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Listen to Mac Donald Dixon, read “Blood Islands”

Artwork by Shams Najafi

In the beginning there was nothing,
nothing became the word and spoke.

Gliricidia seeds sprout wings, following the breeze
to bare rocks anchored in blood to an ocean floor.

They begin and end in capitals,
berthed to half-baked stones, from Lucas Street, St. Georges,
Prince of Wales, Roseau, Jeremie Street, Castries —

wherever choice blends in with fact.

The age is youth, they die and resurrect in style,
burning like incense in hot cathedrals.

Your child lying stiff on a corner street,
candles weep on every homemade altar
in this confused space on all Souls Night.

Touch the rain and you will not get wet.
If the rock is too big, it’s not an island
no matter if you live or die in it.

There is always cash to burn on a fix,
waiting for seasons that seldom change,
obdurate like law and order, sun, or rain.

An angry sunset riles the dark, revealing seams,
wounds that never glow even in phosphorescent light.
Children without fathers cannot love

hate is the only badge they know,

a mindless trigger: it cannot wait for nightmares
sprawled on tombstones to assume they are alive
before it acts.

Politicians wash hands, blame the mess on T.V.

Blame church, blame molesters, blame all.
Blame soul, as sole, but please, absolve the ghetto.

My little one room chattels littered with their dead,
like acrobats, they dare the high trapeze without
wire or net. Forget sonnets, length, lines, this poem

reeks of serious shit and cannot put food
in their mouths. Boys have died and more will go in vain
before unwritten words scribbled across their lives

find metaphors to revive their hidden peace.
Over here we do not need flowers to mourn.

Crutches digitalize in angry clumps like fists,
forget tense, simple sentences, time needs time
to ripen with corpses, dressed or undressed,

with, or without clothes.

Death is a red flag, black at centre
on a lighthouse pole, the signalman
displays in journals of lost hope.

We cannot run, we cannot hide,
subway to tube, the mind when triggered,
cannot wait. Death follows its shadow
around the globe.

The Angelus rings, Millet strips sunsets of their flight,
night climbs over islands the size of cities,
ravines are rivers, boulevards half streets without
their plethora of strays.

Here, every street corner feeds its hucksters
on the same sweet drinks and corn-curls fare.

From the Morne over Castries, on moonlit nights,
sea warm, I search for streets I knew before concrete
four stories high smothered our view.

The lot at number ninety-nine Saint Louis street;
my navel string is buried there under
a sour-sop tree with all my generations.

Forever lost, I remain faceless, afraid
to confront History, he might recognize me.

Tar, after a day’s heat swells in a drizzle
full moon lights shadows, clouds march on.

All of my seventy years cruise past,
encapsulated in this cornerstone,
fearful of poems that enter bedrooms
not understanding mirrors reflect what they see.

Never bothering to mark her face,
whether she came or went, until she came back
with a baby boy that borrowed my face.

From the wrong side of town, this poem will never
feel the sun in its hair, never heal the sore
festering like an anemone at the harbour’s edge.

In reality a chancre naturing
its epidemic to infect this whole island chain…

So different, despite your one dwiyèt,
cerulean blue petticoat, trimmed
in aquamarine lace; we remain friends.

So strong; so long loving the same lover, until
you hop on a plane and split to New York
and take a hike on the ‘Six’ to Soundview.

Spent all your time at the OTB,
on Westchester Avenue, waiting on a ‘Pick Six’
before you come home, back to your island ghetto

renamed ‘Graveyard’ to satisfy local journalists,
who write about nothing good. Mornings dawn,
children mock birds, too soon to learn the alphabet
of fate, making tough love a clinical retreat.

Wars spread throughout these islands in tiny enclaves
devoid of conscience wherever little houses
lean on one another: in Castries, a river

runs red under a purple sky searching for
its favourite blue.

Change the subject; I may as well write about
Columbus, about the sea and the zygote
he spawned in the keel of Sancta Maria

then had it blessed by the church to multiply
with conquistadores and pirates, what of the millions
screaming overboard: “Spare us the loss of home!”

Rudderless, searching for horizons in thick
Atlantic mist, they paddle with bare hands hoping
to find a setting sun nearer land, much closer

than home. Remember Zong?

Forgiveness, like a two-face-four-nail cutlass,
sharpened on both sides, will do as asked. Conflicts
need no resolution, no laws to enforce or resist.

After their battles they hide their toys
in anticipation of repeats. Another
dawn’s approaching, it’s the same morning
in Grenada, the Saints, Antigua, Dominica—
Islands, no matter their language.
Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti.
Spanish speaking Cuba or Dutch Saint Martin,
stuck in their own red pustules, their own muck.

Ravines, blood red, miasmas of their own making,
mismatched, swelling like rivers in rainy season,
in any large city, no crab hole safe to hide.

They crawl, on steppingstones, canoes, airplanes, boats,
surging up the islands dreaming of visas.
their last mad dash to Babylon where people die

from love for love, swallowed by everlasting fright.

Years later—before I knew—they found you,
shriveled like a prune in a telephone booth,
one Spring morning in Harlem. I waited for rain
all year to air your news; it never came.

Imprisoned by island blight, sickened by emptiness,
nothing heaves within my meridian although
I grieve, repentant, waiting for that promised change

beyond seasons, (wet or dry,) but cannot undo
the past, though looking back for antidotes to stop
the carnage that comes year after year

not necessarily in order of date but comes just the same.

The young, they suffer, they die young, careless of cause.
This nothingness clause for us who wait, challenges
the metal in our restraints.

Hope is a barren rock, (Barrels ò Beef),
where hopeless minutes sing.


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