1. the only person 
    I am trying to beat 
    at the game of life 
    is whichever former me 
    went to sleep last night.

  2. So a few weeks ago Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said that, regardless of the fact that decriminalization and anti-discrimination policies for LGBT Trinbagonians was a part of her election campaign platform, she can’t risk the alleged political suicide that would await if she put steps toward it, blaming it on her voters (and in particular Catholic voters) instead of taking the initiative to protect a segment of her citizens. 

    The headlines in the papers didn’t feel sensational enough: 

    GAYS MUST WAIT.

    So, I recorded a piece for the Free Speech Project called ‘What Yuh Waitin’ For?’ Since then, it’s been incredibly well-received, for which I am incredibly glad. People who have heard it have gone out of their way to say something supportive, and I’ve been encouraging a lot of dialogue on the issue through the poem. That is a drive I perfectly understand - after all, after years of simply wondering just how much our leaders care about LGBT Trinis, they’ve finally proven that the very discussion of ‘every creed and race [finding] and equal place' is mere lip-service. Lots of people across the nation are upset, and I am among their number. 

    So a friend of mine, while traveling in a maxi-taxi to school, heard my piece today and decided to record it on his phone and back it up to Dropbox. This is that recording - choppy, wind-licked and distorted in some small parts by poor compression, but in its entirety. 

    I’m not supposed to have it, to be sure - the unwritten rule used to be that, if you haven’t heard it on the radio, you should wait til you do. And I think you should - after all, this recording does not do all the production justice. But the words, and therefore the message, is still there:

    … since the British first fined the Shouter Baptists, 
    we haven’t learned from this mistake, 
    so our loved ones can’t wait to find their equal place…

    If you find it similarly important, don’t hesitate to share it. If you’re Trini, and this issue matters, don’t just hype up the piece - hype up the national discourse on the value of equal rights and dignity for all Trinbagonian citizens, in the newspapers, on your blogs, on YouTube and Facebook; sign the petition, call your representatives, do whatever it takes to let it be known that til all citizens are treated equally, some citizens will make noise. 

    A fellow poet, anti-gay on account of his Christian principles but equally anti-discrimination from that same moral source, said to me in a car this afternoon, “when it did come to t’ings like slavery, when people started to speak out all the time about it and everyone made it clear that slavery was wrong, eventually nobody could deny it. Because ev’rybody was sayin’ somet’ing, nah, boy. So I feel like dat is what allyuh need - for ev’rybody to speak up and say somet’ing so people know that- that not treating everyone equally is de wrong t’ing.” 
    This is our chance. We mustn’t waste it.

  3. Anything sharp will 
    do. I can’t very well 
    make hope if I fold this 
    sheet of paper tightly enough, 
    but I can make darkness, 
    and darkness hopes for me, 
    so it does better than nothing. 
    Good listeners don’t come 
    in packs of five at the minimart, 
    you can’t put a bandage on 
    nightmares, or put a lighter to them 
    either, temperament cannot 
    be treated with a soft candle. 
    If I want to make it, 
    I have to choose whether 
    making it alive will do. 
    The only reason I’m not 
    open at the wrists yet is 
    because I used to ask people not to, 
    the only reason I’m not 
    open at the wrists yet is 
    because I’m ashamed of my own blood, 
    the only reason I’m not 
    open at the wrists yet is 
    because I’m afraid death is worse still than a fearful life, 
    the only reason I’m not 
    open at the wrists yet is 
    because I’m afraid death feels like 
    sputtering and not knowing where to find breath, 
    searching over and over, 
    screaming for any little morsel of it while 
    the rest falls out of me.
    I’m just guessing at an 
    answer for my feelings at this point, 
    I’m too away from my head 
    to even ask again. 
    I put the broken fang away 
    because I don’t want you to see me 
    be a coward. But if there was 
    an answer for this pain, 
    then that would be that already. 
    Any answer will do.

  4. everyone wants to know 
    about the voyager 
    in his broad casket, 
    whether it stays afloat, 
    at what hour he sharpens 
    his harpoon, what scribbles 
    down in his log when it becomes 
    dark and the beacon is far. 

    no one asks the ocean 
    how the old man on her back 
    on bladed bark feels. 
    does the voyager feel smooth? 
    does the voyager feel hateful? 

    and no one ever wonders 
    about the wishes of the 
    wind, and yet 
    we wouldn’t have a story without her.

  5. you call it 
    Jacob wrestling with the angel 

    i call it 
    a knife fight 
    in the alley behind God’s bedroom 
    begging for someone to just say aloud that 
    those who do good 
    deserve better 

    than this 
    knife fight to begin with.

  6. You know what time it is… #FreeSpeechProject Season 3 coming soon! #poetry

    You know what time it is… #FreeSpeechProject Season 3 coming soon! #poetry

  7. Credibility is when 
    a comedy website doesn’t challenge 
    your political views. 
    It’s when only the people 
    who don’t talk about race 
    grace the cover of your digital news 
    or get mad likes on the front page of YouTube; 
    it’s when at least 
    the people who disagree with you 
    don’t comment as often on your 
    misguided attempts to be a forward-thinking man 
    as you do on theirs. 
    Credibility is when 
    your echo chamber’s walls 
    grow thick, 
    when your ego engorges 
    and wraps around you, 
    when your foetal state of emotional weakness 
    is insulated by the weight 
    of how many names for rhetorical devices 
    you can misuse 
    or which memes you can source as 
    faux-contexts. 
    Credibility is 
    blood; you’ve slit Cracked’s neck, 
    you’ve slit Polygon’s neck, 
    why on earth would you have to hear another woman? 
    Even the nice ones, 
    especially the often-wrong ones, 
    why on earth would you have to hear 
    a sinner say they still deserve a fairer trial
    than a cinderblock to the ankle and
    God’s love on the way down if they deserve it?
    Only witches get back up. 
    That means 
    you’re right. Incredible. 
    Credibility is 
    an echo chamber with 
    teeth around its walls, 
    no counterpoint climbs here, 
    no way, 
    trespassers shall be shot on sight, 
    the smell of new opinion 
    makes you clutch your belly button, 
    makes you retch for your friends to LOL 
    quickly beneath you in solidarity, 
    it must be 
    incredible, 
    whatever just jumped the fence. 
    When the rest of us ask 
    why it is a comedy website 
    has to be the one to get it right, 
    you’ll fume. You’ll say comedy 
    is proof of an opinion’s tomb - 
    all the serious folks agree, 
    there must be less to your ideology, 
    right? I must have done won this fight. 
    Let’s get more bullet points out of this capitalist conservative magazine, 
    unload this YouTube clip, 
    there must be less to your ideology. 
    Credibility is when 
    you can feel the veins in your 
    echo chamber’s neck pulsing at the 
    very thought of dissent somewhere, 
    Commissioner Nimrod shines the Not All Men beacon 
    high past the moon, then comes the credits page, 
    Issue One of Three, 
    I have an issue, 
    I have an issue, 
    I have a copy of Atwood’s selected poems 
    open on ‘A Woman’s Issue’, I 
    must be one of the bad guys here, 
    it’s incredible. 
    Credibility is when 
    you can only be civil to 
    the walls around you. 
    Credibility is when 
    the walls of your skull grow thick, 
    veins pulsing. 

  8. I thought if I just walked a little slower, 
    took my time, asked a couple friends 
    to hold my hand, hold me down 
    as I tried to get back into the business 
    of walking, I’d feel the ground this time 
    beneath my toes. No dice. I want to 
    call someone and say ‘the ground isn’t 
    here, and what is here feels like death’. 
    All the people that come to mind are 
    bad ideas I deleted the numbers of 
    long ago. I don’t know what to say, 
    I need a couple friends to hold my 
    hand, I’m warmer than usual but 
    I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, 
    my own bed feels like a trap, 
    this was the mattress that taught me 
    how to cry the first time, and I don’t want 
    to find the plot of Port of Spain that would 
    give me the refresher course, I need 
    a couple friends to hold my hand. 
    I am bad at grief. I am bad at 
    a lot of feeling nouns. My mind 
    is a tachyon and everything is a 
    wall worth bouncing off of, you’ll 
    be lucky to get an internally consistent 
    sentence out of me, I haven’t touched 
    the ground yet. The ground isn’t here. 
    What is here feels like the sod of my 
    own future plot, and I’m afraid of what 
    I’d do to myself if I touched that instead. 
    Someone find me a soft place to land 
    before I just get taken by my worry. 
    Tie love to my ankle, or hook my shirt 
    with the future. Don’t let go. 
    I don’t know what’s taking me, 
    I don’t know what’s taking me over, 
    I don’t know what’s taking me so long, 
    but I’m afraid of not coming back. 
    I need to remain grounded.

  9. ah wish ah could’a learn mehself 
    how to dance 
    so when ah tired ah could fin’ God in de movement 
    so when ah hurt ah could fin’ med’cine in de movement 
    so when ah lonely ah could fin’ mehself in de movement
    so when ah want tuh forget you 

    ah could dance 
    an’ dance 
    an’ dance til ah too longed for
    o’ too loved 
    o’ jus’ too damn dizzy 
    to care ‘bout you an’ yuh trifles. 

    ah cyah dance. 

    but it have flavoured rum 
    an’ dark ‘ours o’ de night 
    an’ frien’s who trus’ meh
    even though dey shouldn’, 
    ah will learn.

  10. We got 
    yellow carnations. 

    We asked if there 
    were any white, 
    and all across the Main Road 
    no one had any simple 
    affection or good health in stock,
    not even a little bit of loss; 
    you could get a lot of 
    eros, or abandonment, 
    but we tried to get white carnations and 

    we could only get 
    disdain. 

    Can we throw it 
    at your other children, then? 
    Can I show up 
    the very colour of disdain in my 
    cream shirt and three-hundred-dollar switchblade shoes 
    and start a fight with insincerity? 
    Can I stab your other daughter in the eye 
    above your casket? 
    Can I let go of the bottom of you 
    while your head or heel is 
    on the shoulders of one of their husbands, 
    watching their hands fall off? 
    Can they carry their weight now? 
    Can I walk off from the show of 
    their faux-family? 
    Why people only wear Sunday best 
    for four days a year - 
    to say ‘good day’ and put on airs for a Jesus that sees through them, 
    to say ‘good day’ to a year they’ll waste in beer and shouting, 
    to say ‘good luck’ to the next bad couple, 
    to say ‘farewell’ and put Visine in their eyes over your body - 
    when my mother is crying about money 
    and then answering the phone in a stern tone, 
    and I’m trying not to cry too much 
    so people don’t say I have drama queen in me, 
    so I’m not crying at all 
    so people say I have fearsome carelessness in me; 

    I don’t want these 
    yellow carnations 
    to go to waste. 

    I want to drink something sharp and sweet 
    and spit in someone’s eye. 
    I want to tell whoever’s words 
    taste bad in my ear 
    that they could catch one of these carnations 
    as if it’s another ceremony. 
    I want to go back to Tuesday 
    and ask you why you went for a walk 
    in the first place1

    I want to walk into church 
    with my headphones in 
    and all twelve carnations 
    in my hand 
    to sweep sinners cocoyea-broom-style 
    til each petal has said its word in colour 

    and I’ll have 
    white ones to give you now.


    I know: 
    the only reason you ever travel to Port of Spain 
    is to turn right and stare out the window
    into St. Joseph Cemetery 
    at an old love 
    and sigh so hard she doesn’t see you back. 
    I do the same. 
    Tell her I miss her.

  11. The truth is
    I’ll be here tomorrow for who needs me
    but after that
    I need myself
    or a hole
    or hot water
    or acid magic
    or a star going down my throat

    I need a hole in my head like
    I need a hole in my head

    I will give you my shoulder til five.
    I will answer the phone til nine.
    At ten I will be bleeding on something
    with something iron and barricading
    blaring through my ears
    I will crawl down into obscurity
    and take all my prickly feelings down with me
    If there are any questions
    you’ll leave them with
    whoever’s left.

    The truth is
    I’m far too afraid for this folly to fly
    so I’ll put my shards away in my journal
    and put my journal away in the
    spaces where the shards were

    You’ll not really recall it.
    It’d be easier for us all, in fact.
    I know.

  12. What I want to do 
    is sit in his bedroom couch 
    with today’s Newsday, 
    try to solve the sudoku puzzle - 
    blue ballpoint pen, 
    what you write down is 
    what you’re stuck with, 
    no second chances - 
    behind the din of 
    some ESPN football game 
    between teams I don’t care about, 
    windows closed and 
    warm to stifling, 
    untouched food on the bedside table 
    beside pictures of loved ones, 
    some since gone beyond. 
    I want to do this 

    so the bedroom doesn’t notice 
    that downtown Port of Spain 
    housed some stilling chest pain 

    that made a void 
    that my thin fingers cannot begin 
    to fill, 
    but I’ll distract it anyway.

  13. Can we go back, 
    this is the moment, 
    tonight is the night, 
    we’ll fight when it’s over, 
    so we put our-

    hands up 
    don’t shoot 

    I want to say it’s
    as easy as a song lyric 
    but people carved like me
    have sung darker songs 
    have pointed out what grows on these trees
    ex fructibus cognoscetis eons
    of broken backs and broken homes

    and breaking free

    this has not been our moment for a while 
    I can feel the screams from over the seas 

    I have scraped the skin off the bones 
    of their lies 
    and held them within calipers 
    this is the thickness of racism 

    I have measured their law books 
    from end to end 
    have taken note of the weight of their pages 
    this is the thickness of racism 

    I’ve heard lanky white college boys ask about fucking 
    over African sound 
    or African-sounding 
    and don Jamaican accents beside half-Trini trap beat 
    this is the thick drawl of racism

    they want us to stay calm 
    not get overwhelmed 
    emotions destroy the cause of 
    not being destroyed by other people’s emotions 

    those who are hunted 
    only do not look like animals 
    when they remain tame enough to be shot 

    you are given nothing 
    you are getting hunted 

    fuck bein’ on some chill shit 
    we go zero-to-a-hunned, nigga, real quick

    we have rocks 
    and our hands 
    and godly light 
    and our voices 

    only half of these things can free us 
    but the other half just makes sense 
    to keep moving 

    I can’t tell the difference 

    the ceiling has been holding us 
    before we could remember 
    once we sailed with the ceiling 
    as your footpath 
    and once we worked with the ceiling 
    as your foot 

    now we live 
    with the ceiling 
    as the bottom of your expectations 

    the ceiling has been holding us 
    before we could remember 

    we can’t ever put our hands up 
    in celebration 

    only for God to comfort us 
    and to you 
    to feel comfortable

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Brandewijn

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