Story, the First
Springbank was all the world I’d known.
A child there, I was hers, Miss Nancy’s kin,
no matter this skin, these eyes belonging
to his face. Your father could not
look at you without seeing disgrace
was the only answer she’d relent to offer.
Even when her life waned, she would not
unlock the past, tell me what she’d said
that made him let us go, why he paid
and paid to send us away and away.
We left first for Kingston,
and a door closed behind us, a door
I was never meant to open again.
In Kingston, my grandmother was passed off
as my slave. By the time our ship docked
in Greenock, she was my servant, and we
threaded into a tale, so tightly
woven, no one would guess my origin.
What she sacrificed was everything
of herself to see me free. But my father?
All he knew to be was cowardly.
I was simply evidence.
I needed to be erased.
At the Hour of Duppy and Dream Miss Nancy Speaks
You think what lies before you
asks more than you can bear
but I am with you now as I was
when you came into this world
your one eye looking forward
the other forever looking back
from the netherworld
you were flung into this one
squalling full of that scent
we could not wash away
your mother’s breath extinguished
as you gulped your first
the caul swaddling your face
till we lifted it unveiling
beholding the unasked-for
girl-child cast down
in a place of stone
of men who cannot see to see
do not hear what needs listening
men who have riven
borders and nations and you
in whom the rift has opened
hear me for I was there
in the beginning
witness as you entered
as you came dusking
tearing all asunder rending
the fabric they call Truth