Besson Street, 1941

I.

Uneasy, you embrace the futility
of your gift, lauded over cheap wine,
remnants of cork settling
at the base of your chalice in whispers.
You have fallen into disrepair, old friend –

look, how your face has cracked into a barricade
of moods that mimic expression, saliva dangling from your parched
and parted lips like a hangman’s noose,
silvery executioner, your tongue’s reproach –

you are a word that has lost its place in our language.
There are cobwebs in your laughter,
woodslaves keep muted company with you,
biding, for evenings when you attend the unsent
letter to him,

its roots laid in a tapestry of longing
spread wide, beneath the clothes and camphor.
Soft candle.
Needles.
Pictures.

II.

Now you are the armoire of your childhood,
reluctant mahogany
keeper of your mother’s china covered
in Besson Street dust like myth,
where you remain a shrine unto yourself,

not three miles from the sea,
where you vary the tune of your appeals and
masquerade your begging for life,
like seasons impatient,
to end.

Children walk by your house, necks
half-cocked, staring past jalousies to
see you brood and hum in the darkness that held
those windows in place through
your centuries inside them.

Slanted by the irreverence
of their fathers who knew you,
they summon at the nearest corner
like jackals, who plot
your death without conversation.

Had they known of your surrender or
heard you were dead, that they show such interest
in your whereabouts and seek your corpse for evidence,
egos garnered from the staggered moments
it took to half-strip you with rumor,
that they turn to hounds and loiter for scraps?

But you will be more than effigy,
hidden woman – it is possible for you
to drag about this haunt and be the absent
history for this place you have loved out of habit.

III.

You have loved these battered ramparts,
this roof has been a sieve for day’s light and
odd rains to leave their dregs with you.
Splinters and nails utter
your greater defeats in elegy, with vigilance.

Rippled, galvanized rust, rotting poinsetta
paint, battered, like rainy season
killing the flower – all of you has bloomed,
to fall off and seed the yard around you,
where razorgrass show their pallor to the wind.
Nettle.  Chandilay.
Stubborn as headstones.

These rooms, of worlds and colors,
of curtains sick with purpose,
gentle French-style embroideries
withered and stained at the hem,
look like these hills.  Your own Morvant.
Your Laventille.

Inconsistent floors that take a certain
skill to navigate, tempers of a gulf.

The house plays like a broken music box for
your slow dancing barefoot, always barefoot,
gathering dust to your soles
like a friend you would remember when death, finally,
comes in his place.

IV.

You finger the watery collins rim,
eyes soaked in nostalgia.

I could finish a bottle in an hour.

Hear,
the applause of shades rising, in discomfort,
stretching, across the old table in this
old house where everything is old, where you,
mad, ungracious poet,
cunning miser of frailties, genius, my soul’s
jealousy, live.

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