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day 3 – driving inland

November 3, 2008


I wrote this poem in 2002, while living in Nelson, BC.  I was taking Creative Writing 101 at the Kootenay School of the Arts and I nearly shit myself every Tuesday evening when I had to read my assignment out loud, in front of the entire class. I survived and came out of it with a badge of courage, more than anything.

I lived this poem in the spring of 1998, while interning as an Avian Field Biologist for the Wildlife Preservation Trust. It was 3 months of roughing it in Cockpit Country, a rugged jungle in the interior of Jamaica, in search of Yellow-Billed and Black-Billed Parrots.  It was the first time I experienced being a minority and it is also where I became an expert at spotting, identifying and removing ticks in places one should never have to find ticks, ever.  I came out of it humbled and grateful for things we all take for granted, such as running water and electricity and not finding ticks in warm places.

I posted this poem when I first started blogging in January of 2007.  A time when only my mother and sisters were reading my ramblings and I wondered if anyone else would ever come visit my little space on the Internet.  Alas, any entry prior to June 11 of this year has vanished, so technically, it’s as if the poem had never been posted in the first place (except for the fact that I just admitted to its existence).  Still, I feel justified in sharing it again, on this new space, where it has never been read before.  Although it is not a staggering work of genius, I’ll be happy knowing that it has found a cozy creative nest to rest in rather than fading away on a musty smelling piece of paper.

Driving Home

I drive inland behind a small taxi
cramped with passengers
hanging out the windows,
past lobster huts and ice markets
where men lift frozen blocks
with picks like beaks of hawks.

I turn left at the last electrical pole
where shoeless children,
feet powdered with road silt,
walk miles from classrooms;
they wave and chase me down
narrow serpentine roads.

Past the local bar,
a rainbow painted tin roofed shack,
where Leroy, Herlitz and Zack,
red eyes stained with yellow veins,
roll fat reefers with brown bag paper.

Blue smoke sways over dreadlocks,
over the woman with buttery cheeks
who tells jokes with a spirited belly laugh
while serving Red Stripes beer
and drinking spiced rum.

I cross the stone bridge over the river
where women scrub laundry
upstream from the neighbor’s rotting cow
until their fingers are raw,
until nothing is left but white.

Parrots fly overhead
whistling apple green wings
past ashen houses and burnt cane fields
where black stakes stand
and men carry sugar sticks on bare backs.

Two donkeys saunter
down the middle of the road.
I honk,
they pick up speed but stay
in the middle of the road.

Near home
boys climb coconut trees,
cattle egrets perch on brown cows,
Miss Rose, the English man’s maid
chases roosters and chickens
in a mustard colored year.

Sun burns into earth,
the blue tint of night swallows the jungle,
beetles fly with eyes lit like headlights,
the sky resembles a highway
filled with miniature cars.

Brown lizards flaunt egg yolk throats,
the ruby eyes of pottoo birds float
above fence posts.
Toads surface by the hundred,
fat and flat,
they cover the entire road.

They all lead me home.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alison permalink
    November 4, 2008 5:26 pm

    I just flashed back to a picture you showed me of the “house” you lived in while in Jamaica. You’re gutsy!

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