The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Caribbean Writing Today

Posted on: February 16, 2007

Here is a sample issue from Caribbean Writing Today, an “online literary magazine” that I read about at Philp’s Blog spot. It’s good going so far. Mary Hanna’s review of Sharon Leach’s short story collection piqued my interest. I sighed at first because it wasn’t a novel but further elaboration on the theme and how it developed converted me. I thought of adding it to the other books to be ordered today but What You Can’t Tell Him is not available on Amazon and I can’t find any trace of her publisher (StarApple) on the net. We do get a story excerpt of hers:

There is a click and the air conditioner groans to life. The room is spacious: one of the larger beachfront ones with bay windows and ceramic tiled floors that the richer tourists prefer. It is identically furnished like the other rooms along this stretch, with rattan chairs, a mahogany chest-of-drawers and a TV. In the centre of the room is a low glass table on which sits an old orange juice carton containing a beautiful bougainvillea bouquet. Each of these rooms comes with an outside terrace with a nice view of the sea. Once, when my younger sister Celine spent the day with me while I did my rounds, we locked ourselves in one of the rooms that were unoccupied, for a few hours. We had stripped down to our underwear and lain on the bed, eating insipid leftovers from a plate we had stolen from a tray at the door of one of the other occupied rooms, watching TV and letting the air conditioner blast us until our skins were ashy. At the end of the time, we had stared at each other and burst out laughing. We were soon sobbing with laughter. ‘This is it?’ Celine had gasped finally, wiping her eyes. ‘Air conditioning and TV? Rich people really fool-fool!’

I had laughed but deep down I wanted to be one of those people who could afford silly holidays and hotel rooms. I saw their possessions carelessly lying about when I cleaned their rooms: Compact Disc players, video cameras, those little computer gadgets that played music; the things I would never ever be able to afford. And I would do anything for that life.

Now Peter is suddenly in front of Denise and me. He is mostly lean although he has the beginning of a beer belly. He is tan with limp, thinning hair the colour of wet sand, which he keeps always in a ponytail beneath his cowboy hats. Today he is bareheaded and his wet hair, splayed about his shoulders like octopus tentacles, reveals a balding pink head.

‘Mr. Peter,’ I say quietly, my fingers playing with the hem of my cotton candy pink maid’s uniform. I can see a fish in his tight swim trunks. I turn my eyes away. ‘Su-gah,’ he says in the slow way that I imitate in the mirror sometimes. He pats his stomach and makes a sucking noise between his teeth. ‘You’re a naughty girl. I told you, it’s Peter and Denise. And we’re still waiting for your answer.’

I glance over at Denise, who’s bobbing her head and looking expectantly at me. ‘We’re offering good money here,’ Peter continues in the voice that makes the blood sing in my ears. ‘I know I don’t have to tell you how much Uncle Sam means around here.’

For Poetry Friday you get Edward Baugh, a Jamaican poet and literary scholar whose work I have never read before. I chose his “The Dark Hole in the Garden”, firstly because of the rhythm. I liked the use of the period at the end of the very first line, that already provides a sense of completion, of something significant captured and properly conveyed. The first stanza’s flow is a lot easier than in the second, effectively portraying the tension of the latter, the grimness of that image of the black void. That image stuck with me too that black void that could mean so many things to different people.

The Dark Hole in the Garden

We visit our newly widowed friend.
Just like other times – the familiar
patio overlooking the garden he planted,
his handiwork, his joy, it flowers bright
praise in the Sunday morning sunlight.
We enjoy our usual good spirits,
gin and tonic, Scotch on the rocks.
He never touched the hard stuff,
we chuckle, making cool, playing the bluff.

But there’s this dark hole in the garden.
Our talk steps precariously round it,
camouflages it with colour. Sometimes we forget
it is there. Hardest to endure
is the feeling no one dares utter:
that, any moment now, he will walk through the door.

Edward Baugh


4 Responses to "Caribbean Writing Today"

What a talented poet. I love hearing poetry from different cultures

I’m glad I got to introduce you to something new, Jen.

I saw your post mention “Caribbean Writing” and my mind immediately went to my copy of Jamaica Kincaid’s At the Bottom of the River that I’ve had for years. I had been thinking about re-reading it, and your post brought that back to the surface. Thank you! 🙂

You’re welcome! I haven’t read any of Kincaid’s novel’s besides Annie John and that was ages ago. Be sure to blog about what you think of it.

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