Image by Caroline Forbes

Colonial Girls School

Olive Senior


Colonial Girls School

Olive Senior


Colonial Girls School

COLONIAL GIRLS SCHOOL

Borrowed images
willed our skins pale
muffled our laughter
lowered our voices
let out our hems
dekinked our hair
denied our sex in gym tunics and bloomers
harnessed our voices to madrigals
and genteel airs
yoked our minds to declensions in Latin
and the language of Shakespeare

Told us nothing about ourselves
There was nothing about us at all

How those pale northern eyes and
aristocratic whispers once erased us
How our loudness, our laughter
debased us

There was nothing left of ourselves
Nothing about us at all

Studying: History Ancient and Modern
Kings and Queens of England
Steppes of Russia
Wheatfields of Canada

There was nothing of our landscape there
Nothing about us at all

Marcus Garvey turned twice in his grave
‘Thirty-eight was a beacon. A flame.
They were talking of desegregation
in Little Rock, Arkansas. Lumumba
and the Congo. To us: mumbo-jumbo.
We had read Vachel Lindsay’s
vision of the jungle

Feeling nothing about ourselves
There was nothing about us at all

Months, years, a childhood memorising
Latin declensions
(For our language
– ‘bad talking’ –
detentions)

Finding nothing about us there
Nothing about us at all

So, friend of my childhood years
One day we’ll talk about
How the mirror broke
Who kissed us awake
Who let Anansi from his bag

For isn’t it strange how
northern eyes
in the brighter world before us now

Pale?


from Talking of Trees (Calabash, 1985), copyright© Olive Senior 1985, used by permission of the author.

Recordings

Olive Senior Reading from her Poems

1Moon

2Rejected Text for a Tourist Brochure

3Leaving Home

4Embroidery

5Lacemaker

6The Birth of Islands

7The Secret of Flying Close to the Sun Without Melting Wings

8Peacock Tale 2

9Rooster

10Hen

11Guinea Hen

12The Pull of Birds

13Meditation on Red

14Hurricane Story 1904

15Hurricane Story 1988

16Starapple

17Pineapple

18Guava

19Guinep

20Bamboo 4

21Brief Lives

22My Father's Blue Plantation

23Meditation on Yellow

24Gastropoda

25Shelter

26Garden Snail

27Hurricanes

28Join the Dots

29Shell

30A Superficial Reading

31Colonial Girls School

32Birdshooting Season

33Hurricane Watch

34Dead Straight