- Grief, and: Memory, and: Elegy, and: Fable
I linger, rearranging the furniture, making the sky contract till it no longer contains the horizon. When I hover, you hear cicadas crescendo. You mistake me for winter’s onset or the body as it ages. Foolish girl. You console yourself with fables where straw is spun into gold yet a promise remains unpaid. Have you really not yet learned? Only in fairy tales is disaster averted with the discovery of a word. In this world, magic claims no dominion. Death is a door, which keeps opening. [End Page 37]
I bruise the way the most secreted, most tender part of a thigh exposed purples then blues. No spit-shine shoes, I’m dirt you can’t wash from your feet. Wherever you go, know I’m the wind accosting the trees, the howling night of your sea. Try to leave me, I’ll pin you between a rock and a hard place; will hunt you, even as you erase your tracks with the tail ends of your skirts. You think I’m gristle, begging to be chewed? No, my love: I’m bone. Rather: the sound bone makes when it snaps. That ditty lingering in you, like ruin. [End Page 38]
First you told me: Let’s not cross that bridge till we come to it.
But tumors bloomed in you the way a hawk plucks prey: without conscience or malice.
Then you said: What to do?Every way yuh turn makka juk yuh.
And your body’s betrayals grew abundant: face bloated as a puffer fish, legs dangling like a marionette’s.
Then you said: Every day a fishing day, but is not every day yuh ketch fish.
And I asked myself: Who, if I could, would I follow into the world of the dead?
Which was the wrong question. Whose answer I already knew.
At the time, I believed love meant I could not not-look. Now,
I am sure of little but death is like an ill-fitted suit that can be worn longer than we’d imagine. [End Page 39]
You shrugged off the raiment of the living and I knew I would forget you, the way all the dead are forgotten, becoming an archipelago reconstructed in dreams.
As when the mountains came down to meet the sea and grew wings, your going tore green from each leaf of each tree. And the sun could find no habitation.
And your name in our mouths was a prayer uttered in a strange tongue, a snake swallowing its own tail, an island circled by a ship without port. [End Page 40]
shara mccallum, from Jamaica, has written four books, including The Water Between Us, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. She received a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship. Her work has been published in the U.S., UK, Caribbean, Latin America, and Israel and has been translated into Spanish, French, and Romanian. She directs the Stadler Center for Poetry and teaches at Bucknell University.