Electricity Comes To Cocoa Bottom

Written by June Owens for The Caribbean Writer, Vol. 14 on

Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom, a Poetry Book Society recommendation, begins in a disarmingly straightforward way: 'Then all the children of Cocoa Bottom / went to see Mr. Samuel’s electric lights,' and Marcia Douglas’s title poem proceeds to ignite this gathering of twenty-eight pieces.

Whether writing of one-footed Myrtle, displaced, homesick men aboard the Ascania, a Rwandan woman gone mad who 'had eaten / the hearts / of dead children / to stay / alive,' of how distance can destroy memory but prayer raises 'the wilted cassia;' whether writing about remembering one’s birth-moment and how a mother’s groans become a baby’s first scream, about a sleeping old woman on a plane who wakes up frightened and speaking in tongues, or of Madda Winnie clothing herself in trash bags, Douglas herself writes 'in tongues,' from a mix of power, empathy, poetic imagery, and grace.

Blue light slants through the blinds
and makes horizontal marks like notepaper on the wall. 
I fill in the lines:
Oh shali waa
shali mahi wa.

Douglas knows the value of judicious restatement, using it more as drumhead echo than drumbeat repetition. [...]

Some writers leave their creative handprints in dark caves where only later happenstance may, perhaps, discover them. Some writers stamp their entire selves upon the language, upon a culture, upon literature and upon our consciousness in so intimate, singular, well-illumined and indelible a manner that there can be no mistaking their poems and prose for those of another. Such a writer is Marcia Douglas.