Category Archives: Creative Non-Fiction

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.




Put on Lipstick

FullSizeRender (2)I just put on luscious plum, one of my favorite colors, that accentuates my lips.

I love my lips, their perfect fullness and shape. I mostly wear dark colors, and I don’t spend a lot of money on lipsticks, but I have one in every purse, and I almost never go out without adorning my lips, for moisture, but also for appeal.

Men have always complimented my lips, all my lips, say I have kissing lips.

FullSizeRender (1)A few years ago while in the bank, one of those old fashion, charming Caribbean men that can talk you to step out of your underwear, even in a bank, I did not, started to chat me up, he said, “Darling, your lips so lovely if I had them I would be wealthy and own this bank, and I know if I were to kiss them I would be transported to heaven.” Talk about sweet talk. I must admit I smiled, even blushed – he was so into talking me up, saying he could spend more than a year just on a lips before his eyes adore my neck and the rest of my body. It made my day, and writing it now makes me smile.


When I was twenty-one years old another Caribbean man did adore my lips, while in a working meeting, that resulted in him getting into my pants, and the attention he paid to my lips during the course of our flirtation was divinely satisfying, running his fingers and tongues… okay enough.

This is actually about writing. I have lots of writing projects that need my attention –completing the edits on my forthcoming short story collection, Love’s Promise, proofing galleys on my children’s books, Look, Moko Jumbie!, drafting and editing interviews, completing a play, poems about my father, a daily guide, lots to do and this morning I woke up ready to go, but the words were reticent so I had to put on lipstick.

I discovered over three decades ago that there are times I need to put on lipsticks to initiate the writing process. It doesn’t matter if I have washed my face or bathed, or if I am in pajamas or wearing a sarong, if my lips are pretty, then I am ready to write.

The writing process of a writer is often idiosyncratic, and depending on what I am writing I need different things, a lit candle (the color and scent are important), a cup of tea, fresh flowers on my desk, always being able to see outside –trees, water, sounds-, walking around the house, taking a break to sit on the patio and visualize a scene, doing what is necessary to do the writing, which I love.

FullSizeRender (3)This morning my lips shouted, girl, adore me. So I went through my pouch of lipsticks and tried on several different shades. My lips are ecstatic!   They love the flavor and of plum… They feel loved. They are vain and admire themselves. They can feel a tongue tracing them. They remember the pleasure of being sucked into a mouth. Now I am ready to write what I need to write!

Bees Everywhere: Another Dream

I am sitting in my garden surrounded by a swarm of bees that are busy pollinating and not the least bit concerned about me. The colors are vibrant, it is a glorious day and I am feeling very much alive.

“A swarm of bees means happiness,” says the online dream book. Bring it on, I say.

When I was a little girl, I was called and thought of as a tom-boy because I had little to no interest in playing with dolls and sitting with my ankles crossed. I hung with the boys who were always going, playing antics, hurling themselves off buildings, getting into trouble. One of the troubles we got into involved our obsession in stoning beehives or using sticks to poke them, then running, hoping to out run them without getting stung.

Well this day we were not so lucky. William, Trevor and I discovered several bee hives at a neighbor’s house and we went and got long sticks to poke them. They were not pleased about our disturbance and came at us with great fury. William got stung on the face four times, which was swollen for almost a week, making him look like a monster. Trevor got stung so badly on his arm, he had to be taken to the doctor. I got stung on both buttocks, of all places and for a long time, whenever I sat it hurt. My mother was at work so the helper, alternated between rubbing the stings with crushed garlic and sliced onions. When Mommy came home she crushed guava leaves and rubbed the swollen area, then just before I went to bed she put baking soda paste on the swells and I slept on my stomach.

Bees pollinate a third of everything we eat and play a vital role in sustaining the planet’s ecosystems. Some 84% of the crops grown for human consumption – around 400 different types of plants – need bees and other insects to pollinate them to increase their yields and quality.

That was the first time I remember being stung, but certainly not the last time. Throughout my childhood I got stung, mostly by wasps, several times. I loved sugar cane, freshly cut, using my strong teeth to pull off the hard skin. During crop season the bees feasted on sugar cane. During mango season, the bees feasted on mangoes. Anything sweet, which was the sum total of all the things I loved, the bees feasted. I did not consider them friends. I did not know about the important job they performed. But I knew that they loved the same things I loved, including their byproduct, honey.

Swarming bees mean richness, gain and luck in many of the things you do. Seeing flying bees could mean troubles, but if the bees are flying around you, this foretells happiness, luck in love, and overcoming your difficulties.

Earlier this year, while putting out the garbage, I was stung by a bee. It was so unexpected. I managed to remove the sting with my fingernail but it still hurt and my upper arm was swollen for several days. I was upset with the bees because I have a deep appreciation and respect for them, and for years I have been making sure to plant flowers that they love. I know they are vital to our existence so I do my part to help them multiply. I always have sun-flowers, fennel and daisies in my garden.

To dream about humming bees in the process of collecting nectar is a sign of hope and promise. This could be a favorable time for your career, project or business to flourish because you would have better opportunities and more resources at your disposal than ever before. Success could be within reach.

There are sun-flowers blooming in my garden, my crotons are vibrant, my other succulents are pulsating, my herbs are thriving so when I dreamed that I was sitting happily in my garden in the midst of a swarm of bees, I was not surprised.

I am embarking on several new projects that have been incubating for over a decade, foremost of which is my children’s journal, Ay-Ay: Junior Caribbean Writer.

May the bees continue to ensure our food supply and indeed be a sign of my success in these ventures of love and career.images


A Lioness in My Study: My Dream

ilionessAdisa2015KAs I drove into my driveway I observed two, maybe three lioness, backs to me, feasting on a large animal. They were on a knoll on my property and, they were so engaging especially against the backdrop of the sun that was about to set.

I wanted to capture them so decided to go inside my study to get my camera.  I though what an amazing image!  I must share it with others.

I was neither afraid, nor did I think it odd that I live in St Croix where no lioness roam freely, and certainly not on my property. Nor did I think I should call someone for help. I mean, after all there were three lionesses on my property.

Calmly, with no sense of rush or panic I went inside to retrieve my camera, and somehow got distracted.  After a while, with camera dangling from my hand, I became aware that I was being observed. I looked towards my office door and there before me was the largest lioness and most beautiful creature I had ever seen.  Her head took up the entire width of my office door, and her eyes were gentle and comforting. I remember saying to myself, should I talk to her or should I hide? I sensed she was about to enter, and I quietly entered the inner camber of my room and watched as she used her paws and opened the door.

Should I photograph her or call for help, I thought.  I was sure she was not here to harm me.  In fact, I am certain she was harmless and only wanted to talk with me. I was awed by her largeness, beauty and gentleness.

That is the dream.

Backtrack to last July when I visited Kenya for the second time and went on a Safari.  It was a cold early morning; we left about 5 am as we were told the earlier we went, the more likely we were to see an abundance of animals, especially lions.  Although we had on sweater and jeans, July in Kenya is winter and can be very cold. In the pop-up roof jeep we were freezing, but thankfully our driver had blankets for us to drape ourselves. Among the numerous animals we saw, and I photographed were these lions, who were less than 20 feet away from us.  They did not appear to be ferocious killers.  They were having a normal day and we were, if anything, annoying, trying to get close to photograph them.

Of course, the lion has gained its killer reputation from experience, and I am sure if they were hungry and we stepped out of the jeep, they might have just decided to sample us for a meal.  But I have never feared them, and still don’t as my limited experience with them, including in dreams has always been one of spirit guides.

There are many interpretations that dream guides offer, so I have selected that which seems most fitting for my dream, and where I believe I am currently in my life.

Pride: Lions live in prides, and in dreams a lion can often mean pride. Is there anything in your waking life you are proud of?


Control/Power/Leadership: Lions often also known as the “king of the jungle” can also be a great symbol of control, power, and leadership.

 Strength: A lion in your dreams can symbolize your own strength. Strength can be physical, but often is emotional in our dreams.
If in a dream you see the sunset, it portends that soon you will finish your important work and you will start a completely different life.

I am so grateful for the lionesses that visited me and I pray they will continue to guide me as I embark on this new path.



Go Out on Your Own – Take the Step

This morning, I declared aloud to myself and the birds and lizards who were near by that I absolutely do not want to work for anyone any more, ever, and truly, I don’t understand why I have taken so long to arrive at this realization.


I have been afraid. There. I have said it. Working for someone else meant there were many things I didn’t have to worry about, but it also meant there were many things I wanted to make happen and could not within the confines of someone else’s agenda. I have always known this, but kept trying, working hard and negotiating. Once I decided I had a bottom line, that this was absolutely what I would accept, and nothing less, the fear fell away. Truthfully, the fear remained, but I ignored it. I am worthy and my projects, regardless of how impractical they might appear to someone else, are important and that is where and only where I want to place my energy at this time. On self, me, my work, my ideas, my dreams, my ability.

While from very young we are socialized, especially in the school system, to work within established governments, institutions and/or private businesses, the great majority of us forget that all of these structures were created by someone else. We too can create what we want. I have spent almost forty years in service to others, helping them to shape and grow their business, and trying to get them to include some small portion of my dream into their frame-work. I thought that was the logical route, and for many it might be, but it is no longer applicable to me. I want and deserve more. I am capable of so much more.

Well the flowers bowed down and the clouds applaud me today because I am sure. Today I am confident. Today I say yes to Opal. Yes to my dreams. Yes to my university. Yes to my books, yes to my plays, yes to Opal. I will honor and reward myself. I will carve out a place for who I am and what I want to create for myself and others to come forth, knowing that I am capable, knowing that the support I need is already at hand, knowing that it is all divine and I am finally ready to be my best yet self.

I remember distinctly coaching my children not to seek jobs as adults but to create their own work reality and make that work for them. I am so delighted because I think all three of them have someone been on this path.

I urge you to start living and investing all your time into making your dream happen.

Go on and take the step. Everything that exist now, and that will ever exist began with one person saying yes to their truth and reality, then building a team. If you know that you have many ideas, and you are always trying to get others to buy into them, you need to branch out, run with the wind…Yes you might get swept off course, your might get blown to the ground, but you also might be lifted off the ground and experience a vantage point you did not know existed. It is time to love your dream. It is time to soar. It is time to create something from a kernel that shelters a mountain.

I am taking off. Join me and become part of my team, until you find that your dream is bigger than mine and needs its own university. Ase.

Prolonged Pregnancy: Carrying a Story for A Year

I have been pregnant for the last fourteen years, and I am still carrying the life that remains curled in my womb, in my head, refusing to be born. And there is no doctor who can give me prostaglandins to induce birth so that my cervix will dilate and open up so I can push the story out. There is no doctor to lay me on the delivery table and probe between my legs with a forceps and pull out this story, nor am I eligible for a scheduled c-section to deliver this story while I am out unaware. It is a lie that elephants have the longest gestation period: 95 weeks, which makes a year, eight months and a week…. right, whatever!

I have been pregnant with this story for fourteen years, for fourteen years I have been carrying this man, who ever so often tugs at me, but still refuses to be born. I thought I had aborted him, rinsed him from my thoughts, decided there wasn’t a story there after all. Done. Moved on to the next poem and story, and I have written many since his first appearance. Then a few years later he appeared again, for a little while and I thought I miscarried him, a probing sadness that he came and went without turning into a real life, that I could carry around and show off, and say isn’t he cute, doesn’t he look like his other brothers and sisters, doesn’t he have my cheek bones, eyes…?

I recovered from his loss, and moved on, birthed other children who did not cling to my womb refusing the life that I was so willingly granting. They choose to be born and were named and published and thereby got to share their lives with others. And still others fought for place in my womb, racing frantically in this 40 million sperm marathon, most never lasting long enough to reach the uterus, make it to the oviduct, and still further up the oviduct where the egg is located, and then the road is still uphill from there, to break down the walls of the cumulus oophrous, all fighting more frantic and more eagerly, but only one, at least one at a time will fertilize my egg, and I will sit with loving patience and listen to and write their story. Well that is the way things are supposed to happen, but somehow this man won the sperm marathon, got inside my womb and stay glued to its walls, comfortable, contented, just hanging out, allowing many who came long after him to be born.

And here he comes, peeping out, spreading my legs wide on the Bart train (although still not ready to be born), just last night as I was returning home from the birthday party of my poet friend Nellie Wong, with the most outlandish opening if there ever was one. I should have known he was special since when he first came to me he was sitting in his living room building his coffin. And I told him I just could not have that, and his feeling were hurt and he went away. Then he came back a few years later and had a woman friend, although he was still building his coffin. I told him that I might be able to work with that – every one deserves a life and who am I to say to this man, you shouldn’t be building your coffin and courting a woman at the same time. And since she was cool with it, I said , okay I will give you a chance. But then he didn’t know what to do with this woman, and she wasn’t so sure if she should avail herself since when he invited her over, the coffin was in the living room like the proverbial white elephant in the room, except she really could deal more easily with a white elephant, any elephant even a herd, rather than the coffin. She just sat there ever so often glancing at it, hoping he wasn’t planning to kill her and put her in it, as they sipped rum and coke. Nothing happened, so I assumed, erroneously, that he just up and died and slipped from my womb while I was asleep and unaware.

Fast forward to last night on the Bart train and he appears in my head as clear and familiar as if it was yesterday, vexed that he came home, and this woman who it turns out he has only been seeing for a little over three moths he gave the key to his house and he returned to find her asleep in his coffin. At first he thought she was dead and was wondering how he was going to explain that to the cops, but then he realized she was asleep. Imagine my astonishment at these two people who have now taken up residence inside my head and have been carrying on.

I am sick of him, and because he still is not born, he has no name, so I can’t even shout, “Hey Delroy! or hey Jimmy or Sambu! Stop that and get out my womb! I have carried you long enough!” He pouts and tells me that is not his name, and to leave him be. You see my crosses. What can I do? It has been fourteen long years that he first came to me, and I hope now he is ready, but I don’t think he is a short story as I had hoped, I think now because he has been with me such a long time, he thinks he deserves a novel. I don’t know. I tell him I will see, but he cannot move as slowly as he has been these last fourteen years, we are both getting on with age and need to just decide.

That fact is, like me, I have known other writers who have been carrying a story with them for a lifetime, or at least for years. The average novel takes two years to be born, and this is true even of male writers, so again writers belie scientific evidence and data collectors who neglect to document these births of ours, often long and arduous– as we do give birth to stories and poems. As for women writers we never approach menopause, in fact we are often more prolific having multiple births as we approach that period.


 Coming Next: 10 Reasons To Be A Writer

Send your questions about writing to Opal and she will do her best to answer your queries.


While I understand the impetus behind the above question, I must admit, having been asked it so often, I want to just fold my arms and turn my back in sheer vexation, but I don’t. I grit my teeth, breathe, smile then offer some shortened version of what is really a simple, but complex explanation about the voyage of poetry and the arduous and even hazardous steps that make one better. Of course it begs the question, better than now or then, better than X , Y or Z, or better at using words, or better at exploring a topic, or better at imagery, or just a better poet.

That is the dream of every poet, to be better than he/she already is. I think Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott probably would concur. Maybe even Pablo Neruda, and his teacher/mentor Gabriela Mistral. I think Octavio Paz wanted to be a better poet, as did Gwendolyn Brooks, and of course so did Miss Lou, the great Louise Bennett. I am still searching to know and discover how I can become a better poet as I am not yet the poet I want to be or think I can be, nor will I be as better as I want to be, maybe not even before I die.

The problem is with the question, is that the phrasing has an erroneous premise — which implies that there is a magical formula that makes one a better poet; or if I think Mervyn Morris is a better poet than I am, then whatever works for him that makes him a better poet, might also work for me. But the fact is while some might consider Mervyn a better poet than I, there are those who might consider me a better poet than he. Maybe we should stop comparing guinep to jackfruit. When one asks this question what is it that the person really wants to know? Truly, I don’t remember ever asking this question, but my memory sometimes lapses.

A better poet always self promotes, so I want to reference myself, and invite potential askers of this question to consult my collection, Eros Muse: poems & essays, (Africa World Press, 2006), and specifically, “When the Poem Kisses You,” which is a letter to an emerging poet, resulting from my teaching life, and also my version of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, whom I am certain wanted to be a better poet himself. Although the essay is not prescriptive, nor does it specifically answer the above, it does, I believe, speak to some important elements of this writerly life of a poet.

The letter begins, and I quote myself, “When the poem kisses you, there is no need to ask what it means. Just accept it as a gift.” A better poet is someone who is open to being kissed by a poem, and does not question the gift, by feigning such trite response such as, “Oh you shouldn’t have.” Or “that’s so thoughtful of you;” or even worse, “I just don’t feel I deserve this!” A better poet readily kisses back the poem, and insists that the kissing continues as long as is possible until there is the need to come up for air. Bottom line. A better poet wants to write great poems all the time. But a better poet does not want to write great poems that is like that of another poet’s, regardless of whether or not that person is famous. A better poet has her own voice. A better poet knows it is practically suicidal to compare herself to anyone else. A better poet daily goes about doing her work –which is to write her truths in the strongest and clearest way that she discovers– to become better. Period.

In the above-mentioned letter to an emerging poet, I invite the would-be poet to become intimate with the three P’s: patience, persistency and perseverance. This is the only formula I know, and it has worked for me. A better poet understands that under no circumstances, should a poem be rushed. A poem is not a woman in labor. A poem is a Yogi, sitting on a mountain, with fog wafting as gauze while he ponders his third eye. A better poet sits with the idea, allows it to take shape until it levitates, then ever so gently, the poet grasps the poem, firmly, every so affectionately, until they become one, then the poem becomes its own essence and of necessity leaves the poet.

The other two p’s, persistency and perseverance, are dispositions that any better or wanting to be better poet must become very familiar with. To aspire to be a better poet demands complete intimacy with these two fellows, the former of whom can be annoying to even the most agreeable person, and the latter, although often admired for unyielding determination, has limited number of friends. But a better poet does not take her/his cue from others; a better poet understands that the work of a poet is never done. There is no finish line that you can speed past, setting a world record and garnering a gold medal. A better poet will not get the endorsements nor have the entire island come out to welcome you home like Usain Bolt. A better poet is lucky if she is even allowed to come back home so she doesn’t expect anyone to meet her at the airport.

But what makes a better poet, better than any superstar and why I so admire your desire to become a better poet, is that a better poet will take the time to validate by recording what she thinks, feels and knows; a better poet, by descending into imagination, ascends to give language to her idea, and is often willing to share her poem, even in its imperfection, in hopes that someone else might catch a hold of the light and bring it close to their heart to warm and brighten their life.

I am thankful that Keorapetse Kgositsile, South African poet Laureate, whom I met in New York in the 70s when I was taking tentative steps in this area, and whom I had the pleasure of hearing read last March at the National Black Writers Conference in New York, 2013 (and where I was one of the invited poets) wants to be a better poet; I am thankful that Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan poet and priest, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing read at the Annual Poetry Festival in Granada, Nicarague, 2012, (where I was one of the invited poets), wants to be a better poet. I feel so fortunate that Jayne Cortez, whose poetry I admire, and who recently died, wanted to be a better poet, and I am grateful that I know and have read with Sonia Sanchez, who inspired me to walk this path, and who still strives and wants to be a better poet. Wanting to be a better poet is perennial.