31 October 2006

what is the caribbean?

so it's been a long time... i've missed sharing on this space - conscious vibration - and i've been just so busy that time continuously escapes me as I rush to and fro deadlines, meetings, teaching, and simply being. I have so much to say that I will need hours to get it all out, so meanwhile as I re-group and gather my thoughts, I share this poem. I started writing it in Trinidad when I was there for Carnival - and it's been sitting in my journal waiting patiently for nourishment. I finally let it free for a Caribbean Multicultural Showcase a couple weeks ago. The first poem I've finished in a long time - so I hope it will give me the spark I need to continue my writing journey... and on this all hallows eve, I remember my ancestors through this poem and through my life... cause I'm still here...

What is the

Trinidad feels like home
a distant memory of this place I should remember
or maybe I do

somewhere in my blood,
someplace in these genes of memory.

Maybe I remember here – this place,
This space of my ancestors

I wonder what your life must have been like
Willabie Black, my great grandmother

What did you experience in these streets,
In these hills of Port of Spain?

All I have is this biography of you:
“born in Port of Spain, married, then migrated to The Bahamas - Mathew Town, Inagua to be exact, where my grandmother Mabel Sistella Charles was born, and when Mabel was 16, the family moved to Bain Town, New Providence for better opportunities.”

So what of these lines of descent
These migrations across the Caribbean

What made you move?
What made you stay?

All I have is this picture of you in my head
a photograph my mother carried of you,
tall, poised, proud, eyes full of wisdom,
stature full of strength,
mouth curved and hardened
from the experiences of your life
that I will never know
but I can wonder and imagine you
and wield you into an existence,
if only in my mind, if only on this page.

And then these words come to me, through this memory of you:
The stories, the words.
these gifts of our many languages
our spirits, our souls
of being, of living in these Caribbean spaces of here and there.
and what are we to make of these spaces?
how can we describe the similarities
of our islands, our cultures, our nation languages?

how can we make sense of our differences, our uniqueness,
And still be unified in our struggles for liberation?
As we re-map and re-define these, our Caribbean spaces,
how can we focus on the local, and at the same time,
open up to include these movements and migrations
within and outside
this region - is it our center? is it ours at all?

Where is here? Who draws our maps?
What is the Caribbean?

It is beyond geographic location
It is spatially expanding as Caribbean communities
maintain and re-produce our cultures at home and abroad.

It is historically connective tissue that has spread
and weaved its way around all these spaces
with similar histories and herstories – slavery, the middle passage, colonization.

It is a region of nations/places that share cultures, and people
with creolisation at the heart – the mixing and mingling of races and languages
that show strength, survival, and possibility for people of African, Asian, and Indian descent – stolen lives, stolen stories, still surviving, still living here and there…

It is complex and ever-changing.
It is an interplay of being – the past being ever present –
In these colonized and neo-colonized spaces of here and there,
Searching for a future that is ours and free.

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