The Caribbean Writer

Night Rite, Freedom City

Marvin E. Williams


My fastidious brother dressed
up in worn clothes at dusk
piqued my envy in my youth;
for I divined the pattern,
yearned to join the divine
bacchanal that reset history
upon the broken jaws of marines
on bacchanal without masks from
the crowding philosophy of sea.

“Your mother does take sailor.”

Before our full-length mirror
he flexed his thin bamboo taut
muscles, his rock jaw, and smiled.
In the kitchen my mother, my sisters,
whose unsullied names he’d defend,
baked dumb bread for our supper
dumb history filled him too tight
to eat. He rubbed my head for luck
or with promise and manned away.

“Your sister stay taking sailor.”

I did not know the story
giving passion to these
epithets squirming boys and
men to fight when fighting seemed
a gesture sans reason, a mime
of rage dried, cracking from sun;
I did not say no to the glory,
the bloodletting that let boys in
the cult protecting men against gods.

“Mama, sister working for yankee dollars.”

But my blood understood too well
the need that drove my brother
to reclaim a manhood never lost
though batten like Bigger’s on
Sanburg’s southside stone; my blood
understood the discordant knell
that called him, a phantom, to
the decaying Danish streets for
a revelry carnival could not cure.


Copyright © Marvin E. Williams

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