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  • Coming Back to Life
  • Lynn Sweeting (bio)

I Believe (Living on the Lee)

The harbour road drove me east against the wind,past pink mansions the rum-runners built,town houses in narrow salt-stricken yards,and empty lots where the forest used to be,till arriving at the place where the pavement endedand the sea poured like blood upon the rocks,I saw the water and remembered the ocean flooris strewn with the bones of the Lucayan Tainos.

I believe you are bringing yourselves back to life. [End Page 211]

Moon-coloured skeletons rise, spirit-dust come,search for bits of flesh and strands of long black hairamong the coral headstones of your graves,weave your bodies back togetherwith fish-bone needles, Sargasso thread,gather up your shattered selves and rise from the water,walk upon the land again and I will receive you,I'm ready to welcome the truth of you home.

I believe First Woman arrived here on a Blackfish's back.

From the Orinoco and the forests of rain searchingfor the backbone of Atabeyra these islands made,she came looking for the place she'd seen in a dream,a crescent of silver sand on the lee side of a timebefore the first day of the white man's time,ancient when she set foot upon the honeycomb,newborn too from her own magic womb,she made Red Man from menstrual blood, loved him to life.

I believe First Daughter was born in shallow water.

In the story under the story she grew wise in the Mother,child into woman who knew how to draw down the moon,who summoned the wind with a hand to the sky,who set the fire burning and never touched the woodbut cast a spark from her black-black eye,she could bring down the rain when the fields were dry,learned well the song that made the midnight tides rise,she was the first priestess to carve a divining chair.

I believe when time came First Woman went into a manatee. [End Page 212]

In the story between the stories you lived on and well,planting the manioc by the season of the moon,and by the moon too you took the good harvest,you birthed your babies in the warm green shallows,buried your dead in certain blue holes that were doorsopening to the other world where the ancestors livedwith the spirits of those waiting to be born,you made home within the sound of the manatee's cry.

I believe a priestess told you run! when sails cracked the sky.

In the impossible story the men went to meet the boatswhile she led the women and children into the forest,Guimazoa, Goddess of the Invisible Ones,she cloaked you in dark sky and deep green trees,taught you to make fires in the night that went unseen,to dance in circles for survival without making a sound,to go down to the water when the savages were sleeping,and vanish like smoke in the wind at every sunrise.

I believe you let them think you were dead to survive.

In my story I am your long-lost granddaughter,stolen away by the writers of high school history books,the pulsing vein between us severed as I sleptmany lifetimes in a bed that was not my own,(story is a knife in the colonizer's hand or a roomwith a door, locked but never there).Rise from the water wearing faces that look like mine,live with me now in the house of our shared name. [End Page 213]

Poem For Wangari Maathai

You told them, if you wantto lift up your lifein every conceivable way,plant these trees.If you want to restoreyourselvesfirst restore the forestwho is your mother.At the time of this poem,forty million trees are growingacross Kenyathat weren't therebefore you spoke to them,reminded them:not even poverty,hunger, or warcan steal awaythe creation powerwaiting for themin their own hands.You are gone to spiritbut the...


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pp. 211-222
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