Gilberte O’Sullivan

Down the Islands

For each wrinkle, a logical sin.
Seeing myself freckle smattered
Through your UVA tint
I finally understand
Why you won’t look at me.

Who commands a stare with hazel eyes:
an indecisive colour?
At sunset, these seas are hazel.
Atlantic bred assuredly,
but river-muddled.

In her ending days my French-Creole grandmother
Doused her grays auburn as these hills
Singed from too many bush fires,
Blotted her cheeks to look like mine. 
Until one day in dry season’s fury
Sun baptised my face,
The freckles would not stop.
Just so, islands can come from nowhere
To slow things down, staunch the common flow.

Granny must have found I was too far from her kind,
She turned in her lips to kiss hello
To preserve the last decency of her line.
She was afraid of sea-salt snagging her hairdos coarse,
Of mosquito jabs, that lingered on white thighs for weeks,
Of Blackwater Fever that killed her Parisian aunt,
Of over-deepened waters wiled up by the pirogue’s rush,
Winds that blew her strands out of place.
Worst of all, she could not see her reflection
in these broken shards of islands
with primitive sounds, mocking rhyme:
Monos, Gasparee, Chacachacare.
An outrage to tradition,
Submerging definition.
She feared my mummy’s sorceress hair,
glazed and thick as pitch,
would stir up terrible currents.

“There once was a man from Madras”
Her son, my father recited with bawdy joy
When he met my mother.
Such an indelicate way to woo,
But that was the effect of these waters’ brew.
Boldfaced are these islands,
Waters inter-braid and drown out legacy.

What truth is there to bloodline, shoreline and sea?
And the portent fingers and toes,
that crumple like crepe in feckless, tourist strewn waters
Where the cruise ships let off their bowels fwey.

History itself is murky.
Part of me is Indian Ocean,
Part Afghan Rivers,
Part Riviera,
Along with the Paria’s Gulf
Yet I am servant to all.
‘Beke’ white, a ragged, overwashed colour,
I hold their sins mingling in me.
But what lurks these bays shrives impurity,
Befuddled by river, diluted by sea.

Gilberte O’Sullivanis a poet and writer from the island of Trinidad. She has recently published poems in Concrescence (Australia), Zanna (UK), Barren (USA), Voice of Eve (USA),, Moko (BVI), and more, with forthcoming work in other journals. Gilberte is also an MFA candidate at the University of the West Indies.