- Island Liturgy I
Et c‘est l‘heure, O Poete de décliner ton nom, ta naissance et ta race … And the time is come, O Poet to declare your name, your birth and your race …—St. John Perse, Exil
if places could cry …these places of shed never tearsloveless, joyless islands, or so they sayless hope, barren eventhese pissin tail nothing good ever came from them except sun islandsrocks pock mark with sun, salt, cry water and laughs for sotattooed with sun light and lossmottoed with good byes and if I don’t come back …mocked by bird’s custard, fry’s cocoa and morris arm chairsand a once upon a time history made by them stamped in Britain the crick crack monkey on its broken backoffer their club med suns to the true north—they would if places couldtake their place in memory that takes the place of love,these tough rough wouldn’t cry couldn’t cry havocs of islandsand islands of havoc volcano hurucan and buccaneer.black islands of blue breeze, green sea, white sands and shed blood,turned king’s evidence on suns of setting empires—guiltythis conspiracy of islandsloitering in the back alleys of history,petty pilfered islands of stolen histories,tongues counterfeit with false utterancesmake illegal book with history—the odds long with chance and deceitislands of own way stone face and dry eyethe absent tear the griefcongealedcharged with conviction—
if only places could! [End Page 30]
M. NourbeSe Philip was born in Trinidad & Tobago and completed her undergraduate education at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. She later received degrees in political science and law at the University of Western Ontario, and practiced law until 1983. Widely known for her literary innovations and experimentations, she is author of five books of poetry, two novels, four books of essays, and two dramas, of which Zong! (poetry, 2008) and Harriet’s Daughter (drama, 2000) are her most recent. Harriet’s Daughter was originally published as a novel by Heinemann in the UK in 1988. She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks won her the Casa de las Américas Prize for poetry (Cuba) in 1998. She has also received a number of grants, fellowships, and awards for her other work—e.g., a Chalmers Fellowship in Poetry, a McDowell Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio (Italy), and a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry. She lives in Canada.