"24 hrs 2 Guinea" by Cynthia James

24 hrs 2 Guinea

the rosewood dawn recedes, thin laced with
milk-heart signatures;  the ice below thaws;
brown strangled tufts raise pickanini heads
in cracks of sidewalks

bees are not yet out, but ants climb up and down
viburnum stalks (flush now with scented clusters
where scarce a month ago this sweet lime hedge
was briar patched with thorns),

shivering white petals, antennae digging deep down
in  the calyx, feeler-ing  the nippled berries hardening
at the cup;  it’s Saturday, mid-May exactly;
and all is good.

at broadview,  where I board, the streetcar driver leaps out
to single-point a crowbar switch, the witch-broom trailing,
pulling us suspended on the centre rail, backwards
to Main from Carlton.

and I go past the diasporic new-world united nations
line-up, urging cringing baby bok choy, Ch-u-ut!
to stand up to the threatening fangs
of blood red dragon fruit;

at little India, watch the wind float the sari
of the woman with the nakpul and the red dot,
ripple damask drapes and Himalayan pelts
without a touch;

glide over earthen jugs, brass vases, shiny cooking pots,
guarded slant-eyed by smiling amulets of Durga, Kali, Shakti,
juggling creation and destruction in multiples of even hands;
mid-May exactly, a Saturday,

and all is quiet;
but time is a chameleon, every so often confounding near and distant; 
today I’m the Guinea woman, flying three, four, five hundred years,
reeled back  before my time across the skein of difference, 

a frothy wake of spume
dribbling down my chin like soap suds, splashed up from Monday
morning white clothes wash, spores popping as the scum dries,
under the dingy ochred outer circle of a cappuchino sky;

we’ve run off track
without point-catch in a modern city mapped on ancient legends; 
a heart shakes off its smouldering ash, and there’s Akan Oroonoko,
trussed up like a suckling pig, puffing on a pipe, taunting his tormentors.

eyes kindle hard-stare accusation;
otherwise, sudoku and the 24- hour paper occupy; meanwhile
brown babies nonchalantly chatter, mocking this old street car,
pulling me, Guinea woman, back to a different place and time 

About Cynthia James

Cynthia James is a Trinidadian, living for the past 3 years in Toronto. She writes poetry and fiction and her work can be found in publications such as CallalooCaribbean Writer and The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse


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