Painting outside the lines

I’m usually even-keeled.
Not today.
Today, I felt oddly battered by rule,
by the straight lines that don’t apply to everyone.
This is a country whose ethics are shaded in with color pencils that are light like the white of
our White House.
The red of our Red House
flames true with the indignity
of our bloody streets and dirty cities.
And I’ve tried to hold on and build.
Draw blue lines in my sky
Underline them with my daily sighs.
The embers of my pride
burn out strong and vibrantly yellow,
as I toss them in the air, against the Deepvali lights
that I add to my nights.
The scarlet I became for so many
because of my love
is not the last color.
My palette has more but
my wallet can not buy them,
because my green, blue, red, purple and grey notes
have straight edges,
but my heart does not.
And I’m tired,
of losing all my colours,
to a black stripe that does not embrace hard work and spirit.
In theory only,
in this country,
black is the presence of all color,
and today my anger
blazed over,
spilling over,
And I made up my mind,
I will paint outside these lines.

– janberry – 27Apr2019 © 6.50pm

Ayiti

On my first morning, I woke early because I couldn’t sleep anyway. This was a new and dusty place, and my nostrils flared every two minutes, instinctively pierced by the particles floating around.

I walked outside and peered over the bannister, and at 5.30am, this young girl sat on a bucket, down below, selling popcorn. Her shoulders were pressed forward leaning on the heartstrings of passers by, “achte pòpkòn”, then she would pause, “kounye a” before repeating herself again, and again. Her voice was light and feminine, neither begging nor aggressing…simply asking, with an expectation, “Buy popcorn..now..”

For a long while I stood there looking down at her contemplating my own childhood. It would be the first of many jarring sights. Later that day, we visited the orphanage and everywhere, the dust, caked against my ankle. It was the type that left a film. It was much like this country, leaving a thin coat over my consciousness.

This is what poverty felt like,
a stench in the air,
of dirty water,
not quite fresh but not yet stale,
running along uncut paths
To homes where naked children ran freely,
Beaming tainted smiles and bare feet.
I hummed emotionless through the next few days until the river broke
but could not
wash Ayiti out of my eyes.
All the brown,
a morose color,
a sad place burdened by reparations
And crippled by greed,
Populated with happy hands,
holy in deed
and dead
that bled
to sacrifice itself
for an ungrateful Caribbean.
Whose fault is this?
And after leaving this place,
for a long while, my prayers grew agnostic
because if meaning could be scrawled on the dust of this place,
some corrupt official’s hot temper could wash it away with piss.
After he’d drank from the cup of Ayiti’s wine,
another snake without a spine,
leading these fierce warriors
Brave and rich then made to kneel,
Ayiti my soul wept when I saw you,
And I’ve since forgotten you,
but never in spirit,
you’ve slept whilst you’ve left us the ticket
To enter our true selves,
at the cost of your forgetfulness
of who you are.
Ayiti…

– janberry – 23Apr2019 © 8.50pm

Island Antiquity

Island antiquity
It could disarm you
Buh doh let it mamaguy you
Strange and sour
It have a sweet way of play
Every island have it own sing song way to say
“We cyah be trusted!”
If only it was so easy
And we knew that from birth
So dat we wouldn’t live with so much hope
What we build from the colonial matchsticks?
I know de Queen’s English well enough to teach my nephew
That when he speak it
People will look at him differently
But we eyes so shunted by the sun
That we will look at him the same.
Another little Caribbean boy
with a Scottish name.
Island antiquity
Caribbean identity
Forged from the love of liberty
My particular anthem say
But I don’t trust that freedom
Because it take me 37 years to
break free of my island mentality
And wish more for myself than the ceiling of high tides
I am a global citizen
A denizen
An alien
I can live anywhere
Because I have English,
Humility
And Island antiquity.

– janberry © Feb2019