Guilty as charged, yes, I was years in the pay of the Mad Men.
Drew on my deep word hoard to sell
and washed over gold; which is to say: base metal gilded like
a dance hall don’s lily, who skin out,
bares all naked
for a fifty cent music video ; what else to do with my poet gift
starve in a garret-like backroom?
No, I did my next best
exhalted flat house paint same way as I would delicate egg tempera;
( and to think I thought fine art
my great love)
I created commercials; one such meant to animate the Hellshire Hills;
white marly old home of the coney
now Arawak ghost village.
Is there anywhere a sun as hot as in that place is?
On the first day’s shoot, me, the local camera man and the foreign director
of diorama and smoke and mirror
real estate pipe dreams
were forced to seek shade from sun’s smite near the mouth of a great cave
known as the two sisters; named
for ancient rock
formation shaped like two women; or maybe so called because of fabled
Taino legend of two sisters
in a cave hiding out
From the blood hounds of the Spaniards, from the contagion come
sudden upon them when not
long before they were
sudding the white froth of root of cassava free of its take-life toxicity.
I’d like to think the two could have
been me and my sister
in past times when she and I in kindness kept one another company;
each to each supplying salt and light’s
iron support .
We (both being action figures) might have projected ourselves to the shore
and stopped up the holes in Columbus’s
` rickety old boats
So he and his band of wreck sailors would have waked to find their holey
boats seaworthy; and set sail
and left us in peace.
My sister and me; if we two were the ones holding council in that cave,
who knows how our family story
would now read.
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Lorna Goodison was born in Jamaica, and has received much recognition and many awards for her writing in both poetry and prose, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region), the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, and most recently one of Canada’s largest literary prizes, the British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island (published by Harper Collins/Amistad). Her paintings have been exhibited throughout the Americas and in Europe; and she has published two collections of short stories: Baby Mother and the King of Swords (Longman,1990) and Fool-Fool Rose is Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2005). Her books of poetry include Tamarind Season (Kingston: Institute of Jamaica,1980), I Am Becoming My Mother (London: New Beacon, 1986), Heartease (London: New Beacon, 1988),Selected Poems (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), To Us, All Flowers Are Roses (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), Turn Thanks (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999), Guinea Woman: New and Selected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 2000), Travelling Mercies (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2001), Controlling the Silver (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005), Goldengrove: New and Selected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 2006). Her latest book, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and her People, was published in Canada by McClelland and Stewart in 2007, in the United States by Harper Collins/Amistad, and in the United Kingdom by Atlantic Books.
Lorna Goodison has taught at the University of Toronto, as well as at the University of Miami Caribbean Summer Institute, the University of the West Indies Caribbean Writers Program, the Sitka Summer Institute in Alaska. She has also conducted special workshops in the United States, Canada, Europe and the West Indies. She divides her time between Kingston, Jamaica; Toronto and Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia; and teaches in the Department of English and the Centre for African and Afroamerican Studies at the University of Michigan, where she is the Lemuel A. Johnson Collegiate Professor.