Saturday Jul 21

IshionHutchinsonbyRachelElizaGriffiths Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. He has published one collection, Far District: Poems (Peepal Tree Press Limited, 2010), which won the 2011 PEN/Joyce Osterweil award for poetry.  He has also won an Academy of American Poets’ Levis Award. New works have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Narrative, The Common, Gulf Coast and others. He is an assistant professor of English at Cornell University and a Pirogue Fellow.
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October’s Levant
In memory of Derron Thomas
 
i
 
Dusk, a pair of goats clambers up the hill,
their soft cries suggesting a body where
there is none, a living creature with a spirit
in a cold cell, lying on newspapers on the former
burdens of unknown men, brittle music
in his ears, and though he must not, hope
is there within the starved hole in his chest,
flaring sunlight and memory: shadows trawl
the sand a child lies half asleep to the surf’s roar,
gravelly like his grandfather clearing his throat
at daybreak before cycling off down the fern
path to his tuber ground, the child shifts
to the grove of unripe sea pears no ant nest
thrives in, and he must speak his presence,
the blood’s weight to this land water scrapes
away, foam reaching for the child, now a log,
brown and dry, suggesting a body where
there is none, he stands unrevealed, the slate
voice of return an urn bobbing in his throat.
 
ii
The exam season
 
By now the pouis of Mona are in full bloom,
the plain crimson and crystal where a slave
plantation tans away in the heat’s coffer,
a broke eldorado a young general once, buckling
his uniform early in the morning, looks out
his window at another mote of the Empire,
does not foresee his subjects, unburdened,
passing underneath the aqueducts near the library
and theatre into exam rooms, poui scent furious
in their gossips cut short when the electric
bell shrieks them to attention, and they consider
“the commonwealth on an even beam,”
the invigilator’s wristwatch ticks the sun
to inch a digit, then another, as they race
a breeze sniping the flambeaux of the trees.
 
iii
 
Four months after the invasion, a new market
is opening where the old one was flattened
by fire, the garbage is elsewhere, even the ribbed
mongrels are absent, they were gone before the army
bulldozed the carapaces of burnt-out cars,
refrigerators and gas cylinders, and made a balm-yard
clearing blood flowed and compounded tribal
rifts into an estuary crabbed with the dead,
and not blood alone, for there is no blood
there in those stalls scoured with lime, salt glinting
off their galvanized shutters, portals that the Man,
the Gorgon, Don of Dons, the President-Minister-Chief,
leapt through to either America or hell,
but that is just flatulence from uptown mouths,
for in the ghetto streets, behind barbed territories,
concrete walls consecrated by bullets, it is something
else when the curfewed moonlight scrapes across
the exploded shell buildings blank windows
gape at tankers asleep like riddled sphinxes
in an oases of splinters, a whole other story,
it’s “him still here, you know,” the stars wink,
meaning, he will always be here, weighing our lives.
 
iv
 
I must not be too surprised at the sudden
rain while writing to you, crisply departed,
for no matter how far I have moved from home,
this always reins me in, the sight of rain
and sunlight together, childhood’s axle-joy
comes back-spinning us fast downhill after
stuffing ourselves with my granny’s cakes
and ginger beer, and you, ever the fleet-foot
playfield king, always ahead, so far ahead,
a cloud has eaten your voice and me your dust,
yes, you weigh heavily on me, friend,
who no longer knows the way to die.
 
v
 
“And there was no more sea,” the Levant
writes in his logbook, undoubtedly
stealing from the Book of Revelation,
everything recedes like a scroll, and I
have forgotten the acacias’ noise
when you walk under them towards
the lonely beach, these things in my head:
“And for the soul if it is to know itself
it is into a soul that it must look” and
“The Aegean flower with corpses,”
October, inconsolable, the asphalt
bordering the sea-grass, warm and silver
in the blazing afternoon so I know
I am alive and you are not, no matter
how sure I am that it is going to be there,
even after a new heaven and a new earth,
once I have crossed the crest by the grove
of sea pears and I sit on a log facing it,
the white shifting curtain, the sea, our sea,
“where I left you thinking I would return,” I weep.

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Photo Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths