The Caribbean Writer

Notes from My Mother’s Village Before the Village Got Light

Lorna Goodison


In those times, she says, in October
tenth month of the year
the O in the ten would become an opening
a funnel through which rain would pour.

Those times evening refused to wait its turn
but would bore down afternoon
and spread out itself early in the sky
and green things would be the same, overbearing.

All vegetation would multiply into thickness
and that would provide hiding for restless spirits
who wandered the village seeking resting places
in hearts ruinate, and soul’s abandoned estate.

In those times, she says, her brother Howard
took ill and died from a sudden and nameless fever.
He went to Lucea and came home with his body burning.
All the river water could not cool the fatal furnace within.

My grandfather, she says, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day
by drinking a puncheon of rum and playing the violin.
Colonial combination, rum and violin. O to hear him sing,
the Lake Isle of Innisfree now became Harvey River near Lucea.

All this observed by the Guinea woman
who bore him a blue eyed high yellow child
whose loyalties were torn and divided
between mother Africa and a son of the British Empire.

She says, these things happened before the village got light.
And if you think that afternoon was impatient those days
what to say about night? For one minute you would bend down
to heap another yam hill and your insides would be saying

it is four o’clock, broad daylight still and you look up to see night
drawing on his black trousers running across the sky.
All these thing, she said, used to happen in Harvey River
before the village named after her great grandfather got light.


Copyright © Lorna Goodison

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