The Caribbean Writer

Downwind Tale

Marvin E. Williams


Bwoy, the oldtimer said,
donkey years ago
before your papa dead, before
king fish get vex
with Hess complex, before
gar declare war
with them stupidness
we does be throwing in
sea water, every Saturday miss,
mistress and daughter
used to flock
down by Flatbush, waiting
in line for your papa Mack.

It used to have pushing,
It used to have shubbing
like sand
when he come in
by the wharf. Man,
woman used to pack up
longside he boat
like sardine in a can;
and tho it hard to stomach
all the syrup he racking up,
you had to laugh
til you hurt your throat.

Them old woman was the best:
with long-long dress
hiding cold cream leg, they
used to beg. . . used to pray
til they get bless
by God, by Mack: “Mack, bwoy
Mack, my poor old back
hurting me like hell, my
dry corn them swell-
ing up, in fack
I have so much pain
I caan even tell
if I alive or dead.”
Mack used to grin: “Doan
harass your head; you gon
get fish before you dead.”

But they ain’t hearing, so
they keep on begging: “Oh
Mack, honey Mack
doan bother your head
with Lucille at all;
I mind you when
you was small . . . when
your mother went a dance.”
“Sarah, stop digging me
like dog looking bone.”
“Mack, darling Mack, after she
tis my chance; sell me
two pounda fish let me go home.”

And your papa Mack
mock them for a while;
but Mack
flash them a smile,
bending his broad back
down, getting them mackerel,
old wife, lobster (not
hedgehog), bluefish, boil
fish, silver jax
what knocking dog
when the seine come in
full up
til it heavy
til it lame.

it had conch, barra-
cuda, grouper, doctor; man,
too much other
fish to name.
them days we
used to be nice
in a buncha ways
to that sea
you see there.

Watch. . . bwoy,
if you doan catch
any fish
to suit your wish
you caan complain,
you caan pick no quarrel
with them; they bound
to be doan careish,
to be vex. And, bwoy,
you better watch all
that fume in the air;
them bird might be nex.


Copyright © Marvin E. Williams

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