MY FATHER: A SNAPSHOT
I have very few pictures
of him, and whatever
pictures I do have,
are never in focus.
They are as blurry
as my eyes would
I inherited from him.
My father is the man
who is always
at the edge
of the photograph;
The man who is
The man who is never
looking straight at the camera.
All those years when my mother knew exactly
what my grandfather was doing, she knew,
and she let it continue. Her excuse: It happened to me too.
After my grandmother had left him, had packed her things
and moved out, he complained of being lonely,
said he wanted a girl to help about the house.
I begged her not to send me, peed on myself, hollered,
rolled in the dirt, told her how he spooned-up
against me at night, his hot breath quickening
around my neck. How frightened
I was of his darkened contorted face. Then the touch
of those rough, callused hands, reaching for
my breasts – the shame of them –
the revulsion of them – I wished they would stay buried
within my body. Then the sudden sharp pain
of those large knobbed fingers between my legs. It was then
that I learnt to hate myself, to feel different,
to know that something was wrong
with me. She taught me to take it, to forgive my grandfather
and take it. She taught me that this was what it meant
to be a woman. I did not know how to name
what my mother and my grandfather had done to me,
until that day at the zoo when I saw them, a family,
curled around each other, saw the venomous tongues that darted
and flickered, the evil intent in their glowing red eyes.
You will find them everywhere,
numbered bands on their legs
tracing the route of their migratory flight.
I know a family of Jamaican birds,
the mother bird and four of her five baby birds
are in the United States;
the father has remained in Jamaica.
There is a brother bird in Toronto
along with an aunt bird, and two niece birds.
One of the birds in the family is skittish,
she is forever flying off somewhere,
for a while she lived in Paris
and one night, watching television,
saw birds from her island being interviewed
from their nests in Holland!
Large colonies of Jamaican birds
are dispersed all over the Caribbean,
many went to build the Panama Canal,
and some have even retraced the flight across the Atlantic.
In North America three or four species
have been identified by the peculiar way they sing.
There are 200 species and 50+ vagrants
on the island of Jamaica.
25 of the birds on the island
are endemic species;
21 endemic subspecies;
4 introduced species.
High levels of endemism on
Caribbean islands is the result
of geographic isolation.
Some of the birds that arrived
on the island, by chance, evolved into new species.
There are 74 winter visitors
from North America, 18 of which
increase local breeding.
In addition to the 50 vagrants,
25 species are transients
or winter visitors, making this a population
of migrants, transients and vagrants.
Taken from the book