The Caribbean Writer

Woman’s Tongue

Vernon L. Jackman


Stooped under the shak-shak tree
hung there and shadowless, lighter
than wood smoke curling from shacks,

she is an ancestress, stranded
in the windy clack. Leaned forward,
she holds herself as if wrapped with pains

of breaking the first words. She fingers remembrance,
twines the weathered strands of her frock
along the frozen dance, cast

in hard shadows of branch, bramble.
She reaches for an utterance
to give memory and curve,

shuttles in and out of the bright vortex,
where the names of things eddy,
break and separate.

The trance has her. Burdened
with the first spoken thing,
she cries into the dark of herself,

and the one sound shatters into sparks,
turns back from the pit of her
stomach: shaped recollection, the clicking

semantics. She warns, prays, curses
and is suddenly gone. Only tracks of heat
remain, winding where she spoke.


Copyright © Vernon L. Jackman

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