Ishion Hutchinson Rachel Eliza Griffiths

By Ishion Hutchinson

 

 

The houses are shut, the neighbors gone

to the burning field at the mangrove’s edge,

where the heatstroke anthropologist writes

his prophecy in a wrenched tense:

“Their Gods…they’ve drowned.”

All day I choke on the pages’ knotted vines:

the totems will be covered, the Revivalists’

prayer poles, the rain woman’s dance,

her rattle sticks beating the earth, until

the clothesline quivers like a Spanish

fly, pressed to a concrete block

by a boy, aiming his blunt needle.

 

The workers will return at dark, at the beetle’s horn,

to the shack alley, to the rasps of sankeys

on the dead man’s moth-meshed veranda;

they will gather for nine nights to the prophet’s

rum-riddled call, with coco pods, mint bush,

cerasse, Bay Rum, Bible leaves and Phensic—

they will gnash teeth and groan epiphanies

with swaying bottle lamps over the fowl’s blood

spilled on the ash, and on a body, with the dead’s

tongue, warning all before morning. Frenetic,

without proper exegesis, I cut stone-cold

through the bush-lane home.

 

But the sugar-headed children will wander

the field at night, lost to the scavenging

green, eating the ripe flux of the land,

and then emptying their guts in the river

no longer worshipped, now a machine,

like the factory’s tractor passing, loaded

with burnt canes, their foreheads white

with marl dust. Their eyes burn, gazing

at the half-yam moon—their tribe’s

biography, a possession they cannot read.

 

They clatter away, children and tractors,

threading the coiled sleep that will not loosen

into the meager flash beyond suffering—

the light opening a book towards a simplicity

hard to achieve, though they are simple saints.

In the final dusk they head for the hill

holding up the sky, the shutterless, dozing shacks—

the hill they will rise to before work and play,

the hill that will rise before tomorrow’s dead.

 

Ishion Hutchinson

 

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Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. He is the author of House of Lords and Commons (FSG, 2016) and is a professor at Cornell University. Ishion Hutchinson will visit Oslo Poetry Festival in October. NWCC says thank you for the poem!

HLC

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