Ana Portnoy Brimmer

Backyard burial

“We’re finding dead people, people who have
been buried, [people] have made common graves […]
We’ve been told people have buried their family members
because they’re in places that have yet to be reached.”1

Dandelions sprouted from the splitting skin on the tip of her toes
                                  the grime snug between flesh and nail 
when I realized no one was coming

Five days had passed and my mother       
an oxygen-masked ghost at the flickering menace of a bulb 
                                                    grew garden-bed of chamomile and clover

No wailing sirens curled up the mountain    only wailing    
No machete-wielding rescue team    only my desperate swings to 
                                          clear a patch of welcoming ground 
No emergency funeral procession     only candles to drag her mossing 
                                          mound through humid darkness 
No relief helicopters on my driveway or half-a-roof    only overhead   like vultures circling                      
                                                         the dying with no promise of swoop devouring release 

I dug up a hole in the backyard    next to the flattened chicken coop
                                                 smell of damp rotting and excrement 
cleared slabs of zinc    branches   vine-choked fence   
and waited 

for a voice 
a footstep 
the slam of a car door 

the dull thump of my mother’s body on hollowed wet earth 

1 The poem’s epigraph is a quote from the following article, “Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico is higher than official count, experts say”, by Omaya Sosa Pascual, published in the Miami Herald.  

A plea to Puerto Rico after hurricane María

All I have left is
spit and duct-tape
(and my spit is running dry)--
I will lick your wooden splinters into a house
        a salve to soothe the down-hill gash where it used to be
wrap your snapped trees whole again
             patch up the leak in your sky  
             your bleeding shore--
my tear-ducts    wells close to empty but 
I’ll cry your containers 
        in shaky hands full
fill your tired tanks to the top 
        drop by drop 
my hands have nothing to hold nothing
        to lose              let me             
cup your forced nakedness       hold 
our weeping people
        refugees in their own land
just give me a drink of water
a crumb to feast on
and tell me I can stay

This is not paradise

waters death-scented     chained corpses undulating to undercurrents  
waves whipping wildly  lunging layers of landscape suffocating the     
weed glass and bottle caps    coconut missiles  palm projectiles  river branch bullets   aiming for
heads bobbing  hearts throbbing       because it’s all too beautiful
sun scorching scalps  blinding sockets      raindrops like army rockets drilling dents
into towel sprawled burning bodies        opening their mouths to say 
                  This is-      
         not what you think    these are not golden sands translucent waters and lush greens    this is not the place for flowered shirts    this is not sunshine and clear skies    this is not summer year-long    this is not a travel brochure    this is not a worry-free weekend    this is not a coconut-scented fantasy    this is not piña coladas and daiquiris    this is not yoga by the beach    this is not sun-bathing and cabana boy service    this is not made-in-china sarongs and beaded braids              
                  But this is-
         not your family summer    this is not those good old times    this is not like that movie you once saw     this is not an exotic getaway    this is not a tropical utopia    this is not an all-inclusive (exclusive of everyone except yourself)    this is not island life    this is not seaside living    this is not horseback riding by the shore    this is not sunsets and sangrias    this is not salsa, merengue, reggae and calypso all day every day  
                  Oh, this is-
         not a selfie-moment    this is not springbreak 2017    this is not a the-Island-in-a-day bus tour    this is not a romantic niche    this is not the-people-who-live-here-are-so-lucky    this is not your spa week    this is not an ocean clean of history    these are not fields free from memory    this is not a land unscarred by time    this is not a people of sunshine and amnesia    this is not an invitation    this is not yours this is not yours this is not yours this is not yours this is not yours this is not yours this is your dream
sandcastles     tourist skin sizzles and crackles   
you better put on more of that barbecue-block to   
protect you from the               truth                          is that                                this is not paradise

Ana Portnoy Brimmer is a Puerto Rican poet-performer, writer and ARTivist. She holds a BA and an MA in English from the University of Puerto Rico, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Rutgers University-Newark. She is the inaugural recipient of the Sandra Cisneros Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a co-organizer of the #PoetsForPuertoRico movement. Ana is also a Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation fellow, an Under The Volcano fellow, a Las Dos Brujas Writing Workshop alumna, and an inaugural Moko Writers’ Workshop alumna. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Foundry Journal, Sx Salon, Huizache, Kweli Journal, Centro Journal, among others. For more on her work, visit




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.


for Anu Lakhan

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.

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. 

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.




Juleus Ghunta

Mother Suffered From Memories

When she was fourteen
she fled Kendal on a market truck to Kingston.

The night blew air in her wounds.

She forgave grandma, then a single mother of six,
who fed her children with one hand
while choking them with the other.

The day her practised palm cracked my cheekbone,
I crawled into grief.

When I blamed her for my inability to love,
she reminded me of “the simple brokenness of [everybody]…
[the] lie of mothering…things we can’t rely on….”

These days her knees are falling apart
from years of bending to raise us up into dreams.

I no longer seek penitence for the beatings,
shaming, neglect–

mother suffered from memories.

The quote comes from Kwame Dawes’ poem Mother and Child.

Juleus Ghunta is a Jamaican poet and recipient of a Chevening Scholarship. He recently earned an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, UK. Ghunta’s poetry has appeared in several journals including The Missing Slate, Moko, Spillway, Chiron Review, Cordite 81: New Caribbean Writing, and In This Breadfruit Kingdom. He was awarded the Catherine James Poetry Prize by Interviewing the Caribbean in 2017. In 2015 and 2016 he was shortlisted for the Small Axe Poetry Prize. His picture book, Tata and the Big Bad Bull, was published by CaribbeanReads in May 2018 and launched in June 2018 at Bradford Literature Festival, UK. He is currently finalising the manuscript for his second picture book, Rohan Bullkin Learns to Read.




Soyini Forde

Underside of Knowing

Branches draped elegiac,
possessive as lovers.

Everywhere the sun.
Lip of the horizon

split by teal sea. You’ve sewn me
up again, helped tuck twice-wound

ends away. ​Attend to my bruise garden:
cyclic, coiled stitches. Hands rooting

near the last caterwauling,
you reopened a rip unable

to mend.​ ​You said,​ We call
dat ol’ man’s beard

Much better than
Spanish moss,
I marvelled,

it gives trees
the wisdom they deserve.

My heart’s eye wide at the bark’s resignation
its acceptance of consequences.

When I think of a small mercy,
this sweet morsel forms on my tongue.

After Buju’s Love Sponge Since I was Never One

I said I didn’t want to be that, a poet who whines about love, wines for love, grinding gyrations pestle-heavy, thigh-drunk. My wild waist; you, hemmed by riddims. Slipknots of breath unwound from us. We were dark silhouettes on a wall. I preferred you not lyrically shooting batty bwoys, sounding death and damnation. Savoured open-throated moans clamouring, laughs bursting like ripe plums. What strains at the seam, scuttles out from memory’s trapdoor is this: years later, Buju entrapped in Babylon, and you, telling me how you nearly forgot, but your voice broke into a gravelly chant when the bassline dropped, never know you woulda really feel so nice. Stovetop you lit, pot you coaxed me into, glinting flanks you kept gnawing from—what would not be severed from bones. Your mouth is a nest of marabuntas, every sunken stinger’s anchor dragging me back.

Soyini Ayanna Forde is half Trini, half Guyanese and all diaspora. She has work in MokoSmall Axe, Apogee, Cleaver, and elsewhere. Her writing was deemed a notable essay in Best American Essays and nominated for a Pushcart. Her poetry chapbook, Taste of Hibiscus, is available from Dancing Girl Press. A graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program, she currently lives in Florida and blogs about West Indian culture, race, and occasionally, her love life at




Nia Andino

Mi Oración Egoista 

do you know
when the thunder boasts
and my cheeks bloom of frangipani 
it is a glorified asking

a Dios le pido 

for the land that scribes on the bottom of my heel
identifies me by weight and pressure
to drag my cartography to threshold
and scrape its sobbing memory outside my door

our family has a thing for forgetting
it is a convenience
                          until it is not
my shoe sings to swollen ankle
a line of mahogany and melancholy
drags a wing of yellow dockets and torn hibiscus
to a gentle flooding
where a hydrant becomes a displaced warming
for my body to remember

my grandfather's shoe song of seawater, soca and picket signs
swinging a gait of wandering jazz

for my body to remember

my grandmother's skin, a mural of stitches 
where life found its way to suckle and leave erratic braille 
for those who dare their love to touch her

for my body to remember

my mother living longer than being mothered

I tend to her dreams when she visits bodies of water
watch the river in her breath for when it appears too calm
cue my eyes to sing
mi oración egoista

que mi madre no se muera
y que mi padre me recuerde
a Dios le pido 

and beg my face to decorate more than their memories

* Juanes, "A Dios Le Pido", Un Dia Normal 2003

For When Home is a Bruised Mango

La curandera told me Puerto Ricans are a people of always searching
I understood this
I searched for mangoes in school
The kind that had San Juan trade winds tucked in its skin
Or baked to the ends of copper and viridian by a St. Thomian sun
I knew if there were mangoes in school, someone would understand calypso on Saturday mornings was home carried through speakers 
And I knew I could find someone to hum the violins of El Cantante with me like Sunday hymns

My grandfather pushed his existence onto a boat between islands
He was forever bridging
But somehow my arms were always machetes
To the peering fish and bruised fruit my grandfather was smuggling in
Severing song hummed through local news stained on cardboard and fraying twine
His hands,
a crackling of black creases embalmed by cooking fat and ostentatious suns
Would unpack home into our sink
While I stirred fungi and plucked out the slimed okra
Asking from the nook of his side
If home remembered me
And if it sent me mangoes

Wind Griots

holding a conch to your ear
feels quite redundant 
if you stand in the water

but we carry on this act
and instill our glee
from sounds of abandoned homes

now the sea of blue tarps
you see from the mountaintops
rivals the ocean

I search the uphill of sand
where the palm tree fans
these shells in to splendored post

the best view for a griot
is comings and goings
to place bodies in stories
for the life of a queen conch
averages seven
too short for a retelling

still now I ask her
if she saw a man
who took his last breath alone

a tall shell of glistening black
back curved by a tree
with limbs of unforgetting

she sighs
a drowning
do not worry his hands
still smell of fish
in the afterlife

Nia Andino is a New York born visual artist, writer and graduate of Parsons School of Design. Raised with the culture of Caribbean stories in her home, she is drawn to elements of visual and verbal expression that reflect her Afro- Boricua/Caribbean roots, and the beauty and condition of the human soul. Her art has been collected and shown at several galleries in New York, New Jersey, California and Puerto Rico. She has created the art for the book covers of In Defense of Glitter and Rainbows and Mujeres, The Magic, The Movement, The Muse. Nia’s writing has been published in Moko Magazine, The Abuela Stories Project, Mujeres, The Magic, The Movement and The Muse and Latinas: Protests and Struggles in the 21st Century USA. You can view her work at and follow her on Instagram at andino_styles.




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.




Celia Sorhaindo

Sugarcane Artists

He was a jus’ come artist,
they whispered behind
grizzled, green and yellow fingers.

But sometimes the best lessons
are self taught—
no more letters need come after
the name we decide to own—
a university degree my take us no further than
the arduous 360 degree trek we took
to find ourselves.

He was quietly confident;
sugarcane raw talent.
Demons exorcised in
furious, cane-cutting,
cathartic cutlass strokes
on blank white canvas.

He taught me to see—
bravely mix colours; blue
green, violet, yellow, white
to make a brown boy’s body live;
paint with a violently emotional brush
dipped into the bright brash palette
of lineage and my view of my world.

Fear of Stones

I never thought I would have to fear stones—
like Kei’s Miss Mary boy, Mark;
like the heat seeking stray dogs,
the persistent indigents;
all pelted plenty.

Fear of stones—

like my Father, after his head
caught a missile at Carnival;
like the village after the river
batted storm-bowled boulders.

Metaphorical stones
(rocks from ages cleft for me)
these have landed hard for sure,
(built you a whole road not to follow)
but broke no bones.

As with objects
of dread or envy,
or things in the way,
obliterated by fire,
or cutlass courts,
perhaps this was yet another
innate island initiation; inevitable.

Yesterday I faced my first flying stone—
one I am implicated in choosing—I flinched,
held out flat hand as shield, even though
I knew only in games and good books can
paper conquer rock—

[Breathe out]
[Breathe in]

Must I turn to Jakuta or Stone?
I hope
it will take me to the end
of this poem to free me
from thrown-stone phobia.

My name is Celia Sorhaindo, a poet born in Dominica, West Indies. I lived many years in the UK and returned home in 2005. I was an organising committee member of the Nature Island Literary Festival and also the Dominica Link for Hands Across the Sea, a US based non-profit organisation which aims to help raise child literacy levels in the Eastern Caribbean.

My poems have been published in The Caribbean Writer, Moko Magazine, Interviewing The Caribbean, Susumba’s Book Bag and the New Daughters of Africa anthology. A poem of mine was also long-listed for the UK National Poetry Competition 2017/18.

I am a 2016 Cropper Foundation Creative Writers Workshop fellow, a Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop 2017 fellow and am currently finalizing my first poetry collection. 




Rae-ann Smith

Last Minute

       The world is supposed to end today. Lives are lost each second. Earth trembles and shakes and suffers through her last breaths. Storms ravish the land, sinkholes appear as if by magic and the oceans fight each other to squatter on land that belong to none of them. The lucky few, chosen for the escapehumanity’s last, a mix of the best and the brightestwatch helplessly, while I, pre-occupied, hurriedly look through our fleet’s manifest for Gloria, my wife.
       “Where the france is this damn woman?!” I snort out my nostrils at the computer on the Bridge.
       “Captain?” my first mate Jack asks, always at the ready.
       He looks at me intently, anticipating an explanation.
       I suck my teeth, in frustration more than annoyance. “Get a S.P.O.D ready for me. I’m going back to Earth.” I ignore his protests with a wave of my hand and the command, “Stepping off.” I smilegoodbye, and for that split second I see my life, the result of my ambitionhow can I have everything I ever wanted but not have anything I want? “Jack. The Bridge is yours.”
       “But sir…”
       I’m leaving the poor guy in a lurch, I know, but it cannot be helped. I have to find her.


       What a time to come home. It used to be so green here but progress changed the colour of the land and when it bemoaned the loss we told it to make do by our indifference. Now, here I am, wheezing and wobbly.
       When I left the planet three years ago to work on the space station, San Fernando stank. People were moving out of the city in droves. It wasn’t just the Usine Landfill anymore, the stench had become palpable, thick and alive. You could see it coming like the rain; a green cloud formed over what was once lush cane fields and made the wind stop. Then the animals left. The butterflies had died out decades before but that wasn’t noteworthy. The fish, the shrimp, the crabs they went in that first decade of the 21st centurythey were just food, we could import more. No, I mean the animals left. The pets. Dogs especially. First, their personality changed. They formed gangs and travelled in these feral packs attacking anything that moved. So, people started killing them and making sport of it. That’s when I met Gloria…. Oh gosh, Gloria. I have to make my way to the house somehow and I’m going to have to run.


       “Earthquake!” shouts loud-speakers as I run into the excited roar of a crowd. There are people in the street like stagnant water, shoulder to shoulder, jammed in, up against each other, drinking, dancing.
       “What going on here?” I ask a short, buxom woman gyrating on my leg.
       “We waiting on the world to end!” She shouts, barely audible over the music, then continues dancing. I push past her and she shifts her waist to another more willing partner. She’s not bad looking… maybe… if I had the time.
       It takes me half hour to navigate the crowd. In that time, a black rain falls drenching everyone in its sticky filth and the earth shakes like her foundation came loose. Quarter of the people are catapulted each over the other, never to be seen again. Others lie still on the fractured earth. Some bawl, some pray, some stand silently and watch.
       But the musicit plays on.
       “Why we couldn’t all just go same time? Why I remain here to suffer?” An old man grabs me like I know the answers to his questions. I peel his fingers from my arm and leave there; exhausted, affected and dirty.

       I run and I run. I feel a stitch grow near my liver but I do not dare stop. I make good distance before the earth sneezes and sends me toppling head first into a pit. With arms flailing about I manage to grab onto what feels like the protruding root of a long toppled tree. Barely any sunlight pierces the dark hole as I hug the root, trying to find some rest for my dangling legs, praying that I can hold on, that I can get out of here alive.
       “Hey! You good?!”
       “For the minute…” Why is this nut asking me if I’m good? I’m hanging on for dear life man!
       “Hold on. I have a hose. I’ll throw it down to you. See if you could catch it.”
       Catch it?! “Say what?”
       “Well I can’t climb down there. So I will try pull you out. But you have to catch the hose.” He says slowly with a strong Tobagonian accent. I can’t place a name or a face to the voice but it floats down wrapped in a warm feeling where many happy memories live.
       “Owww!” The tap at the end of the hose hits me on the head.
       “What happen?!”
       “Nothing!” I just have to grab hold of this thing without plunging to my death. I know my right arm is stronger than my left but the hose is nearer my right. I’m going to have to reach…
       “You ready?”
       “Gimme a minute.”
       “I have all the time in the world.” He replies sarcastically.
       I kiss my teeth, let go and grab the hose in one deft move. Thank You Jesus! “Pull nah man!”
       “A A you ready now.” He says chuckling. Then he inches the hose up and up and up until I near the mouth of the swallow- hole, grab onto its lips and climb out. I roll onto the ground with eyes closed and stop on my back. Air rushes out of my mouth so fast I gasp. Breathing feels so new.
       I open my eyes to see my saviour standing silhouetted in the path between the sun and my face.
       “You good?”
       “Thank you! Thanks a million.”
       “Don’t mention it Walker.”
       “Who’s that?” Squinting, trying to make out the dark figure looming over me. “Ram? Is you Ram?” He laughs Ram’s distinct boom laughter; loud, short and a little wheezy. “Ram! What you still doing here?!” I sit up in shock. Ram is a master agriculturalist; a plant whisperer. Once a plant meets him, it needs him. He is a valuable asset to the fleet. Well, he should have been. “Why you not on the ship Ram?”
       “I miss my flight boy.” He says while sitting.
       “And I did just miss it too… you know. If they did wait ‘bout a two minutes more…”
       “How you so last minute Ram? How you go be late for the escape?” I ask him, in amazement.
       “Walker. What you doing back here?”
       I turnecstatic, if Ram survives Gloria must as welland speak without thinking. “I come for Gloria boy!”
       “You come with a ship? Take me with all-you. Please man. Is like God send you for me!”
       I stand up, ignoring his plea. “I have to go. Thank you Ram.”
       “What you mean I-have-to-go-thank-you-Ram?” His bulging eyes follow me. “That’s it? That’s all? I am coming with you.”
       I can’t look at him. I turn to run off but Ram grabs me and gets up. It shocks me how quick and strong he is. He squeezes the fat knobs he has for fingers into my arm. I try to get out of his grasp but he holds on like his life depended on it.
       Sadly, it probably does.
       I pull and I twist. “Ram… Sorry… It have no room for you.” I barely whisper but my words still cut him.
       “It must have room. It must! It must! How you could come all the way here and I see you and it not have room? It must have room.” He licks his wounds. It increases his strength. “Gloria’s dead. Walker, I will come on the ship with you.”
       “You don’t know how to lie do you?” I sigh, trying to make light of the situation.
       Ram grins with a hope that stains the air between us. “I coming on that ship.”
       “Is not a ship boy. I came in a S.P.O.D…”
       “You could come in a box for all I care as long as we could take it to get out of here.”
       “We can’t.”
       “What? Why the fuck not?”
       “A S.P.O.D only has room for 1 passenger.”
       “Why the fuck would you come here with that?!” He lets go of me, pulls at his hair, scratches his head and paces in confused circles before he throws a right clenched fist at my nose. He throws another before I get time to react but the third blow I block and clock him across the face. He falls. Hard. I reach out, pleading with him to stop. Sitting up, he takes my hand. And when I relax, thinking it’s over, he pulls. Hard. I fall as he rises to his feet. I turn onto my back with anger bubbling in my chest. But in that split second, he throws his body at me and lands on my stomach with a thud. It knocks the wind out of me. I fart too loudly not to have shit myself. Then he straddles me and pounds his fists onto my face; now left and right, then left, then right. But I’m not done. I forget my military fighting skills and bite into his right thigh until he yelps. It loosens his grip as he tries to get my teeth out of his flesh and it gives me enough freedom to bring my knees to my chin and kick into his stomach with all the force I can muster. He goes flying back, back and backwards into the sinkhole.
       “Ram!” I scream, immediately regretting my failure to grab him. I crawl over to the hole’s mouth.“Ram!!” No answer. “Ramsingh!!” Nothing. A tug-o-war rope coils around my heart and as each end pulls it strangles the beating. Ram was my best man. “Oh God.” He just saved my life.


       Earth, as though to hurry me along, shifts. I almost lose my footing but I get away before the ground collapses. I run. I run to the house without stopping to indulge the salty tears that wash my bloody bruises.


       “Gloria!” I shout as I run up to the front door. I grab the doorknob. The fingerprint scanner reads my prints and it swings open. She didn’t change the locks. “Gloria!” I run through the house calling but there’s no answer. I run upstairs and open doors, shouting her name.
       I hear a faint shout from outside. I peer through a large, open bedroom window and see Gloria downhill leaning against a shovel, looking toward the house dressed in a white tshirt, shorts that barely cover her bubble butt and too-big gardening boots. She looks younger than when I left herclearly she’s been working out.
       “Gloria!” She looks up toward the window but doesn’t move.
       But this woman mad?!
       I run down the stairs and out the house straight at her. I grab her hand. She drops the shovel as I pull her, running. “We have to get out of here! Now!” She struggles, pulls her hand out of my grasp and stops. “What is wrong with you? We have to go! Now!”
       “I not going anywhere.” She says calmly, bent over, trying to catch her breath.
       I look at her in complete amazement. She stands upright, takes a deep breath and starts back to where I first grabbed her. “Gloria! Don’t get me vex! Look! We going now!” Heated breath rushes out my flared nostrils, even my ears feel hot. I lunge behind her and grab her arm. She spins and slaps me across my painful face. She put all her weight behind that slap. Her heavy hand lands on my left cheek and throws my face to the right. In quick reaction I raise my free hand to retaliate but I catch myself. I release her from my grip and bring the hand I almost slap her with to my burning cheek. The coldness of my fingers cools the burn but not the anger.

       Gloria, seeing the monster in my eyes, steps backward without averting her gaze.
       “Augee…? What you doing here?” She inches closer to me.
       “Steups.” Although it’s a sound of annoyance and contempt, I reply calmly. “Don’t ask me no stupid question.” It’s been a while since she called me Augee.

       She reaches out and guides my hand off my face, then removes her gloves before gently caressing the area between my left jaw and neck. She blows onto my cheek. Anger flies out of me through every hair follicle, turbulence assembles in the pit of my stomach and charms fresh air to lift me but it’s not enough to topple me over. The kissthe moment her lips touch my skindoes that. I fall head over heels and lose all sense.

       “I thought about you this morning. You ran across my mind…”
       “Gloria, the world is going to shit.”
       “I remember you loved homemade bread…” It was like she was in another world; distant, but nearby. “But you used to turn up your nose at mine for some reason. Hmmm… I have one in the house if you hungry. Wholewheat. I trying to eat healthy.” She ends with a giggle before moving past me toward the house. I turn and catch the last jiggle and shimmy that defines her natural but sensual walk, then she disappears inside. With eyes closed I take a few breaths, resolve to grab her“She will cuss”and get to the S.P.O.D. “Oh God, please let it be there.”
       I storm through the back door and she pounces, planting her warm lips on mine. Maybe it’s the pain but my heart begins to beat off key as my knees buckle. I try to ignore them and lift my wife into the air like she’s a feather. But she’s not. We fall awkwardly to the ground laughing. Lying under me, she divides her stare between my eyes and lips, locks her legs around my waist, arms latch atop my shoulders, around my neck and inches my head closer to hers. When our lips touch, it makes up every argument, every falling out.


       I cannot recall closing my eyes to sleep but I wake up in a daze, stupid drunk with joy. I turn on my side feeling for my wife but she’s not there and it jolts me back to reality: the world is about to end and I’m taking a nap!
       “Hmmm.” Startled, I turn to the other side sharply and see her looking down at me with a small plate and mug of steam. “I made you a sandwich and some tea,” she volunteers, then carefully kneels on the floor before sitting.
       “Forget that. Where’s my uniform? We…”
       “It’s filthy. I threw it out. I put a jeans and t-shirt there for you.” She tilts her chin in the direction of the couch before placing the plate and cup on the wooden floor.
       “You…? What?” How long was I sleeping?
       “You passed out when I was cleaning your bruises.” She responds as though she can hear my thoughts. But that’s impossible.
       “Go put on some pants.” I jump up and grab the ones she put out for me. “And your sneakers.” I remember these pants. “We have to go. Now.”
       “I told you already I’m not going anywhere.”
       Exasperation, from the pit of my stomach, rises like hot air, puffing out my chest. “Look woman I done talk! We are leaving! You really trying to get me blasted vex…” I continue, speaking more to myself, to the world, than to Gloria. “Shit! I was feeling good not even a minute ago…”
       “August I am not one of your sailor people.” She butts in defiantly. “You cannot tell me what to do.”
       And then it erupts; an upsurge more volatile than the storms that begat the beginning of the end. Thunder and lightning are tame comparisons to Gloria and I in this argument. Veins pop on foreheads, fingers wag in faces, words are thrown like stones at mangoes on a laden tree, voices grow louder and louder and rumble more than any earthquake or crashing tsunami until the house sways and groans. I stop and collapse onto the couch when what I really want to do, is grab Gloria and run. So, I let her win and admit in defeat, “We’re not going back together.”
       She doesn’t notice.
       I rock my head backas her argument enters a time machine, travelling through past hurts and betrayalsclose my eyes and count my breaths before repeating, “We’re not going back together.”
       “What?” She laughs more to herself than out loud; a laugh that reveals her you-are-a-piece-of-work-just-incredulous opinion of me. “So you change your mind?”
       “The S.P.O.D only has room for one.” The look on her face is revealing; I know I have her. I turn to face her as she sits next to me. “I was going to put you on it.”
       Oh yes, she’s mine now.
       “And what about you?” Her stare meets my own as it slices through the worry in her eyes.
       “It was for you not me.”
       “Ok. Okay!” She shouts, jumps up and runs upstairs. Then down the steps tumbles one side of a shoe, closely followed by the other. She stumbles after them pulling on a pair of pants, offering that we go together. “I could sit on your lap as we fly to the moon!”
       “We’ll run out of air before we get there!” I declare, springing to my feet, caught up in her exuberance.
       “Well then we look for that ‘cause we were both planning on dying apparently.” She has the cutest giggle but when it erupts into a full laugh, as it does now, the hook of the happy sound reels me in and I laugh too, sometimes without even knowing why.
       “I rather argue and fight everyday than live a quiet life without you.”
       “Don’t get sappy on me I already said I will go. Or… we could just stay here until the end and I could find some work for you to do?”
       “For me? Unlike you I went to work this morning.”
       She laughs, pulling on the last side of her automatic lacing sneakers. “Let’s go if we going.” Then looks around at the house she’s lived in her entire life with a sadness so pervasive, I feel it. I lived here once too but unlike her, I left. I will drag her out – I swear – kicking and screaming if I have to. 
       “Let’s go Gloria.” I say with less empathy than I should have. “There’s no guarantee the S.P.O.D is still there.”


       There’s no ground for metres in front of us; like an incubus raped the front yard and left a gaping hole. I stand on the front porch, holding Gloria’s hand, immovable; in shock at how quickly and quietly the world can shift.
       “Let’s just go back…” I don’t wait for her to finish, I grab her hand and run through the house to and out of the back door. We make it out just before the house croaks and tumbles into oblivion.
       There’s no turning back now.


       The route to the Uriah Butler Highway, where I parked the S.P.O.D, twists with danger and panic. I remember years gone when Gloria and I walked this way to the shops. Steamwhich once escaped through the coloured concrete, even during the day–diffused and tinted the warm, golden light of the tropical sun. Now, everything burns with a raging, unquenchable fire that we cannot get around.
       So, we try going under.
       I locate the hatch to C3’s tunnels but cautious that the inferno may have fused the steel door to its hinges, I touch its keypad with my t-shirt gloved over my hand. I quickly side step the small explosion, pull Gloria and run. How can we get above this blaze? As the panicked question tumbles across my brain and bounces from ear to ear, Gloria stops to catch her breath.
“August… I can’t… I just… can’t… do this…”
       The man-made pristine beauty of city architecture versus the chaos and wild abandon of tropical plants always appealed to me. Gloria though is opposite. Her prediction that the world will either take back her spaces or we will destroy them in an effort to tame them is coming true. I fight against it to survive it but she, she’s always known that mankind’s stupidity would lead to this. In her head, we’ve already lost; we lost a long time ago.
       “…This not making sense…”
       “We can’t stay here Glori…”
       “We don’t have a choice…” She interrupts.
       I’m too resolute to argue. I grab her and run.
       “August!” She yells. “AUGUST STOP!”
       “Gloria we…”
       “LOOK!” She points to a Ferrari Kite. The 7 seater vehicle is too lightweight for space travel but it may be able to get us to the S.P.O.D on the other side of the blaze.
       When we approach, worried people jitter around it, while a novice looks under the hood, trying to get the doors open.
       Not any and everybody can fly a Kite; luckily I can.
       “Hey buddy…” Every-man-jack brandishes a weapon at our heads. “Whoa whoa… We just want a ride and I know how to fly this thing… I can help… Promise.”
       Just then, the roar of the approaching fire pelts flames in our direction. In desperation I lunge for the engine, find the fail safe and pop the doors open. Easy. Everyone but Gloria and I jump in. I ask her to help me look for the hidden keyboard to initiate the override so the computer won’t shut down the vehicle. Not so easy. The LED countdown appears on the underside of the hood, the computer starts its shutdown sequence.
       “Hey what’s this?!” The novice shouts from inside.
       “Gimme five minutes.”
       “Two minutes thirty seconds.” The cruel computer voice announces in reply.
       “Fuck you.”
       “Augee… is this it?”
       “Yes!” I shout looking into the engine and not at her. I turn to grab my wife by the shoulders and kiss her excitedly but the novice is standing next to her with a gun at her head. He couldn’t be more than 19; a skinny kid with a nose too big for his face, wearing greasy PetrotrinTrinidad’s state-owned oil companyoveralls. “I could fix it! Promise! No need for this. I
could fix it.” I plead before typing, reading and responding to the Kite’s MS DOS at breakneck speed. Until,
       “Hello Captain Walker. Where are we off to today?”
       “Well we don’t need you anymore…”
       “You can’t fly this without me and I’m not flying it without her.”
       “Captain Walker, please state your destination.”
       “It’s not going anywhere unless I tell it to. So… let’s just forget all this…” Slowly, he lowers his weapon.
       “Richie boy what you doing?! Let’s go!” An anxious female passenger inside the Kite shouts. She doesn’t know Richie is looking for his death out here.
       “We can all get out of here Richie is it?… Together.” I edge him on.
       “Ok.” Richie replies. “Let’s go. Put your hands up where I can see them. No funny business…”
       “Captain Walker, please state your destination.”
       Gloria and I enter the vehicle ahead of Richie who has the gun at our backs. I slide into the pilot seat and Richie rides shut gun. Gloria and another female passenger sit on the floor.
       “Captain Walker. There are 2 unauthorised passengers in the vehicle. Please ask them to exit the vehicle.” And the left side door opens.
       I look at Richie, who glares at me fully understanding the implication; two people must get out or the Kite isn’t going to move. With the fire imminent, I expose the dashboard keyboard without admitting I don’t know how to fix this. I type and think and try not to show any panic, but the heartless voice repeating: “Captain Walker. There are 2 unauthorised passengers in the vehicle. Please ask them to exit the vehicle” makes it impossible.
       Suddenly it changes. “Captain Walker. There is 1 unauthorised passenger in the vehicle. Please ask him or her to exit the vehicle.”
       I turn sharply. “Gloria!” I drop the keyboard in my haste to exit but Richie blocks the way, pointing his gun at my head. I turn my whole body toward the doorway where the love of my life is standing telling me to leave her.
       “Augee go. You go. You’re needed.” She smiles sheepishly at my loss for words. “My life is here. It have nothing up there for me.”
       In response and quick succession, I hold onto Richie’s gun barrel with my left hand, push it away and strike the boy under his chin with a right uppercut. He flies back into the seat. The other passengers cower as I run past them and leap out of the vehicle shouting, “Autopilot! City Terminus!” The doors close and the Kite lifts into the air. On impulse, I draw Gloria into my arms, hoist her up to grab onto the Kite’s skids, then jump up to do the same. Here we balance, holding fast, as it rises up and out and over our burning world.


       Gloria’s eyes look like a window’s glass during a light rain; the drizzle pools at the base then overflows, running out onto her cheeks. I hug the skid and shout for her to follow suit. She does. Awkwardly. But she does. I see her struggling, so I wrap my legs around her. I feel her shiver and pray we make it to the other side; to the Uriah Butler Highway, smack-dab between C3 and the City Terminus, where I parked the S.P.O.D. But when we get high enough, all I see is ocean rushing in, fires blazing and land tumbling over rotisserie style. No City Terminus. No Highway. No S.P.O.D.
       “Can you imagine you and me on one spaceship?” Gloria asks then blows a short chuckle out her nose. The world Gloria lives in must be nice; it’s so separate from reality. I smile and I nod.
       “Liar.” She retorts. So, I kiss her. Softly. Gently. She whispers, “I love you” tracing the words with her lips against mine, before letting go. My legs hold onto her so she doesn’t fall but she slips. And slips some more. I groan from the exertion but I will never let go. “It’s over babe.” She says, her last goodbye before she raises her arms and slides away.
       “Nooooo!” I scream and let go simultaneously. I don’t notice my death waiting, only Gloria as she freefalls into the pure rage below. Why did I abandon herso beautiful yet so fragile? Why did I wait until the last minute to try to get her back?


Rae-ann Smith is a teacher, filmmaker, writer and photographer. She has won a Merit Certificate and 3rd Bronze Medal in Photography from the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s National Visual Arts Festival. She earned Honourable Mention in The 2009 CANTEEN Awards in Poetry and Fiction, screened at The 2011 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, The 2011 San Diego Christian Film Festival, The 2011 Africa International Film Festival, The 2012 San Diego Black Film Festival, The 5th Samsung Women’s International Film Festival (SWIFF) in Chennai, India, The 2012 No More Violence Against Women Film Festival (India) as well as The 2012 International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration, Equality in Indonesia. She also has photographs in VOLUME TWO // ISSUE ONE of TRACK//FOUR Journal. And she was shortlisted for the 2016 Small Axe Literary Competition. She is currently the Programme Coordinator for the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Film Production at the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) The University of the West Indies Mona Campus.

Teaching portfolio:




Ayanna Gillian Lloyd

Sea Change

The four of us watched as the white man drove his truck right onto the beach. It stuck out with its slick, red paint job as it ground its way down, leaving ragged trenches deep enough to fall into. We’d grown used to the little off-road jeeps that we sometimes saw climbing through the bush, weaving their way inland to the waterfalls. Those guys knew the space and understood the rules. None of them would have driven directly onto the sand during nesting season.

       We were regulars on St. Madeline Bay – Junior, Keisha, Micah and me. Used to be that the whole coastline was wild, and the only people here were the villagers who looked after the turtles when they came to nest, a few conservationists from the University, and us. Not anymore. Now we had to go past the big colourful umbrellas and the picnic spreads to get to our little corner of the bay.

       On our side the sand was a dirtier white, the sea almond trees were broad and shady and with every step to the ocean’s edge the terrain underfoot changed. First was the silvery dirt of the shortcut from the road, then the scraggly patches of seaweed and sticky moss that grew on bits of sharp rock or smooth driftwood, then a stretch of coarse sand growing deeper brown closer to the shoreline.

       We could lie under the trees, sit with our backs against the rough, rocky cliff face or lie on the sand. And we didn’t need signs to tell us not to drive on the beach because it was turtle season; we just knew. Although we were from town, and not the little village nearby, we had long figured out how to fit into its rhythm.

       Micah glared at the red pickup truck and grumbled, “White people.” He took a last drag of his cigarette and dropped the butt into the empty beer bottle that we had stuck into the sand as a temporary ashtray. His long, skinny body was folded up into itself, knees almost reaching past his shoulders, back leaning against the tree trunk, pale brown skin a fraction darker than usual.

       Keisha laughed at him as her slender fingers rolled the spliff and put it aside in the Ziploc bag with the others.
“Micah, you know you white too, right?”

       “I tell you to stop that shit. I not white.”

       Keisha snorted.

       Micah’s face got a little redder despite his tan “You know is the expats I talking about Keisha – the foreign kinda white, the rich people kinda white. Acting like if the place belong to them.”

       Keisha raised her eyebrows and Junior laughed. “Leave the man nah Keisha. You know Micah sensitive.”

       I smiled and listened to them go at it like they had been for the better part of fifteen years. Micah was the only white person we knew that had a problem with being white. No matter how long we had known each other, he still got heated about the joke and Keisha never stopped making it. She couldn’t forget the way Micah’s father had looked at her when Micah had brought her home, calling her his girlfriend when they’d first dated years ago. Me and Junior didn’t like the way he looked at us either, but we let it go. Plenty things in life you can’t help. Your father is one of them.

       “If allyuh going to argue…” Junior interrupted in his slow drawl and reached over me to Keisha’s lap for the Ziploc bag. We both knew that when Keisha and Micah got going it could be a while. She and Micah’s on-again, off-again relationship was just part of the landscape; it might change from day to day, but it was always there.

       When you were friends for as long as the four of us had been there were always things you didn’t talk about, little things you just couldn’t help – like Micah’s dad for instance – and it didn’t make sense talking them to death. But today I wondered about this tendency of ours. The way we talked about some things and not others, the way the years rolled over the things we didn’t mention, covered up in teasing.

       Micah was still carrying on about people who drove on beaches where turtles nested when he let out a triumphant laugh.

       “Look!” He pointed in the direction of the truck. “Stacey, look at the truck.”

       I looked over. The idiot was stuck in the sand. “Yeah, well. No off road tires. Sand too deep on this side.”

       “Even if he had off-road tires, he not supposed to be driving on the beach!” Micah grumbled. He stood up to get a better look at the truck, shaking his head every time the engine turned over and the tires whirred, spraying sand. Any second now Micah would launch into a tirade about people who didn’t give a damn about the nesting area but then came turtle watching at night and posted pictures to their Instagram to show off to their friends, like if they really cared.

       I glanced over at Keisha so we could roll our eyes together at Micah, but she didn’t look my way. Instead she rooted around in the Ziploc bag then cupped her hands around the spliff to light it, guarding it from the breeze. Her hair had fallen over her forehead and we sat close enough that I could see the tiny grains of sand in her curls. She took a deep pull and slowly exhaled. The sunlight created little flecks in her eyes that most people wouldn’t see otherwise. They usually looked plain brown behind her glasses, but she wasn’t wearing them today and when the light hit them, then they were hazel, even a little green.

       I turned away and looked at the ocean instead. She hadn’t said a word to me all day. We were sitting next to each other like we’d done countless times before, but she wouldn’t meet my eyes.

       “Micah!” She called him over, took one more pull and instead of passing to me who was closest to her on her left, passed it to Micah and then scooted backward away from me, stretched her body out on the sand, propped herself up on her elbows and continued staring at the ocean. If Micah noticed the breach in etiquette he didn’t let on but since Micah hardly ever noticed anything that wasn’t right in front of his face, I doubted it. I mean, I loved Micah, we’d been friends forever, but once he got in his feelings about something it took a while for him to come back to earth.

       Junior was a different story. He glanced at me and then his eyes flicked in Keisha’s direction. He was usually quiet and seemed slow to process, especially when he was minding the rum bottle, but nothing got past him.

       “Here, Stace,” Micah reached over and passed the spliff to me and whatever Junior might have said was lost.

       We sat in silence. The truck man was taking turns surveying his tires that were halfway deep in sand and jumping in the driver’s seat trying unsuccessfully to get some traction going.

       “You wait and see,” Micah said, “It will be us he going to ask to help him push his truck out of the sand. Lemme see how long it take for him to figure it out.”

       Micah lit a second spliff while the rum bottle made the rounds. Junior had joined Keisha and was now lying on the sand, his head resting on a rolled-up towel. I was the only one on edge, glad that the truck man’s predicament and our buzz provided a good cover for my mood.

       I was sure that Junior had picked up on Keisha’s coldness toward me. He’d kept looking at me on the drive over too when Keisha let him sit in the passenger seat while she sat in the back with Micah. Keisha usually rode shotgun because she liked to control the music selection. But today she’d made a beeline for the backseat and said nothing about the tunes. Even though he was in relax mode laying on the said, I imagined I could feel his eyes boring into my back. Junior had a way of looking at a person with that calm quiet that made them want to spill all their secrets and I didn’t want that gaze turned on me now.

       We were all high, drunk and splayed out in the sand when from behind us, came the unmistakable sounds of another vehicle ploughing its way through the bushy short cut. “Let’s hope it’s another pickup and they have rope” drawled Junior, “Truck man is fucked.”

       It was a large, dark navy SUV, windows tinted, no plates, and as it approached the driver rolled down the window. A clean-shaved, bald-headed man squinted at us from the driver’s seat. Shit. Police.

       We knew better than to scramble. Keisha imperceptibly passed the Ziploc bag to Junior and he stuffed it under the driftwood. Micah pulled himself up making him the most visible one of the group.

       The front door of the SUV creaked open, but the man remained in the driver’s seat, looked at us and deliberately shifted his body just enough so even from where we sat we could we see the piece tucked in his waistband. A second later the back door opened and two giggling girls in bikinis came stumbling out, one clutching a bottle of puncheon.

       The man climbed out of the front seat and the group of three crossed the berm and walked out onto the sand near to our tree. He was big and tall with a high, round belly. Everything about him just screamed ‘officer’. He could have been my dad’s age and the girls with him looked way younger than we did. He looked at Micah and Junior and they nodded in the mysterious way men nod at each other.

       “What going on over there?” he asked, pointing with his chin to the truck with the geyser of sand now spraying into the pickup’s cargo tray.

       “Stick,” Micah replied, “Idiot was driving on the beach.”

       “But them is not off-road tires.”

       “Same thing I say.”

       The air around us eased. We were obviously high, and he was obviously an armed, on-duty officer with two under-aged girls in his police vehicle. All cards face up; everyone could relax. Micah and Junior got up and the guys walked off and stood together staring in the direction of the truck, discussing off-road tires and traction and the depth of sand. The two girls didn’t approach us but stuck to themselves, leaning against the SUV trying to look cool. I wondered if we had ever been that young.

       Keisha and I were alone under the sea almond tree. She sat up and scooched closer to me. I had been sitting in the same position so long trying to avoid looking at her that my back hurt, but I didn’t dare move. The drama of the truck, the policeman, the girls, even the boys faded into the periphery. All I could hear were the waves and my own breathing.

       “So, we ever going to talk about what happened?”
Keisha didn’t turn to look at me as she spoke. She kept staring in the direction of the boys. The driver had finally realised he wasn’t alone and began the long walk over to ask for help.

       “I didn’t think you wanted to talk about it. I called…”

       “You called to ask if I needed a drop by Junior.”

       “Yeah, but I called. I didn’t know if…”
I didn’t know what else to say.

       Keisha sat cross-legged, her hair surrounding her head like its own black sun, her face in shadow. She flicked the lighter off and on watching the flame die in the wind then reached over again for Micah’s bag, took out his cigarettes and lit two, one for me and one for her. She finally turned around properly to face me, handed me a cigarette and leaned in to light it. It was the closest we’d come to each other all day, and as she leaned away from me to light her own, the smoke curled in the space between our faces until the breeze snatched it away.

       “Listen, let’s not make this a big thing, ok?” she said looking off toward the ocean “If you want to forget about it, cool. We were drunk.”


       “Well, whatever it was. If you want to forget it…”

       I couldn’t read her face. Did she want to forget it, or did she just think that I did? “What about Micah?” I asked


       “You and Micah still have this… thing. You always on his case and he looks at you, you know, still. And he’s my best friend too.”

       She looked away. I put the cigarette out in the sand.

       A small crowd had gathered across the way. A few more people had come walking down the beach, observing the commotion. It seemed the truck was about to get moving after all. Junior, Micah, the officer, the driver and a few of the newcomers were fiddling around with rope and a hook and gesturing from the pickup truck to the police vehicle. Finally, the engine revved and they all heaved. The truck rocked in place. They tried again, and the truck rocked a little farther. Then with one last mighty push, the truck dislodged from the deep impressions it had made in the sand and slowly, slowly reversed until it was pulled to sturdier ground.

       Junior and Micah came back, chatting about the truck and the police and his girls. Keisha began packing things into her bag and I followed her lead looking around for bits of trash, butts, bottles, anything we might have left. I was never so glad that the rum was done and that we’d be getting on our way soon.

       “What’s that smell?” Micah asked suddenly, “Sun raise something nasty in the bush boy. Smell like something dead.”

       He looked around and sniffed the air. I could smell it now too. Something about the smell was different though. It was rotting, yes, like something that had been dead for days – strange that we hadn’t smelled it before – but it also smelled like the sea.

       “Look” Junior said softly and pointed out to the ocean. Something was floating out there, still a long way off but coming in to the shore. It looked like a boat, but it didn’t bob about lightly like an overturned pirogue would. God, was it a man? Maybe bloated and swollen till it looked nothing like a man at all. We started walking up the beach for a better look. The truck driver and the other people that had helped him had noticed too and were pointing in the same direction. They too began walking toward the thing that was floating in the sea.

       More and more people gathered, this time from even further up the beach. Small children hung on to their parents who stood looking out at the thing. People covered their noses with towels. The smell was worse every time the wind shifted. What was it? And then the answer hit me. At the same time, it seemed to hit a few other people in the gathering crowd. I could hear the word being murmured all around.

       It was a giant leatherback turtle, dead and floating toward the beach in the ripe heat of the afternoon. We stood together, Micah, Keisha, Junior and me watching the grisly sight, all of us wanting to leave but unable to look away. All was forgotten – the arrogance of white people, the corruption of police officers, the heat of the day, even the way my heart hurt when I thought of Keisha and Micah together, all that was left was the dead thing floating inexorably closer to shore.

       There’d been a night, years ago just before we had all gone off to University. We had come here together to St. Madeline’s Bay to watch the turtles lay their eggs. Micah had been really into the turtles even then and he’d dragged us along, swearing that it was going to be one of those unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime things, circle of life and all that. The four of us rode in the back of the maxi, stoned out of our minds, shrieking with laughter at the flattened hair of the girl that sat in the seat in front of us, the terrible gospel music played by the driver and Micah’s futile attempts to get us to quiet down and take the whole thing seriously and read the guide book before he collapsed in giggles again.

       We walked along the beach huddled in our jackets against the chill night air and stuck close together. I held on to Junior – he had the flask and the most body heat – and Micah and Keisha were wrapped up in each other like they’d always been. We couldn’t hear a word the guide was saying so we just followed along with the group and awaited the arrival of the turtles. Micah said they’d been coming to this beach every year for thousands of years, following a rhythm agreed upon between their turtle ancestors, the waves, and the shore.

       We waited and waited. Hours passed. The moon rose high and then dipped behind a bank of cloud, but no turtles came. It got colder, and the flask got emptier. Junior was calm as ever, but Micah seemed to be irritated that the outing was not going according to plan. Then there she was. Her back was a black dome in the moonless night. She moved through the surf, making her long, slow way inland through the gentle rolling waves.  Micah was thrilled. He abandoned us and bounded away to stand close to the tour guide. Junior had had enough. He sat on the sand, bundled up in his jacket and promptly fell asleep.

       But I remember feeling suddenly very young, very silly and very sober. I looked over at Keisha then and saw the same expression on her face that was probably on mine. I couldn’t explain it, not even then. But I guess it was a kind of sadness, an awareness that in the face of something that was so old, we were smaller than we could ever have imagined. In the grand scheme of things, we really only mattered only to each other and sometimes even that was very little.

       The sun beat down on us and the smell of death rode the air. None of us wanted to be there when the corpse reached the shore so we turned away and started walking back up the beach. I wondered if anyone else remembered that night years ago when we’d seen the most magnificent creature that ever was.

The boys walked on ahead, and Keisha quickened her pace to catch up with them. I watched her go and then called to her, “Keish…”

She paused but didn’t turn around.

“This could change everything, you know that, right?”

She still didn’t turn but I knew she was listening.

“We could fuck everything up, you and me. The four of us, everything could change.”

The waves continued crashing on the shore, but Keisha stood silent. I took a deep breath. It was a bad idea; the stench of death was everywhere. Somehow it made me brave. Maybe it made me reckless.

“I don’t want to forget it happened.”

She finally turned around and looked up at me, her face grave and unsmiling. We fell in step with each other and walked on.

Ayanna Gillian Lloyd is a fiction writer from Trinidad & Tobago. She received the second-place prize in the Small Axe Literary Competition and was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. Her work has been published in The Caribbean Writer; Moko Magazine; Small AxePoui; PREE; and Callaloo. She is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, and is now a postgraduate researcher in Creative-Critical Writing at UEA. She is at work on her first novel.




Reuel Ben Lewi


It was a Sunday. December.
Not May. Rain falling,
can’t remember when rain
reigned four long days
and nights over watery Paradise.
Streets and drains
succumb to primeval deluge.
East Coast flood plains
became one huge swathe
for useless galoshes.
What can anyone do
in this unfathomable fault?
Wet dreams, our only hope.

Reuel Ben Lewi is a Guyanese poet/ dramatist and a former teacher at the Buxton Community High School, Georgetown, Guyana. He read Sociology at the University of Guyana and has published in Poui, Guyana Christmas Annual, Timbucktu, Sx Salon, Xavier Review, The Dalhousie Review, Moko Magazine, Caribbean Reads.Anthology: Where I see the sun: contemporary poetry in Anguilla (House Of Nehesi Publishers, 2015).