About Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is a fertile island country in the Caribbean Sea. Its closest neighbours are the islands of Martinique, to the north, and Saint Vincent, to the south-west. It was formed by volcanic activity. Its geographic features include a central ridge of mountains, many rivers and boiling sulphur springs. It is surrounded by sandy beaches.
Saint Lucian French Creole (Kwéyòl) is widely spoken
616 square kilometres
His Excellency Mr. Anthony B Severin
1979, following independence from Britain
Kendel Hippolyte is a poet, playwright and director and sporadic researcher into areas of Saint Lucian and Caribbean arts and culture. Born in Castries, St. Lucia, in 1952, he studied and lived in Jamaica in the 1970s, receiving a BA from the University of the West Indies in 1976. His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies regionally and internationally. He has taught poetry workshops in various countries and performed at literary events within the Caribbean and beyond. His latest collection is Wordplanting, and he is the author of seven previous collections of poetry, including Fault Lines, which won the Bocas Poetry Prize in 2013. In 2000, he received the St. Lucia Medal of Merit for his service in the arts.
I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes
The rich man, near the summit, looks through the needle’s eye
down on the nouveau riche
blustering up hill, all brass and flash
glancing, in the rear-view mirror,
at the middling aspirer behind
who, despite his straight or crooked efforts
won’t ever reach the summit
but at least is pleased (thank God)
that he is not so far below
as the worker, struggling from a rut
into a blindman’s ditch, and cursing at
all unemployed and thieves and beggars
the normal litter spawned in any sty
who yet believe that even they
fit in somewhere, therefore are better than
the shocking madman on the dung-heap
who laughs and understands the whole thing
An excerpt from the poem.
i woke one morning and the Caribbean was gone.
She’d definitely been there the night before, i’d heard her
singing in crickets and grasshoppers to the tambourine of the oncoming rain.
A childhood song. I slept down into childhood.
I woke blinking in a null glare without sunbeams, with no on winkling motes,
all things bright and 20/20 visible in neon but unilluminated.
And though the finches, doves, banana quits, tremblers, grackles, mocking birds sang to each other still, the music ended when their singing ended.
Not like the day before when what they sang were motifs in an overture,
a maypole reeling and unreeling of ourselves and other selves of nature swirling out into a futuriginal symphony of civilization entitling itself Caribean.
i thought: she can’t be gone. If she is gone,
what is this place? With her gone, who am i?
If she is gone, who braids the fraying fibres of memory into accord?
Traces the beach footprints of our children back ot the first tracks of the Ciboney?
Who plaits the scattered flowers of islands and sprigs of continent into a votive wreath cast in appeasement on the ocean restless with the unrestituted dead,
to sea us into the altering calm of Sunday mornings, trees in surplices of light and the allaying litany of the waves’ asking and the sand’s assenting?
i thought: She isn’t gone, just hidden. i’ll go find her.
And so i went looking.
i went first to the beach, of course, remembering
how she loved fluidities, the wavering margins of the sand and water,
the way that wind could soothe the stinging of the sun’s ray’s –
the original elements, she’d said, dwelling within themselves while intermingling.
But at the beach, the barricades of deck chairs, ramparts of pastel walls blocked any wandering. A non-pastel guard, though, told me he’d glimpsed her walking off between clipped hedges that closed after her into a maze,
tatters of madras hanging where there used to be hibiscus.
There had been rumours of hotel managers trying to hire the sunlight,
contract the hurricane into a breeze for gently fluttering brochures, draw columns of strict profit margins permanently on the sand;
and the Caribbean, sensing the intimation of quick, crab-like hands crawling to get underneath the white broderie anglaise of her skirt, withdrew herself the way the sea, clenching herself into a tidal wave, withdraws.
i left the beach, wondering my way back toward a town still struggling toward a city, looking for her, as i used to, in an unexpectedness of roadside flowers,
a sudden glorying of croton plashing against a low grey house,
a slump of cane leaning into the road, just so, beside a shack.
And it was strange, their way now of receding from me while remaining.
On Sunday afternoons in mango season,
Alleyne would fill his enamel basin
with golden-yellow fruit, wash them in clean water,
then sit out in the yard, under the grapefruit tree,
near the single rose bush, back to the crotons,
place the basin between his feet,
and slowly eat his mangoes, one by one, down to the clean
His felt-hat was always on his head. The yellow basin, chipped
near the bottom,
with its thin green rim, the clear water, the golden fruit,
him eating slowly, carefully, picking the mango fiber from his
under those gone, quiet afternoons, I remember.
Me sitting in the doorway of my room, one foot on the steps that dropped
into the yard, reading him, over a book. That’s the way it was.
Geography for Robert
because we must
to sparkling harbour, Castries’ dust,
the market bright with makambou, pumpkin, lime
seasoning peppers, various mangoes, thyme,
the reek of garbage
piled up coconut shells
little dark shops
saltfish and other smells;
to quiet La Toc, which as children we’d comb
discovering tunnels, old guard houses, secret homes
watching the lightning crash on the black sea
as thunder storms raced on to Martinique.
We will return to where we were before
the moulding hands finalised our shapes
before they fixed us in this potter’s field
patterned by our landscapes.
We wil return because adult despair
may lighten with a glimpse of what we saw
before we even knew how solitary we were.
In this dark time
sa drought devours our land,
La Toc, Vigie, the market
help us understand.
In blinding snapshot flashes
when the harbour’s suddenly cleaner
buses wood and brighter
the cruise ship’s a Bequia schooner
heavy bare-breasted women squat
squelching piles of clothes to bleach
on river rocks
below the bridges by the bends
in Canaries and Anse la Raye
and we are innocent as clay…