Poem introduction

I wrote this poem when I was living in the States attending University of Maryland and going through an awful bout of homesickness.

Sunday Ritual

Sunday Ritual

I would buy a bottle of cheap red wine
keep it on the dining room table
like a fine sculptured statue,
until Sunday came
when I would pour its contents,
pretending it was the ocean
fermented to red,
into a fake crystal glass and drink
glass after glass after glass
until all that remained was the bloody bottom of the sea.

Sundays were always hard on my heart, easy on my pen.
I was never a poet then, just a girl
longing to be home
in the presence of my mother’s complaining:
“Why you young people don’t like church? Eh?
The old choir so old that all of them combined
don’t have a full mouth of teeth.”

To be home again,
I would give the old people all my teeth.
Hand-wrap them and deliver them at the altar
like a mash-mouth virgin.
Here, my mouth is full but my tongue is numb.
Just for remembrance, I talk patwa to the furniture.
The brown couch is a broad-back woman
with a basket of fruits on her head
and three sons at home sleeping.
The coffee table is always my father,
stained in the middle and most days left unpolished.
The snow stuck to the patio door is the ripe belly
of a coconut I speak to while eating.
Here you must turn food into language.
Cook tin ackee and fresh codfish
until the aroma says,
“Mawning, how you do? Long time no see.”

On Sundays the heater is set to sunshine
and with my breasts drooping in a floral cotton wrap,
sweat trickling past my navel into my communion cup,
I curl up and die another day in this place.


From She Who Sleeps With Bones (Peepal Tree Press, 2009) copyright © Tanya Shirley 2009, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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1What I Learned in Grenada

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2To The Man Who Tends My Grandmother’s Grave

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3Let This Be Your Praise

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4Montego Bay

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5Standing Outside the Circle

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6Dining at Customs

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7Immaculate

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8A Chant Against Fear

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9Breathing Art

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10Where is God in All of This?

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11Negotiation

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12The Distance Between Us

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13Out of Body

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18Roll Call

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21Journey

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22The Power of Prayer

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23Some Lessons You Never Learn

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24Waiting for Rain

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25Guinep

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26Victorian Romance

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28The Shifting Ground

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30A Long Story

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