Three Poems by Jennifer Rahim

Jennifer Rahim is Trinidadian. Her first collection of poems, Mothers Are Not the Only Linguists was published in 1992, followed by Between the Fence and the Forest (Peepal Tree, 2002). She also writes short fiction and criticism. She currently teaches at The Liberal Arts Department, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad.

Her poems have appeared in several Caribbean and international journals and anthologies. Some of these include The Caribbean Writer, Small Axe, The Trinidad and Tobago Review, The Graham House Review, Mangrove, The Malahat Review, Crossing Water, Creation Fire, The Sisters of Caliban, Crab Orchard Review and Atlanta Review. Short stories have appeared in The New Voices, The Caribbean Writer, and Caribbean Voices I.

Awards include The Gulf Insurance Writers Scholarship (1996) to attend the Caribbean Writers Summer Institute, Univ. of Miami; The New Voices Award of Merit (1993) for outstanding contributions to The New Voices journal; The Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago Writer of the Year Award (1992) for the publication, Mothers Are Not The Only Linguists.


In April she turned seven.
The city was an army of arms, uplifted –
fists, tight, punching hard at heaven.

What did it all mean – becoming seven,
and Port-of-Spain an angry sea,
heaving, demanding release?

Sister preached a mad Sermon on Hair,
led blind prayers to the Virgin for peace –
her lenses as black as her fear.

Corralled in a rosary of responses,
she saw again the white of her father’s shirt,
sailing to work. More than anything,

she wanted to march beside him, cuffing
against the wrong she could not tell him,
shouting, “Power!” until the whole sky fell.


This is a beg pardon
for the seeds that wither
and get choked out before they flower

those fragile ones eager to bear
that rock-heart and shallow-mind
kill dead long before their time

For the unborn and all things just
beginning that meet sudden dry season
today I beg pardon

For all seeds that start to grow
in the look-at-my-crosses spots of bird-drop
like concrete crack and old chamber pot

For the paw-paw plant that claim a space
right in Miss Mary rose-garden
and get root out for being too brazen

This is a prayer for all the little ones
that sex bandit rob of their innocence
Today I beg pardon

This is a chant to break the back
of the jumbie who busy building
fences to keep the lines clearly drawn

like Amado Diallo who eat police bullet
for holding up a wallet in a pasture
he dreamt might to be greener

For all those we slam the life door on
who pass by without being mourned
today I beg pardon

This is a prayer for the down and out
the coke-heads and gone-crazy
the ones whose courage-tank run empty

This is a hymn for women like Bajan Patsy
that life and men beat up on
till body and soul-case split like a pod

This is a prayer that at least someone
will mourn and temples of re-birth
rise where their limbs meet with earth

Today I beg pardon
for seeds that wither and die
before they get a chance at life


She comes in like a wilted flower – spent,
slightly limping on a wounded ankle
that each year seemed less able to carry
her small frame on her heart’s ready business.
Missions my father baptised her goings
to care for grandchildren – days at a time.
Something like pain trembled in his voice.
He needed her much more than he could say,
but bore her absences as he did his suffering,
bravely – waiting as she once did for him
when his many goings were not about love.
Now, she is the woman of his sixth station.
After hospital visits she collapses in his chair
puts her feet up, and is no more broken –
bridge that bears his not too late love of home.

from: Approaching Sabbaths.



Maxine Clarke said…
These poems are brilliant: soulful without too much sentiment. Thank goodness I found your blogspot Geoffrey.
Welcome, Maxine!
Yes, Jennifer is a wonderful, restrained and powerful poet.

It was a pleasure to share these poems.

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