Category Archives: ENGH 396

Trading Places

You look around. Not much has changed. Same old

cast iron gates flank a stone sign – three huge

gray granite letters spell ZOO, greet you and

your son – that greeted you when you piled out

of the school bus, that greeted you when you

brought your own kids when they clung tightly to

you, crying that oh so familiar song:

Mommy my feet hurt! Mommy pick me up!         

 

You look around. Not much has changed. Except

a cold, out-of-place looking building on

the left; there’s a sign in big bold letters –

visitor’s center. You hurry in, in

search of the restroom. There’s a long line that

ends at the gift shop. You tell your son – hey

it might be awhile, he scowls, then hrmphs to

the gift shop, playing with the toys – waiting.

 

You look around. Not much has changed. He pokes

haphazardly at the toys, as he steals

one last look at the amazing life size

cheetah. You remember the time he and

your youngest sister stole stuffed animals

from Woodies when they were three and six, but

now he’s twenty seven; now he only

steals glances at stuffed cheetahs and girls.

 

You look around. Not much has changed.  But now

your son sets the pace for your zoo march; your

mind wanders as he recites Noah’s long

list, animal-by-animal, building

by building. You ask him if he wants to

buy a zoo map. Two dollars he grumbles

is too much. Anyhow, he knows the way!

He says in his man-voice, boy-face of five.

 

You look around. Not much has changed. Same old

tired red brick buildings: reptile house, small

mammals house, great apes house, invertebrates

and bird houses – they’re old but new. Like the

Amazonia, birds swoop, dive and run

around your feet – that now hurt from walking

uphill, downhill, U-turns, no shortcuts. You

wish you were a bird – flap your wings and fly.

 

You look around. Not much has changed. Except

your feet throb to the beat of the screaming

children, your head pounds with every step

you take. You wish someone would pick you up,

put you in a stroller, carry you, like

you used to carry your son, when five steps

from the entrance he would cry the same

old pick-me-up song. Now he leads the way.

 

You look around. Not much has changed. You whine

like a five year old, crying about your

aching feet, even as you pick wads of

gooey blue sweetness off the billowing

blue cotton candy, your youth returning

to you mouthful by mouthful. Your son looks

at you, asks you if this is all it takes?

You think – a cotton candy machine? Sure!

 

You look around. Not much has changed.  But now

your oldest son is waiting for you. He

taps his foot quickly as he waits, aimlessly

looks around. He comments that you look like

a blue smurf. You glare at him and say so

what! He points at the no eating sign and

tells you to finish your cotton candy.

He points at the time on his watch. He sighs. 

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one sock, two socks, no socks

The sleeping boy draws his feet tightly up.

Under the covers, his feet are burning

cold. He awakens. His feet painfully

numb, searching for his brand new warm white socks,

first he wiggles his toes, sure his socks have

simply slid off. His legs scissor swiping

the narrow width of his bed, cutting a-

cross the smooth sheets. He sits, grasps the covers

by the edge, peering into the darkness

for his new white socks; he jumps out of bed,

tears off the cooling covers, layer by

layer, yet, no socks, not even one. He

gets on his knees; he searches wildly, his

cold octopus hands groping, fumbling at

the cold dusty floor. Defeated, he  then

pillages his dresser drawer, putting on

an old pair of grey dingy threadbare socks,

and burrows underneath the cold covers,

in search of warmth; he sleeps most fitfully.

Thinking the boy is asleep, his brother

sneaks into his room, his feet like white hooves,

smugly wearing his brand new warm white socks.


Bajamar – Great Exuma, Bahamas

Caribbean sea serene, shimmers, still

surface, shallow, seeing sea grass swaying,

languidly hanging off the small boat bow,

watching conchs crawl, fish dart into reef rocks,

I wonder if the air is as clear to

the darting fish as the sea is to me.

 

Near the beach, buzzing mosquitoes size me

up for lunch, flying, waiting in the still

lush leafy camouflage, so eager to

bite me; but then they retreat as swaying

mango trees herald noon storms that make rocks

slippery and mango laden-trees bow

 

towards sandy hills. Banana trees bow

with bursting ripe fruit whose scent beckons me;

cocoplum bushes jut from jagged rocks,

sugar-scented fruit hangs heavy, but still

do not fall. Green anoles cling to swaying

branches waiting for sweet plums to fall to

 

waiting razor sharp rocks. And I too

want the cocoplums, but can’t wait. I bow

the branches to me. Bent over, swaying,

sharp rocks stabbing my bare feet, hurting me,

I pick the plumpest plums to eat, while still

standing perilously perched on rocks.

 

Behind me my house stands over the rocks.

A flagstone patio and steps lead to

the beach, where the air is no longer still;

but on the porch, where the wooden planks bow,

beaten by sea air, mosquitoes chase me

since there’s no wind to beat them back. Swaying

 

tall coconut trees flank the porch, swaying

with the wind that has yet to dull the rocks.

My flagstone and plaster house – home to me;

like so many other houses, it too

is parliament pink – like it could bow.

I call this place Bajamar. And now, still

 

after many years, swaying trees call to

me; upon rocks facing the sea, I bow

to my youth. Bajamar lives in me – still.


Dora Mae’s Junkanoo Jig of 1833

Now it’s eighteen thirty-three, and we’re free,

No more signs around our necks in white chalk,

No more white cocoplums for you and me!

 

White Man devoured the purple cocoplums,

so small, dark, sweet, good – much like us. Don’t sulk!

Now it’s eighteen thirty-three, and we’re free,

 

No more Bowe’s Tavern trades, now our time comes

For our freedom from Him. Hear White Man squawk!

No more white cocoplums for you and me!

 

White Man watches changing signs, Bowe’s becomes

Peace and Plenty – place where we drink and talk,

Now it’s eighteen thirty-three, and we’re free.

 

Now White Man chokes on dry white cocoplums;

We savour sweet purple ones. Let Him gawk!

No more white cocoplums for you and me!

 

Now White Man Rolle is gone, white man succumbs,

Now at Junkanoo, we sing, dance and mock –

Now it’s eighteen thirty-three, and we’re free!

No more white cocoplums for you and me! 


A Letter from Dora Mae McKenzie – Great Exuma, Bahamas, August 3, 1833

Why don’t you like the plump white cocoplums –

that parched our mouths like that dry white chalk

White Man used to write her age, before mum

was sold for gold – when we cried, couldn’t talk?

Or when White Man devoured purple ’ones –

so small, dark like us, and good – much like us?

We ate parching white ones, dared not mention,

how awful they were, how unfair it was.

 

Remember August third eighteen thirty-

three at Bowe’s Tavern when we stood outside,

when White Man Rolle hung the Peace and Plenty

sign? Bowe’s slave trade ended, the old ways died.

 

Now it’s eighteen thirty-three, and we’re free!

No more white cocoplums for you and me!


My First Cocoplum

The first time I ate a cocoplum –

I ate a white one. And, my mouth

went dry – dry as the searing sands,

I ran across hoppity-skip to pick

 

those big white plump cocoplums,

dry as the afternoon heat that

parched my browned white skin. Even

though they were so sweet and juicy,

 

and juices ran over my lips,

down my chin, onto my dress,

my mouth went dry, but I kept on

eating the white ones – couldn’t talk…

 

The white ones were so much plumper

than the purple ones, twice as plump,

plump as Dora Mae, my nanny,

who laughed at me, chiding me

 

“Chil’, not all white t’ings are good, some

dey leave a bad taste in your mout’.”

Dora Mae poked me, “Go chil’ an’

pick the plump purple cocoplums.

 

Don’t eat white ‘uns, or else your mout’

will be so dry, ‘xuma chalk, eat

purple good ‘uns, so sweet, juicy,

dey make your mout’ water. Don’t talk!”


Cocoplums (Great Exuma, Bahamas)

Pearly white girl,

drifting on a

raft along the

blue seas, wind flats,

 

on islands art full, sees

perfection, cocoplums,

white and purple, running

over quick, sands so hot.

 

Don’t eat white ‘uns, or else your mout’

will be so dry, ‘xuma chalk, eat

purple good ‘uns, so sweet, juicy,

dey make your mout’ water – don’t talk!


Percolator (Version 3 – Shaped Free Verse Long)


Percolator (Version 2 – Shaped Free Verse Short)

i

am

an old-

fashion

coffee pot,

ideas percolate

into existence,

one word at

a time.


Percolator (Version 1 – Free Verse)

i am an old-fashion

coffee pot, ideas

percolate into

existence

one

word

at

a

time.