NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 1 - Winter 2018 - Page 102

poetry By Indran Amirthanayagam Walcott Gone, to Sea An enormous wave has passed, that uprooted prejudices, unshackled ideas, and allowed for celebration of mixed races, cults, histories in verses that tasted of salt slicks, lapping water, of residents in and beside the sea, play of light on burning sands, mollusks that hid “Yeah. Haints, ghosts, same thing. If they ever come bothering you, you just let Grandma know, okay? Now go on and get to picking, and I’ll make you a special blackberry pie, just for you.” She squeezed me close. She had been canning apples and smelled of cinnamon and sweat. I jumped down and right away stopped thinking about haints and ghosts and started thinking about Grandma’s pie. Mama woke first, trying to calm me down, “Shhh, shhh, shhh, baby, it’s okay, wake up now…Mama’s here.” “Hunh. What is it? What’s going on?” Daddy mumbled, and quickly went back to sleep. “Oh, Mama, it’s Uncle James! See him?” But Uncle James was gone. “He was here, sitting right over there in the rocking chair. When the lightning came, I could see him, right there.” “You were just having a bad dream, Prissy. You know Uncle James is dead… you were at his funeral.” Mama held me in her arms. “But I saw him. I saw his ghost, Mama. I told him that he had to move on. I had to help him, like Grandma said…” “Okay, okay. Well, he’s gone now. You helped him. Now come on…be quiet… let’s get back to sleep.” “It was a ghost. Grandma calls them haints. She said they get stuck sometimes and need us to help them.” “Unh huh. Shhhh. He’s gone now.” Mama rocked me. I listened to the storm. Once again the lightning struck and lit up the room. I lifted up on my elbows to look at the rocking chair to make sure Uncle James was gone. I hoped I’d helped him. I loved him, he was my favorite, but I was glad he had moved on. Uncle James was bigger than life, and I hoped he knew he would never be forgotten. And though I did not want to be seeing his ghost again or no ghost for that matter, I was glad he had come to me, and somehow I knew I would always be touched by his magic. It came to me that there’s something in us that never leaves, and we somehow stay connected, even though our physical bodies are gone. I lay there listening to the storm, missing Uncle James. n brush-stroking a fisherman and net in water colors, his lady in a hat seated on the beach, the family pug, rope and tackle, and beyond aquamarine spume on the edge of the coast, the deep blue ocean and its joyful and sorrowful mysteries. This poet was born a Methodist on a Catholic island; his father died when he was in swaddling clothes; his mother raised him, and he took after the father, a painter, and the mother who taught him English, and published his first collection, a teenager, hawking poetry on the streets of Castries and Gros Islet, where he was laid to rest, of and beside the sea, at home, before the essential elements of which he was composed. Indran Amirthanayagam, March 20, 2017 “Yes, ma’am,” I said, still in a daze, trying to figure this out. “Is haints the same as ghosts?” I asked. So now here I was months later, back in St. Louis, seeing a ghost and Grandma ain’t nowhere around for me to tell. But I remembered what she said to do. I started praying. Then I told myself not to be afraid. Then kracka-boom! Came the loudest clap of thunder, and the lightning struck so bright. Was he still there? I had to know. I leaped up from between Mama and Daddy, and sure enough there was Uncle James sitting tall in the rocking chair. He was staring straight ahead looking bewildered, like maybe he didn’t know where he was. He was stuck. I knew it was my job to help him go. I couldn’t be afraid. I had to act. I tried to whisper so I wouldn’t wake Mama and Daddy, but it came out yelling, “Hey there…you dead and...and you can’t stay here… it’s okay, you just dead…you’ll be alright…. I’m praying for you, and I’ll never forget you…so…go on now… you got to move on now, Uncle James!” “Sometimes when people die, they don’t want to leave. They kinda get stuck sometimes, and some live folks have to help them to move on. They don’t mean no harm. But you can’t let ‘em know you scared of ‘em now, ‘cause then they’ll do mischief to get your attention; and though they won’t hurt you, they can make you hurt yourself. So now, if you ever do see a haint — and you might — just pray for ‘em and tell ‘em it’s okay. Tell ‘em they just dead, and that they need to move on. Don’t be scared; just give ‘em a little help.” Noticing my petrified expression, she went on, “Now you know Grandma ain’t gon’ tell you no wrong, right?” from heat in their shells peeping out before the poet on a stroll, stretching canvas on his easel,