Volume I Number 1
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Aruba is keeper of Derek Walcott Square,
which means he keeps everyone
off the grass. Everyone but Marcus,
Linda and Judith, his chickens,
which he won’t call chickens
“because someone might want to eat them.”
Aruba tells us he was named for an island,
“And I’m proud of it. If you want
to take my picture, you have to ask me,”
and I do. Then he offers to take
a great picture of me, which means
walking on the grass under his guidance.
At my back, the enormous simaan tree,
which he says is 500 years old.
I see the grass is worn at the spot
where he has me stand. The picture
that shows on the screen after is exactly right,
Aruba has put the tourist in perspective.
17 Chausée Road
The great poet’s birthplace,
a little gabled cottage,
is in the careless care
of the government.
Derelict, one symbolic pane
of glass missing, it bears
the graffiti of a band: Hyena’s Crew
and Hyena’s Bad Everywhere.
Off Becune Point
The big rock has always been called
“The Barrel of Beef.” And the small flat one?
My wife named it in honour of chipped beef
on toast: “Shit on a Shingle.”
I wanted to see the legendary green ray
at sunset, the moment when the sun
dips into the water, but at Becune Point
the sun sets behind Pigeon Island.
At night we saw a waxing crescent moon.
I had never expected
the tropical moon to rest on its back,
a dipper full of darkness darker than the sky.
Fruits of Paradise
In a house where I was served
green fig-and-saltfish salad,
plantain, love apples,
sweet sop and breadfruit,
I was surprised to find a lone can
of Hereford Brand Corned Beef,
with the traditional key to open it.
It was the comfort food
of last month’s guest,
Ireland’s most famous poet.
Plas Kassav / Cassava Factory
A factory of one room,
with a screw press
to squeeze out the poison
from the cassava roots,
an enormous grater to shred them,
a basin for parching the flour,
and another basin
for cooking the bread,
flavoured with fruit or fish,
on banana leaves.
If I grind and squeeze
the toxins from life,
I might have a residue
of poetry in the basin
to mix with sweet or savoury.
The Quadrant Book of Poetry: 2001 - 2010
edited by Les Murray