de là del sanjut sofegà del stran

de là de i càrpen e i rore spauridi
del sas rucià su la lasta slisada
te na onbrìa umida de fià sfinidi
fa qualcheduni che 'l dròn e che 'l sfiada

de là de l'ultimo ciaro del tràgol
del sas rucià su la lasta slisada
fa sanjut de stran patòc fin te médol
l'è 'n vèrs inrauchì che 'l va e 'l vien e 'l sfiada

na ànema che la ol restar viva
drio 'l sas rucià su la lasta slisada
andé che gnesuni pi romài riva
se no l'é da tant che 'l dròn e che 'l sfiada

par sanjut de stran patòc fin tel médol
de là de i càrpen e i rore spauridi
de là de l'ultimo ciaro del tràgol
te na onbrìa umida de fià sfinidi

Italian translation:

di là del singhiozzo soffocato dello strame

di là dei carpini e le roveri spauriti / del sasso sdrucciolato sulla lastra levigata / in un'ombra umida di fiati sfiniti / come qualcuno che dorme e che ansima // di là dell'ultimo chiarore della strada da strascino / del sasso sdrucciolato sulla lastra levigata / come singhiozzo di strame fradicio fin nel midollo / c'è un verso arrochito che va e viene e ansima // un'anima che vuol restar viva / dietro il sasso sdrucciolato sulla lastra levigata / dove nessuno più ormai arriva / se non è da tanto che dorme e ansima // per singhiozzo di strame fradicio fin nel midollo / di là dei carpini e le roveri spauriti / di là dell'ultimo chiarore della strada da strascino / in un'ombra umida di fiati sfiniti

l’ultimo vìver

l'ultimo ziṡar del bòt de canapa

al se misia su al tàṡer
come che l'ultima joza
la à caro desparir tel sut
e l'ultima buboleta de lus
la ol repararse tel scur

cusì l'ultimo vìver
al spèta de ziédar pian pian
e l'é fa se ghe cognese polsar
dal zepedimènt incantà de 'n sgranf
par intrar, par èser cetà tel gnent
che l'é de tuti,
l'é tut

Italian translation:

l'ultimo vivere

l'ultimo ronzìo del rintocco di campana / si mischia al silenzio / come l'ultima goccia / desidera sparire nell'asciutto / e l'ultima lucciolina di luce / vuole ripararsi nel buio // così l'ultimo vivere / aspetta di cedere pian piano / ed è come se avesse bisogno di riposare / dal rattrappimento inceppato di un crampo / per entrare, per essere acquietato nel nulla / che è di tutti, / che è tutto

Momento no es nunca

Momento no es nunca
de recordar suspiros
colgados de cuerdas de aliento
como viento derramado
entre blandos montes.
Sencillamente, momento no es
de memorar ausencias.

Miss Sally on Love

In my time, I was a girl who like to spree.
The whole world would open fi mi

if I shift mi hips to strain
the fabric of mi skirt, just so.

Still, I did learn mi lesson
where love concern: if snake bite yu,

when yu see even lizard, crawling
with him belly on ground, yu run.

Now the gal come to mi, say she fall in love
with man who have a plan fi change.

But she nuh notice him also carry gun?
And, lawd, how she nuh see

who running the show and who
keeping house same way?

Psalm for Kingston

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem
------------------—Psalm 137

City of Jack Mandora—mi nuh choose none—of Anancy
---------prevailing over Mongoose, Breda Rat, Puss, and Dog, Anancy
------------------saved by his wits in the midst of chaos and against all odds;
---------of bawdy Big Boy stories told by peacock-strutting boys, hush-hush
but loud enough to be heard by anyone passing by the yard.

City of market women at Half-Way-Tree with baskets
---------atop their heads or planted in front of their laps, squatting or standing
------------------with arms akimbo, susuing with one another, clucking
---------their tongues, calling in voices of pure sugar, come dou-dou: see
the pretty bag I have for you, then kissing their teeth when you saunter off.

City of school children in uniforms playing dandy shandy
---------and brown girl in the ring—tra-la-la-la-la—
------------------eating bun and cheese and bulla and mangoes,
---------juice sticky and running down their chins, bodies arced
in laughter, mouths agape, heads thrown back.

City of old men with rheumy eyes, crouched in doorways,
---------on verandahs, paring knives in hand, carving wood pipes
------------------or peeling sugar cane, of younger men pushing carts
---------of roasted peanuts and oranges, calling out as they walk the streets
and night draws near, of coconut vendors with machetes in hand.

City where power cuts left everyone in sudden dark,
---------where the kerosene lamp’s blue flame wavered on kitchen walls,
------------------where empty bellies could not be filled,
---------where no eggs, no milk, no beef today echoed
in shantytowns, around corners, down alleyways.

City where Marley sang, Jah would never give the power to a baldhead
---------while the baldheads reigned, where my parents chanted
------------------down Babylon—Fire! Burn! Jah! Rastafari! Selassie I!—
---------where they paid weekly dues, saving for our passages back to Africa,
while in their beds my grandparents slept fitfully, dreaming of America.

City that lives under a long-memoried sun,
---------where the gunmen of my childhood are today’s don’s
------------------ruling neighbourhoods as fiefdoms, where violence
---------and beauty still lie down together. City of my birth—
if I forget thee, who will I be, singing the Lord’s song in this strange land?

Dear History

Believe me when I tell you
I did not know her name

but remember the colour of her dress:
red, like my own school uniform.

I did not know death could come to a girl
walking home, stick in hand,

tracing circles in the dirt,
singing as she went along.

I did not know death
would find someone

for wearing the wrong colour smock
in the wrong part of town.

My parents spoke in hushed tones,
but I heard the story of her body

dragged from street to gully,
left sullied in semen and blood.

I heard the song she sang,
the one I wish I could sing now.

Truth is, I was that girl.
Truth is, I was never there.

Miss Sally on Politics

He is a one-eye man
in a blind-eye country.

But how him can do better
when no one want to see

what going on. Every time
party man come around

him jumping up and down—
lickle puppy eager fi please.

Him tell mi is not woman
business, this election.

Is not fi mi fi understand.
Mi tell yu all the same what I know:

If yu see jack ass,
don’t yu must ride it?

The Waves

We walk into rooms that wait for us to enter them.
We walk into waves that threaten to drown us.

But they don’t. They fill us instead
with salt, sand, and their own light.

As a child, from a small boat, I watched my father
swim away, ignoring my mother’s pleas—her voice

sucked into the wind, my own no match
for the undertow or sharks I feared.

There are moments in a life
when everything comes apart, is ripped so clean

who you are is laid bare. My father returned to us
that day, but he was not the same man

I had seen enter those waves.

My Mother as Penelope

Lemon rinds in the dried brook bed,
fireflies failing to light—

all, like me,
suffer the occasional drought.

Outside my window,
no islands of foliage

block my view to the shore.
No river noises trickle in.

Listen, after years of waiting,
I tire of the myth I’ve become.

If I am not an ocean,
I am nothing.

If I am not a world unto itself,
I need to know it.


Long ago I was the vision you needed,
image soldered in the mind’s furnace:

girl awaiting your arrival,
watching first light lacerate the sky.

You fancied the sea
a playground for your dreams,

but storms have entered you
like sound enters the skin of a drum,

changing its course.
After years adrift, you return

wanting to know how I exist
apart from you and your myths.

Husband, I learned to bear rupture
by staring down dawn,

to weave as daybreak
split open my rib cage.

Tomorrow when you leave our bed,
the sea’s call already filling your ears,

you will find fishermen
hauling in nets, shimmering fistfuls

of fish with bloodied gills. Listen to me:
raise one flopping creature from the rest

to inspect the arc of its dying;
see how struggle inscribes itself on air.

Then say a prayer. Offer a blessing.
Acknowledge your power

to deliver from your palm
whatever life pulses there.