Poetry Friday: Cynthia James


Malpeque 

I was searching for two equal halves of shell, 
the tide was out, the sea had disappeared, 
so I could walk far out the ocean floor - 
two matching cups, flesh-coloured 
on the inside, shaped by what they once held. 

No need to dig, these chip-chip were on the surface, dead;
but so many of the outstanding were unhinged,
and even those un-afflicted in the head were badly 
frayed, battered, left behind in the spume’s wake –
some big, some small, not text-book pretty, but different -
Ask Rihanna … all cut along the selvedge,

some bronzed, some bevelled, some striated, 
some the colour of donkey-eyes, 
some fat and black like Orinoco sea coconuts,
some pale, transparent, shaped like  Douens’ hats, 
some like hanging fingernails, white chips from an enamel posy, 
(dented just at the upturned lip, near the curved ear-grip) – 

yet all were heirlooms, antiques, unusual; 
with a whiff of Balandra, curry-chip-chip, steamed 
down in coconut milk with a blade of stinging nettle 
(aka chardon beni), on top, a blood orange scotch bonnet. 
Vat 19! Something to “Awake the Spirit!”
You’d know it when you saw it.

Yes, many seemed to have it, until I picked them up.
Clutches of Malpeque shells, I picked up 
to find a right side to match a left side, 
fine Muscovado clawed all up under my finger nails;
and the further out I got, more bosey my back bent;
until I heard something like a conch blast and looked back. 

So far I’d come?  And no exact match? 
Nothing whole, nothing that made sense?
I’d never thought much before of the mounds I had despoiled; 
tide in - tide out, facing the Atlantic chip-chip was always there. 
Now just a clutter of so-called good halves in my hand -
Should I drop everything and go back? But go back where?

©Cynthia James 2013



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 Callaloo,Caribbean Writer and The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse.




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