You could still become a queen.When, a slip of a girl,
you directed treesto lower their limbs,
neither fire ants nor sapcould stop your climb,
nor rain that lightly fell,misting leaves.
Inside a story's spell,you find your way back,
where a stone on a path waitsfor you to stumble.
Like the kaleidoscope's contents,time is jumbled, opening at will.
Now: a too-bright sun and you,teetering on a wall,
parasol clutched tight as you tumble.This parasol is, for a moment,
everything you've lostand all that can console. [End Page 409]
The Madwoman's Daughter
All my life, I have been pursuedby whispers—what pickney so greedyit consume its own muma?
I was born at the time of day betweennight and morning, the hourof duppies and dream.
My mother's screams seamedthe world I left and the one I entered,her spirit extinguished
the instant mine lit.Before language possessed me,I knew my life would be marked
by her sorrow, pressed into my skin;by her laughter, broken stonesthat fill my mouth.
Now when wind gathers at the edgesof dawn, I listen for my mother's wailrattling through the cane.
I listen to recall:no one asks for the mealthat leaves us hungry.
Yet we eat. [End Page 410]
Shara McCallum, originally from Jamaica, lives with her family in Pennsylvania, where she is director of the Stadler Center for Poetry and a professor of English at Bucknell University. She is the author of four books of poetry, including The Face of Water: New and Selected Poems and This Strange Land and has received the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship.