IX: OLD TIME RELIGION
Bedward, alas, poor Bedward Lapith!
Every broken down bangarang
even prayers can’t fix
must laugh at him,
come cockcrow countdown, stalled in macca tree
like kite on Easter Tuesday.
Truth to tell t’was Busha Godhead self
came swoopsing down,
handed out yellow card
and off again like breeze blow
to upper Empyrean.
It should have been red, some said.
Morning breeze brought bird, butterfly
and flying saucer out
to praise God and clap wings.
Facety nayger, boasting he could fly
and didn’t try to help himself
with scandal bag paper and chicken wire –
just in case.
MOTHER JACKSON MURDERS THE MOON
sees the moon coming at her
and slams the door of her shack
the tin louvres shudder with eagerness
to let the moon in.
If she should cry for help
the dog would skin its teeth at her,
the cat would hoist its tail
and pin the whole moonlit sky to the gutter.
The neighbours would maybe
douse her in chicken blood
and hang her skin out to dry
on the packy tree.
swallows her bile and sprinkles oil
from the kitchen bitch on her ragged mattress.
Then she lights a firestick
and waits for the moon to take her.
ROCKSTONE! I TOO HAVE LIVED IN ARCADIA!
Do not disregard the exclamation mark
that registers the colour of the word
as we Jamaicans understand it.
Ironpressed with dutty it is the currency
of stonebreakers whose daughters may be
today’s sophisticated money-managers, or carefree artists.
Born in a small house in St Mary which my father
named Arcadia, having financed its building week by week
in cash earned by giving injections to combat yaws,
I loved the mahogany panelling in the drawing room,
and the grapevine on the front verandah,
its walls etched with the elegant design of imaginary cutstone.
My heart swallowed the centrefold of the sun
that flooded the house from west to east
when I came skipping in from an afternoon romp;
or from a lesson in distinguishing
weeds from plants which must be spared.
My first weekend home from boarding school
was wrecked by the news that the house had been sold
and we were about to leave our Arcadia.
Loss of the barbecue and the slope out back
to the bamboo-fringed pond was almost too much to bear.
Nine years I had been so happy nestled –
come to think of it in retrospect – in a midway Arcadia
tipped off casually by a road that ran its countryman’s course
laughing and winking between Gayle
and – would you believe it? – Lucky Hill.
Children are too busy to look back.
Six years flew by like three in our Brown’s Town home,
Richmond Villa, once an inn and so sprawling
it had a whole world of unused rooms downstairs
which one could appropriate as an enchanted studio-kingdom.
It had also a ghost in residence who coughed,
oleanders at the windows and trees one could climb.
In the corner of the garden my father made a fish pool
shaped like a heart.
Next, at last, came our own home – the Hillside,
pioneered out of a stony pasture in the year the declaration of war
shunted the big, cruel world into our consciousness.
But what was real was native red earth and rockstone.
Jackass say the road not level.
I had my pubescent awakening to PROBLEMS,
still there was family happiness galore.
My doctor father, a landscape gardener by avocation,
with no public water supply to count on,
carved out a garden that plant lovers came miles to see.
And when he planted Stonehaven for retirement years
at the foot of the Hillside, you can be sure the planning continued;
the rampant garden acquired more drystone walls
and terraces and steps and angled footpaths
than any sensible and busy medical man
would have dared to undertake.
When you visit my Stonehaven of today with its three studios
you will recognise from this compressed life story
the rockstone passion of a Jamaican country bumpkin
born and nurtured in Arcadia.