Poem introduction

This is about the Caribbean folklore figure, a woman who changes into a ball of fire at night, and flies around, seeking out babies and sucking their blood.

Ol’ Higue

You think I like this stupidness –
gallivanting all night without skin,
 burning myself out like cane fire
to frighten the foolish?
And for what? A few drops of baby blood?
You think I wouldn’t rather
take my blood seasoned in fat
black-pudding, like everyone else?
And don’t even talk ‘bout the pain of salt
and having to bend these old bones down
to count a thousand grains of rice!
 
If only babies didn’t smell so nice!
And if I could only stop
hearing the soft, soft call
of that pure blood running in new veins,
singing the sweet song of life
tempting an old, dry-up woman who been
holding her final note for years and years,
afraid of the dying  hum…
 
Then again, if I didn’t fly and come
to that fresh pulse in the middle of the night,
how would you, mother,
name your ancient dread?
And who to blame
for the murder inside your head…?
Believe me –
As long as it have women giving birth
a poor ol’ higue like me can never dead.

from The Language of El Dorado (Dangaroo Press, 1994), © Mark McWatt 1994, used by permission of the author

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Recordings

Mark McWatt

Mark McWatt Downloads

1On Hallowed Ground

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2Lady Northcote

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3Golden Flower

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4Beyond Punta Playa

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5Ana

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6A Man in the House

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7Love and the Mind

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8Missing

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9Aunty Panty

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10Application and Reply

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11When I Loved You: Four Memories

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12Fairy Tale Blues

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13Gull

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14Ol’ Higue

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15Nightfall: Kangaruma

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16Gorge

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17Mercator II

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18Anatomical

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19Drowned Loves

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20Mazaruni IV

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21The Trouble with English B*

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22Variations on the Theme of Independence III

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23Memorandum: The Work of Art in A34

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Books by Mark McWatt