Category Archives: Caribbean Literature

The Virgin Islands Daily News July 15, 2019.

Below is the review of my children’s book, Dance Quadrille and Play Quelbe, based on some of the cultural traditions of St Croix, the US Virgin Islands where I lived half a year from 2010-2017.  I consider it my third home, and find myself going back there repeatedly.Newspaper Review

I love how many of the Crucian people take pride in preserving their culture, and I love how I am welcomed there.

The above book is the second in a trilogy about iconic VI culture.  The first is entitled Look! A Moko Jumbie, which tells the story of Moko Jumbies from a boy’s perspective.  All two books can be found on the publisher’s site, CarbbeanReads.com as well as on Amazon.

I am working on the third, tentatively entitled, My St Croix, and which I hope will be released in 2020. Caribbean children need to read about themselves and their culture if we are to develop as independent nations.

An Introductory Letter to Dennis Haysbert:

 

Dear DH:

From the first time I saw you, on the screen, you aroused me, and still do. Love the beard with the grey – the maturity and appeal – it’s scotch bonnet hot – you that is!

I am sitting in my office recovering from knee replacement and just finished watching you in Secret Obsession and have been a fan since I first saw you in Love Field — confident, defiant, riveting.

You have aged sturdy like a mahogany tree, a solid welcome, a come lean on me girl, I’m here.

When I lived in Oakland, Ca, after my divorce, and I learned you were from San Mateo, and that you were divorced, I said to myself I should marry that man –you of course, all  6’ 5” and to my 4’ 10” –I don’t know how well we would waltz together, but I am sure we would have fun.  I don’t even know if you love dancing. Just so you know I love to dance and laugh out loud, unapologetic.

I am inviting you to come to Jamaica and look for me; we’ll have lunch, hang out on the beach, talk, so I could get to know you. ( This is not a Stella Got her Groove back kind of thing.  I have never lost my groove, and I suspect neither have you).  I have this feeling that you might be the type of man friend I would enjoy having/have been seeking. Who knows, if you are not involved, we could be lovers?  I suspect with those wonderful lips of yours you are a good kisser.

So often we think about people, but we never share our thoughts, our good thoughts –did I say you are a talented actor—about them.  I am a fan, but this is not a fan letter.  This is just to say at this stage in my life I feel free to say what I feel/think publicly, but perhaps I always have as a writer, but too there has always been a sense of censorship – if I say this publicly folks are going to say that Opal is crazy, rather than  brave or open, or an exploring woman casting her net in the dazzle of the afternoon sun making diamond with the water.

Anyway, here’s to you Dennis Haysbert,  and happy to see you back on screen, not just for All State.  Just in case our paths don’t cross soon, I think it is important that you know how I have been undressing you, and cheering you on in your career and imagining what my hands would feel like clasps in yours.

Nuff Respect

P.S.  Also, I envisioned you playing Desmond Burton, the character in my novel, It Begins With Tears…Despite the title, it is a triumphant story about community and love and fear and jealousy, identity and belonging. You see we have business to discuss.

Walk Good,

Opal

Evidence of Abundance

Life is happening all around me and I am part of the flow, the change, the acceptance, the reaching for something else, the transIMG_8702forming to become winged.

The caterpillars are eating the Frangipani tree. They are so beautiful and the tree is almost stripped clean –all the leaves have been devoured.  I wonder what the tree says to the caterpillar? Do the caterpillars apologize, say they are partial to the leaves and purple flowers. I nibble at everything in sight.

IMG_8712 Down the road, the horses are horny.  As I begin my walk I watch them sniff each other then the males mounts the female until she shakes him off.

Returning from my walk, the mare is wallowing in the dirt, rolling around as if to dislodge something…The stallion is no where to be seen.  Often, after intercourse couples turn their backs to one another.

The bees love the Haita/Sea Hibiscus/Maho. IMG_8708The swarm it.  They have been frisky and lost, flitting everywhere, seemingly confused in search of the queen or a hive.  Death might be eminent as the pollens swirl in the wind and the petals fall to the ground. Love is like that sometime — it hits rock bottom then soars.  Figures!

There is so much abundance I swoon. The fruits ripen all at once.  We spent almost an hour sighting and picking belle apples.  The nease berries/mesple/sapodilla/chicle are in fruit.  The custard apples/coriazon are in the trees and the ackee branch is so weighted it broke.  Bats and birds prey and we do what we can to have enough and leave them some.

I pop 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 belle apples in my mouth. IMG_8733 I slice off the top and suck the seedy juice in my mouth.  I want their juice to lather my skin.

I want to run naked.

I want to fly away to India.

I want to stop wanting to make a contribution, and really contribute.

My mind finds the words then hold them in my mouth until they vanish, not saliva, not meaning, not fact just a promise that is coming…

Making International Women’s Day Personal

Every day we have to be conscious, every day we have to celebrate and broadcast the news about women, girls, people, those who have no platform from which to speak their needs.
I purposely did not post yesterday for International Women’s Day but my mind and heart were heavy thinking about the vast majority of women all over the world who don’t know of this day, and whose daily life is a toil, a real effort to have breath.
My heart feels constricted when I think about the vast exploitation of people, and in particular girls in the Congo in virtual slavery under the Chinese regime. I think of girls all over the African continent, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Asia and even in some parts of Europe who are not being educated, who are vulnerable to rape, forced marriage, random acts of violence both physically and emotionally.KenyagirlsDISA2015
I mourn that such beauty and vitality are being squashed every minute somewhere in the world, and that the contribution that these girls could make to improve our world will not be realized.
Celebrating International Women’s day means we have to broaden the focus so the issues that impact indigent and poor women in rural areas as well as urban areas are addressed with the same vigor and attention as issues of mainly white, middle-class women.
Yes, let’s celebrate International women’s day, and let each of us take a specific issue or geographic location and promote the welfare of women in that community.
Today I celebrate my 88 year old mother who is still my heroine, mother87and who showed me a lived example of helping others less fortunate, who fought to be herself in Jamaica at a time when dark shinned proud women were not even allowed to work in banks despite their qualification.  
I am fighting because that attitude still prevails today hence the wide-spread use of bleaching cream and artificial hair weaves  by women from the working class community in Jamaica in the hope  that being lighter with long hair, they will stand a chance, get ahead, and even be considered beautiful.
Every day we have to celebrate International Women’s Day until these beliefs and attitude are eradicated and women are not discriminated against based on their address, the color of their skin, the length of their hair, their sexual preference — their gender.
Celebrating International Women’s Day means all girls and women have true and real opportunities to be themselves, to love their own skins, and excel in whatever areas their passion soars.

Uncovering Haiti: A Photo Exploration

When I first visited Ayiti/Haiti,  exactly a year after  the 2010 devastating earthquake I did not know what to expect, but I was deeply moved by the indomitable spirit of the people, by the immense artistry and beauty that they created everywhere and by the care and loving attention they obviously invested in their children.orangegirlAdisa2015

But we never see or hear this portrayal of Ayiti in the media, and even less about the historical wanton exploitation of the land and resources and the people’s labor by Europeans, Americans and even neighboring Caribbean islands.  All our hands are a little dirty.

However, what we are most guilty of is our negligence of thought that continue to speak of Ayiti as the “poorest” country in the western hemispher, and negates its foundational wealth, its unstoppable creativity and its undaunting determination to continue and thrive. This collective spirit is evident in the children I saw everywhere — their clean, clear eyes, their open curiosity, their keen sense of responsibility for themselves and their siblings and their innate, open beauty that was as welcoming and heart-stirring as the most beautiful flower, which of course they are, and to my delight, I felt many of them knew this, was shown and taught this, despite their immediate circumstances.

As I was driving by, I photographed this little girl squatting by the road, in charge of the two bags to her right and left.  goldenshowergirlAdisa2015There was something golden about her manner, some assurance of belonging, some assurance that life was not going to simply use her up then sit her out. She was already installed on her throne, hence the color and texture that I employed in amending the photo.

At a vodun ceremony, I was arrested by this other girl, who was probably no more than six years old. blueyellowgirlAdis2015It was her gesture, finger to mouth, angle of her upright arm, bold intensity of her eyes that I wanted to share. I am here and must be counted, her presence spoke to me.  I am here and have something to share.  I am here and will not be forgotten.  I am here…See me!

See these children, really see them and see their island, and help them and their island to live the freedom they so daringly seized that others have been trying to pull from their hands. They are truly methaphysicians.  They see beyond the immediate into a future where real freedom is a lived reality.

This is part of a larger photo/poetic project, in progress, entitled, Still: Ayiti’s Resoluteness

 

 

The Camera’s Len

mr-intenseeyesI am a writer who takes photographs. I am a photographer who captures lives. Actually I am a recorder who interprets and transcribes all that I see. I am a seer, learning to see more. I am a projector. I am a futurist. I am a creator of reality.

 

This is a picture of a Jamaican man. I don’t remember where in Jamaica I snapped his photography nor the year. I did not ask him to pose for me. He was sitting talking and I think I did ask if I could take his photograph, but that might be after I took it because the moment you ask and bring awareness, then another face is shown. I want to capture the raw, un-posed; the moment – unmasked, vulnerable and even intense.

mr-intenseinvertadisaThis is what I saw or perhaps this is what I projected. I have tampered with this image as all artists tamper/alter/amend images. I do this through photo-shop, the way I use light — adding or darkening– the way I crop the image to create an effect I want, and the other ways I apply filters and other methods to alter the image, as in inverting.

 

I was taken with his eyes; I think I somewhat believe the eyes are the mirror to one’s soul – whatever we think that to be. I was drawn to his entire presence, solid, stocky, a man who speaks his mind, I believe. A man who insists on being listened to, a man who draws an audience. A man who might be pushed to hit his woman or perhaps not. He might be a push over, only wants to feel her back pushed up against his chest.

mr-intenseeyesmadisaBut now he is my man; I get to show him off the way I want him seen; I get to tell the story I give him or extract from him or impose on him. He is mine – My Mister Intense.

Living Your Life

img_7340I see this every day, and every day it is new.  I make sure every day I enjoy nature.  I make sure every day I do what I love.  I make sure I enjoy my life.

There are many people who admire me.  There are some people who envy my life. And there are the odds ones who despise me or think I am arrogant. I do not place stock in any of these sentiments.  I live my life.

There is truly apart of me that do not understand why so many grown people are not living their life.  Why are they still trapped in jobs, relationships, a specific place/location that they resent, feel unloved or yearn for a different environment?

What are you allowing to stop you from living your life? I realize that since I was twenty years old, and graduated from college I have been living my life. I have not allowed the unknown or fear or lack of resources to stop me. I have never stayed in a job beyond a year that I did not like nor a home. Not even three children and single-parenting stopped me, although it slowed me down for a minute.

I do believe attitude is everything, and I have been and remain and idealist, an optimist, a believer in our innate good, our ability to transform our lives, our resilience to push through, to find and celebrate love in all we do, and to make a difference wherever we find ourselves in the world.

What projects aka dreams have you been sitting on, stuffing under a pile of false obligations, waiting until the right time or when you retire or your ship comes in. Your ship has been at the dock so get off the boat and enjoy the new landscape.  Splurge! Celebrate! img_7315 Just do it.  Do it, and before you know it, every morning will be joyous and you will find that you are living your life — taking your daily walks on the beach or some place else, having a soothing cup of dandelion tea, enjoying  a boiled egg with cucumbers, meditating in your tea-house, reading, writing, lounging, having an afternoon swim, conducting interviews of amazing people, speaking to your children via social media, steaming fresh fish for dinner with pumpkin and kale, reflecting on the sunset, going to a movie, holding hands, being, living your life, living you.

Having What You Want

img_5958Do you really want to have what you want?

Do you even know what you want and not what the media or your neighbors or even your parents and what others tell you that that is what you should want?

Do you daily see yourself having what you want?

Do you have love and share love freely and daily with everyone you encounter?
Are you thankful for what you currently have?

Do you complain and put others down?

Do you envy or celebrate other’s accomplishments?

Does your joy and happiness feed others?
Do you marvel at the sun, moon, the people you see, the animals around you?

Do you spend quiet time reflecting on your life?

Do you eat what is right for your body because you have checked in with your body and not what is trending?

Do you exercise so you limbs and joints can rejoice at their power?

Do you keep all promises your make, regardless of how small or large?
Do you just speak thoughtlessly, saying all the things you can do, or are going to do, but forgetting the moment the words are out of your mouth?

Do you truly value yourself, thank your mind, your spirit, your heart, your body for contributing positively to life?

Do you feel connected to others, and are you willing to work with others for the greater good?

Do you feel empowered and that you, and you alone can single-handedly make a difference for someone other than yourself.

Are you willing to grow and change, when necessary, an out-dated idea, belief, action, way of being?

What are you thankful?  To whom are you thankful?  To whom are you accountable?

Who helps you to grow outside and beyond yourself?

Can you measure or demonstrate ways you have changed and grown in the last year, in the last two years, in the last five years?

Who have you helped lately, and in what way was the help tangible?

Having reflected on all of the above, go in peace, be peace and share your divine peaceimg_5945 with others.

Walk Good

 

2 Faces or 1

opal87The poem asks who is this child woman and where has she gone? Does her poems still grow in sun-flowers? Does she still dance in the rain?  How has she faced the disappointments and with whom does she celebrate the successes?

opal2016The poems asks who is this other woman?  Where did she come from and why does she have the eyes of the woman above? Are her poems still soaked in dreams submerged in molasses? Does she still hide among the tall grasses and interpret the shapes of clouds?
Are her songs still melodious and do birds sing her awake?

The poem really wants to know who are these faces and where do their truths intersect?

If poetry is the only truth and life is a lie where flows the water of our legacy?

My Mother Makes Things

My Mother still has beautiful hands, but they give her the most trouble.  She laments that she has difficulty raising her arms above her head, she laments that her fingers ache and swell, she laments that she has difficult grasping things.

She is thankful that she can still use them to take care of herself, dress, go to the bathroom, even though it takes long.

I can’t imagine my mother not being able to use her hands.  When I were a child her hands were never still.  She could fix things around the house, the electrical iron, a bench needing a nail to stabilize it.  She basked and every Saturday I lived for her sweet potato puddings, coconut cookies, cinnamon role. She was the best cook, and as a result was asked to cater for the cricket teams, but I couldn’t get enough of her stew peas and rice and pepper-pot soup.

There is nothing that my mother couldn’t and didn’t grow.  Everyone said she had a green thumb, African violets, gerbas, banana trees, all kind of fruits.  She also had healing fingers.  When the chickens had yaws she would rub aloe vera mixed with something else on them.  If the dogs got in a fight during the night with the other neighborhood dogs, she would dress and bandage their ears.  When I got chicken pox, she filled a great aluminum basin with water and tamarind leaf, which she boiled, then bathed me in the water to soothe my itching.

She made some of our clothes that many thought were store bought. She made curtains for our windows, crocheted doilies for the tables and dressers; she embroidered patterns on our pillow cases and our initials on our hand-kerchiefs; she knitted tops, she made beautiful needle point wall decoration, she churned ice-creams, made wine from local fruits, juices, various concoctions, all with her hands. Her needlepoints graced our walls.