Tag Archives: poetry

Stepping into Glory

I step into the glory

that is this day

sending my breath into the air

feeling the breeze breathing me

the flapping of the birds’ wings

as they flit from almond to ackee tree

the purple budding of the bell-apple

the wet fragrance of dew

this morning

clean and expectant as new life

as guileless as leaves

as proud as soil

as welcoming as an idea

not yet formed

now is indeed the time

to cast your net of expectation

now is indeed the time

to laugh and enjoy all your blessings

now is indeed the time

to bask in what is

knowing there is even more

and better around the bend

A New Green Dress

the almond tree that houses

my meditation tea house

has decided that she wants

a new green dress

and I’m okay with that

as a woman

i understand the desire

to change things up

flaunt what’s left of

your beauty

see if heads still turn

when you walk down the street

but this woman is messy

instead of just giving away or

tossing the old dress

she has been for the past week

cutting it up into small pieces

as if to say I am done with you

but since you did look good on

me once

me go tek me time

and peel you away

–red firy leaf after leaf

strewn all over the floor

and ground–

so you remember me

daily as I sweep

these bits of her former self

i nod in salutation

and  me tell her

girl me see yuh

and me overstand

how as women age

we have fi go on bad

to get just a little

attention

but she nah listen to me

so me sweep

so she toss

another bit of her old dress

this gifted day

simple pleasures

coconut water

freshly cut by

the man who loves me

waking to the sea and the trees

painting the door blue

catching up with a friend

had not heard from in years

his lips brushing mine

sitting at my desk

listening to the breeze sashaying

flirting with trees and

tossing leaves into the air

the fragrance of sweet peppers

pungent but not hot

coconut meat firm and crunchy

door wide open

leaves blow in

he eats his salad

i drink my smoothie

we are

home

Re-looking at an Old Poem: “Madness Disguises Sanity.”

Madness Disguises Sanity

Sometimes

I mutter

as I walk

people

stare and pass by

on the far side
To be one

of those

desolate men

who lounge on

stink alleyways

forever talking

to the wind

their words

bullets

people shy from
But I am woman

conditioned

to nurse

my scream

like a mute child
So I write

(From Tamarind and Mango Women, (Sister Vision Press),1992. This collection is the winner of the Pen/Josephine Milles Award 1992.)

As a writer, it is always an honor when someone says they have read my work, and like it – thus far no one has said to my face that they don’t like my work. But it is a profound distinction to know that my work is being used in schools and that students and scholars are interrogating the work, deconstructing it to decipher its meaning. A few months ago students from Cronton College in north west England contacted me via email to say they were studying my poem for A2 level exam. I was indeed thrilled, but also too busy with teaching to give their request full attention. However, what it forced me to do was to reread the above poem, that is almost thirty years old, and relive the writing of it. Quite frankly, I did not remember the poem or even in which collection it could be found, but I found it online. Reviewing the students’ questions forced me to travel back in time.

Rereading the poem, I am proud of it, and believe it stands up to the test of time; it is still relevant, and accurately captures a moment. However, it goes further by using that moment to make commentary on a larger issue –that is how some women feel silenced by patriarchal structures that restricts their need to speak, out on a variety of issues, and as a result label them mad.

The persona of the poem, in the voice of the poet, says that writing offers a safe space for her (should be read as women) to express and share all the things –social and political issues- that skips around in her head.  Writing is a safety net, and an appropriate outlet; it provides a fence behind which women can speak out about issues without being carted off to the insane asylum.

These questions are by
Natasha Mercer, Georgia Hill and Emily Blunden
(All members of our A-level performance group)

What was the inspiration for the poem?

The poem was inspired one morning, long, long ago while living in Oakland Ca.  I was jogging around Lake Merritt, near where I lived, and encountered a homeless man sleeping in a doorway in one of the buildings in that area.  He was clearly experiencing some emotional challenges and was shouting, gesticulating and cursing at people, whomever, passed by. He was so vociferous, and seemingly so self-righteous, and in that moment I thought to myself, such freedom from social decorum.

Whatever was bothering the homeless man he was getting off his chest, and because of his social standing or lack thereof, his behavior was “acceptable.” I paused from my jogging, and stood watching and listening to him, and it is from that observation that the poem came. Also, I was in graduate school at the time and troubled by the Euro-male scholars that were standard part of the curriculum, acceptable masters of theory. There was a glowing absence of women, and certainly Afro-Caribbean women, such as myself, were non-existent. Seeing the homeless man, I thought to myself, he might be considered mad, but there was s level of sanity in his freedom and ability to shout out his pain, to cry out loudly to the world, I have been wronged.  To be able to do so, is in my estimation, the greatest form of sanity, but if I were to rant like that in school about the theories that obfuscate my existence and that of my people, it would be said I had a psychotic break and need psychological treatment. The irony of course, is that by seemingly holding it together, I was forced to swallow my pain in order “to make it.”

All these thoughts were swimming inside my head, which lead to the creation of the poem. Because I had gone jogging, I had nothing on which to write, so I had to keep repeating lines of the poem on my jog home, and upon arriving home, I sat to write without even pausing to quench my thirst by drinking a glass of water. The poem went through four drafts after that first initial inspiration. I kept cutting back, trimming down, as I wanted it to be concise and not didactic.

Why did you choose the title Madness Disguises Sanity?

I do believe sometimes, the pressures in the society to confirm, to be proper is cancerous, forces us to swallow a lot of pain, but if one is deemed mad then one is allowed the freedom to rant and rave. Yet, if one listens, if one over looks the seeming madness, then one can’t help but hear the truth of the complaint. The idea behind this title is, what if we could wear madness like a mask that we put on when we want to speak out about an issue, unconventional or controversial, or our own personal truth that might be deemed unacceptable. I think often we use the label madness when we don’t want to hear people’s truth that might challenge our foundation.

What are the main themes of the poem?

Social norms, being preoccupied with ideas that one needs to express; the plight of homeless people, and women’s need to have safe spaces to express their ideas and be heard without being castigated.

What message (if any) did you want to create when writing the poem?

The primary message is to slow down and listen to each other, be open to new ideas, be less quick to judge someone as crazy or mad because s/he expresses a different opinion. A woman’s need to communicate, to feel as if there is a safe space to share her opinions.

I believe that the poem reveals roles in society. How far do you agree with my interpretation and do you have any comment on it?

Yes, the poem does interrogates roles and what is considered acceptable behavior within those roles, and what are the consequences for breaking those roles — the labels that get assigned to us, and how easy it is to use labels to dismiss and silence indigent members of our community.

I am very grateful that “Madness Disguises Sanity,” is getting a new life and that students have found this poem. My life long goal for my work is that it will be taught and performed throughout the world, and every piece will serve as an opportunity for dialogue.