands with all the chutzpah of veterans
of the trenches, their slate-grays, cinnamons, liver-browns, lemons, rusts,
turning and twisting, unseen, across the fields,
their gowls and gulders turning and twisting after the twists and turns
of the great hare who had just now sauntered into the yard where I stodd
astride my new Raleigh cycle,
his demeanor somewhat louche, somewhat lackadaisical
under the circumstances, what with him standing on tiptoe
as if to mimic me, standing almost as tall as I, looking as if he might for a
himself in my place, thinking better of it, sloping off behind the lorry bed.
It’s cold, for you’ve come out from a warm body
It’s bright, for you’ve come out from a dark body
It’s lonely, for you’ve lost your shadow
Icy, like soil dug out from a flower pot
Sunny, like the sunlight fish stare at beneath the sheet of ice
Hot, like when lips touch a frozen door knob
Cold again, a bulb-like heart is half frozen
Cold again, as if zero is divided by zero
a glass divided by glass
It’s alright, alright
for you’re already dead
The place where you’ve shed yourself, the cold arrived, drained of all the
red from your body
Unshakable birds! (Being followed? Being watched?) Run run but never escape the flutter of wings in your chest.
Demon-faced birds stare daggers from building ledges and at every corner you turn (every corner you turn!) … Twitching birds (nit-crawling catastrophe carriers), Tourettic birds (odious-odious-odious), birds skulking in turrets (Stone-Feathered Gargoyles, your cries for help
just so much sputtering).
Featherless. Hopeless! Overwhelmed with bird urges and the compulsion to tic the compulsion to tic the compulsion …
Are you dreaming? Are you sleeping? (Dormez-vous? Dormez-cheep-cheep …)
I was standin on the steps of City Hall … in all that dust
and I knew that Terry [her husband the Captain of Rescue 11] wd have been
on one of the highest floors that he cd get to … in that building
for that’s what his Company does … and when I saw the building come down
I knew that he had no chance
Sometimes I start to worry that he was afraid … but … knowing him
I think he was completely focussed on the job at hand … sometimes it makes me angry
[she gives here a little laugh of pain]
but I don’t think that he
I think in the back of his mind … he was more concerned about where
I was? and the fact that I was far-enough-away … from the trouble?
But I don’t think that he considered … his not-coming-home
and sometimes that makes me angry … S’almost as if he didn’t choose me …?
But I can’t fault him for that he was doin his job … That’s who he was
and why I loved him so much
So I can’t blame him for that
His friend Tim told me he saw Terry going in and Terry said to him
We may not be seeing each other again
and kissed him on the cheek … and ran … upstairs [into the North Tower]
is the small way to begin.
But I could not.
As I am limited to few
words at command, such as wanblí. This
was how I wanted to begin, with the little
But could not.
Because this wanblí, this eagle
of my imagining is not spotted, bald,
nor even a nest-eagle. It is gold,
though by definition, not ever the great Golden Eagle.
Much as the gold, by no mistake, is not ground-gold,
man-gold or nugget. But here, it is
the gold of light and wing together.
Wings that do not close, but in expanse
angle up so slightly; plunge with muscle
and stout head somewhere between
my uncle, son, father, brother.
But I failed to begin there, with this
expanse. Much as I failed to start
with the great point in question.
There in muscle in high inner flight always
in the plunge we fear for the falling, we buckle to wonder:
What man is expendable?