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This poem is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.

Three Poems Christine Roseeta Walker
If Me Did Know

I didn’t know what possessed me
to take the seat of a stranger.

I was on a plane from Montego Bay
when a woman asked

me to exchange seats. I am a good
Jamaican, so I did.

when the plane stopped in London
a man in white shirt

with a pen in him pocket escort me
through a back gate.

‘you didn’t eat your meal’, him say.
‘So you must be a drug

mule!’ A drug-mule? Is what him say
to me? I am a forty nine

year old woman, from the gully. The
only mule I know was

Maas Allen’s old donkey, who had one
good foot and a chewed

off ear. Him showed me to a doctor’s
bed and told me to let down

me hair. To take off me clothes,
to show me-self like pickney

chasing fresh air. When me holler ‘after
me no done noting!’

him left him chair and came back with a 
woman. ‘Is your name

Wendy Martin?’ I told them it wasn’t.
She opened my passbook,

saw Tanya Weir. ‘You’re saying you’re
not Martin?’ ‘Is that me say

is hear you can’t hear?’ We went on
like this till the tea them

bring was a cup of ice. And me start
to forget why me board

the blue and white bird, in the first
place. The woman gave

me back me clothes and told me to
enjoy my stay. I could

a cut me eyes on her, but I couldn’t
wait. I saw me brother standing

far away, him mobile phone to him ear.
Him waved, came running over.

I couldn’t look him in the face or tell
him why me was so so late.


The Swivel Chair

The old lady had once had a daughter that died
in New York. Her body was shipped home and buried
under a jackfruit tree. Her apartment stripped
and a swivel chair sent across the Caribbean sea.
The chair arrived on a Friday in a large brown box.
The old lady loved the chair because it showed
the life her daughter had. She placed the chair
on the verandah next to her wicker bench.
All summer the chair on its metal column
turned and turned and turned. The old lady feared
that the chair would cease to be
a swivel chair if the turning did not stop.
In the heat of the sun, the chair turned and turned
and turned. Its molasses coloured oil seeped up
from its base as the chair turned and turned.
The neighbours who came to the old lady’s house
watched the chair turn right round, then left, and right
round again. The old lady was kind and the local children
enjoyed sitting on her verandah eating mangoes
and singing ring-game songs.
The children also liked spinning on the foreign chair:
never had they seen a chair that goes round and round
like a merry-go-round. The old lady knew that the chair
would not last if the turning did not stop and would
ask the children not to spin as much. But the children would
not listen. Each day they’d come to the old lady’s verandah
and whirl and whirl on the swivel chair, laughing, whooping,
and singing. They did not know what the chair meant.
The old lady did not tell them that the chair had belonged to
her only daughter. Instead, she would ask them
not to spin as much, but the swivel chair turned
and turned until one day
the old lady’s soft voice faltered. She did not ask the children
to stop as she had done before. She watched them turn
and turn the memory of her child into creaks and oil.
And each day the children came and sat down
in pairs singing: dirty bus, dirty bus, round and round,
donkey want water, wash him down.
As the sun was setting behind the sea,
the chair began to squeak and squeak, as if
the voice of her dead daughter was calling from within
the leather seat. The children heard the squeak
but kept on spinning and spinning and spinning.
The old lady watched in silence as the metal column
grew longer and longer. It rose up until she could see its
metal tip sharp. The seat tumbled to the floor.
The children were still clinging on when it crashed
to the ground. They squealed and laughed,
and giggled. The children tried to push the column back
inside the base, but could not. They drifted off,
leaving the chair in halves. The old lady watched the children go
one by one. She looked at the broken chair and thought
of her daughter’s voice and the children’s song
and felt something swell inside her heart. She called her son
to take the base and the seat to the back room and lock them in
with the bed-foot and frame of her daughter’s things.
Whenever the old lady passed by the door she could hear
the children’s song haunting the room. At night when she could
not sleep, she would hear her daughter’s voice singing
in a foreign accent: dirty bus, dirty bus, round and round,
donkey wants water, wash him down
.


Mischief

I’m not going to tell you who poisoned the old
Tamarind tree. I’m not ready to disclose who was swinging from the
branch or what happened before they landed.
I’m not going to tell you about the empty fishing boat,
sinking. I’m not ready to tell you what happened to the shark that pulled
it in. I’m not going to tell you who tied the plastic around the shark’s head,
or who started the fire under granny’s bed.
I’m not ready to tell you who smoked the last cigarette, the tobacco,
and the seaweed from the cabinet. I’m not going to tell you who stole the money
from the letter, the mattress, and the saving can.
I’m not going to tell you who drank the Appleton rum,
then hid the bottle under the drum.
I’m not ready to disclose who muddied the white blankets on the wire,
drying. I’m not going to tell you who wore your favorite slipper,
or whose dog chewed up the leather strap.
I’m not going to tell you who set fire to the cat’s tail
or who puts it out with a blanket from the trunk.
I’m not ready to disclose who ate both
jonnie-cakes and the four chicken legs,
for uncle Sam’s dinner.
I’m not going to tell you how I know all this.
don’t ask me to squeal who done it!
No, I can’t tell you about the match-sticks, the toxin
or the rope on the old fruit tree.
I can’t tell you whose boat it was
or where the shark ended up.
I can’t tell you about the rum, the weed
or who mixed in the mud.
I’m not going to tell you where I saw your English money,
spending. It wasn’t your dog that bites through your slipper,
and I’m not going to tell you whose it was
because if I did, then it wouldn’t be mischief.   

This poem is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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