Shivanee Ramlochan

La Criatura Handfasts the Forest

for Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

She took a husband on the riverbank
after casting for his hearth tarot
through the coppice of his leaves.

Wayward she born,
bush delivered and sudden like
leaping moray tail slicing current.

Let no man say she never knew
what she wanted, or grew unable
to track her mate by the swells of Matelot.

She took him by the branch,
charting the progression of her sons
in his aspect of bayleaf and tamarind.

She knew him by his ease, by
the light in his forests that let in
all her several sisters:

solstice fox | pinnacle egret | the swan
who kept seasons by the shiver of wings
against the woman’s naked breast,

She knew her husband by the way all his
trees whispered, shy:
Bring me your creatures. Those you saved

from chainsaw and gravel hunger, from instrument
of collar and clamour and human want:
I have homes for them in me.

Relentless she chose, and married him with a silver leap,
claiming the residence that vetivered her wild skin,
knotting wedding rings like balata hearts in her palms.

That Barbaric Light

for Kriston Chen

I woke with the island making a new animal in me. 
I paid for the pirogue with my last bandage, stripped 
and cured it over the boatwoman’s cloven hoof. 
She dipped the oar, and the waters parted like bush
bracing for flambeau. She stroked the secret of my name
between the tines of her smile, slivering it for profit.

I went to the island because the animal asked me. 
One foot on Chacachacare, the boatwoman at my back,
I felt the old colony growl in welcome. Something creaked,
backbone or floorboard. Someone spoke, duenne or baptized. 
I raised my eyes to the coiled hair of the forest.
I read for promises in the inhuman tracks under my feet.

When I scaled the dying hospital, the animal followed. 
It spread wings over the bedposts,
cast the roof of its shelter beneath the abbey skylight.
Claw and palm, we muscled the darkness with an ancient nativity. 

I gave my sight for the animal’s eyes, my tongue for the animal’s song,
my pulse so the animal might make an island of me.

Summoner

for Anu Lakhan

And
there, at the bitten entrance of the island,
your skirt stripping itself back to switchgrass, 
you found the cure. You pulled the fletched arrow
from your lung, cast it deep,
watched it spread out in a sharp net, splintering.

And
there, fishing like this,
you seined up the cure for one year, and one night. You
balanced it in your pierced lungs, packing it for the hills. You
took the mountain by her hair,
roved her til you compassed up. 

And
there, in the notch-bordered jugular of the island,
you bathed the horses with the cure,
lavished them golden in the desert light, flecks of home
flying between your hair, the mountain’s, and theirs.

Photo credit: Marlon James

Shivanee Ramlochan is a Trinidadian book blogger, critic and poet. Her debut collection, Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting (Peepal Tree Press, 2017) was a finalist for the 2018 People’s Choice T&T Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Felix Dennis Forward Prize for Best First Collection.