From the very first piece in this collection, the title poem “In a Boston Night,” Sasenarine Persaud signals a return to the passionate and sensuous that informed much of his earlier work. Persaud, the poet as craftsman, is ever present in this collection, using a complex series of personas and “voices” moving back and forth in time and place. Boston, the focal point of this collection, is like a needle hole through which the poet deftly threads his reflections about places, events, and histories: a conflict between Anglo- and Franco-Canadians at a Brookline art exhibition; Georgetown and Mumbai; Tampa and Toronto; the “Boston Tea Party” as a symbol of resistance to American English, subtly underlined by the description of a Walcott reading in an overflowing university hall. This is a fine, multilayered collection of poems by an important and accomplished contemporary poet.
Burn this shell of tea-stained teeth
and graying hair, when consciousness
takes flight from body—if you can.
Scatter my ashes in the clucking Atlantic
as we did your grandfather’s and mine.
And if by chance it is in some remote place
or wayward village, and I am coffined
like my mother, shoved in a tomb
surrounded by palms, do not pelt me with earth;
someone placing a wet clump in my tiny hand,
women chanting strange songs from a holy land,
and when no one looked letting the dirt fall at my foot.
Long after, when my uncle came from his jaunt
deep in the South American bush he placed the soil
I dropped, and a stone, on her grave—why, why,
I cried. If you will, plant a tree for flower
or fruit or shade, for bird, for beast, for bat.
But do not place a stone on my head
at any time, please do not place a stone on my head
Sasenarine Persaud is the author of three books of fiction and six collections of poetry. His awards include: the Arthur Schomburg Award for his contribution to Caribbean Literature; the K.M. Hunter Foundation Award; two Canada Council awards; and fellowships from the University of Miami and Boston University. He was born in Guyana and has lived for several years in Canada.