“Memories of You,” “Uprooted Dreams,” and “Tulile, a Strange Fruit”

In Issue 65 by Patrick Sylvain

Image
Photo by Meg MacDonald on Unsplash

Memories of You

I thought of you this afternoon,

laughing with your entire body

slightly curling over as you let

yourself lay bare its expression

of unconfined happiness.  You were

intoxicated with life despite not having

much. Safeguarding the inner child

whose gaze witnessed the rising sun

and not puddles left by drenching rain.

Bitterness failed to castle your core

although negativity, a foreign invader,

always crushed at the edges. Even

Victoria, your two-timing ex-wife

who siphoned your youth couldn’t bury

you into a casket of despair.  Instead,

you picked up Grandpa’s mallet

and chisel to replicate the world

into miniature wishes.  The 1935

Mercedes Benz 500K Luxury Roadster

you carved for me as a keychain.

I found it, still splendid, no abrasions,

no missing parts, just the perfect

rendition of my one-day dream

that you placed in my palm.  Driving

top down and waving my happiness.

You laughed as you pointed to the shirtless

man pushing a wooden wheelbarrow adorned

with Mercedes hubcaps and painted insignia.

On the front, planks horizontally stacked up

forming a horseshoe that kept merchandise

in place. Even the dirt poor have fancy dreams.

Uprooted Dreams

I am aware of this infinite connectedness

bridging ancestral heartbeats to counter pulse rhythms—

some perfect, some imperfect. Touch is a residue,

an aura of understanding lingering like an echo.

My umbilical cord buried underneath

a cotton silk tree. I wonder if my raging

headaches were due to the violent blows

of axes that brought down my twinning tree.

Am I losing my roots for being uprooted?

Is being uprooted like shedding skin, or

is it like missing a limb, or one of your kin?

I am prodding the ground to find

the filaments of constraint.

My tears are for the passage of time as I try

to remove a rock impeding my heartbeat. I no longer

have a pole to hoist my flag—no fluttering,

just faint posturing from a remembrance of being.

Must I welcome this breeze that dries out my tears?

My eyes, still red from watching hungry mouths

unable to sing the national anthem. Must we surrender?

Our country’s future no longer visible on the deeds.

My blood came from this land of yams, okra, and sharp

machetes that knows how to bring down robust

trees. But, it is raining where I am standing—

mud to my ankle, I am worried of calcification,

to be encased in amber waiting for an archaeologist

to unearth me. Raindrops are like tears

of children seized and waiting at the Southern border

bawling for their mother’s breasts.

What kind of brigand’s brigade places children

in boxes where they must foreclose their dreams

in a country of neon dreams? Nationalism

is not a moral virtue. Yeshua fed the many with little.

Am I dreaming this up? Dreams can be hacked.

Buried in the mud, I must muster strength

to take off my shoes. I walk barefoot towards a bridge,

the shore lights of the past are lit with Tiki torches.

Am I dreaming this up?

So far, I am roped to a nightmare, I refuse

to be zombified. Correct, I live here and my love

is here; friendship cannot be established

with a barrel of anger. Touch me to know me.

Tulile, a Strange Fruit

For Claude Jean Harri

Not far from the cane fields,

the old you that was,

a shoe-less shoeshine,

hangs like a windless flag.

Limp—blue jeans, faded red shirt.

The palm trees whisper as death

greets the sun. The old you that was

whimpers at the end of your tied legs.

You only see your feet,

bare and swollen.

Among the witnesses and the clicking

cameras, you sense my presence and tension

and reveal the blue flame of hate fuming

from faces of men whose boots you’ve buffed,

shined until your black face turned to rags.

The spasms of your body mimic a macabre tango

tangled by ropes in Santiago de los Caballeros.

Tulile, what’s the use of prayers?

I’ll ask Billie to sing for you

a Caribbean strange fruit that grows

on a flaming tree at a public park

in Hispaniola where schoolchildren halted

their laughter to hiccup with the town.

About the Author

Patrick Sylvain

Patrick Sylvain is a poet, writer, social and literary critic. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Published in several creative anthologies, journals, periodicals, and reviews including African American Review, Agni, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, Chicago Quarterly Review, Magma Poetry, Ploughshares, and Prairie Schooner. Sylvain has degrees from the University of Massachusetts (B.A.), Harvard University (Ed.M.), Boston University (MFA), and Brandeis University (PhD). Sylvain is on faculty at Harvard University’s History and Literature Division, and he is also Assistant Professor at Simmons University. Sylvain’s poetry chapbook, Underworlds, is published by Central Square Press (2018), and he is the leading author of Education Across Borders: Immigration, Race, and Identity in the Classroom (Beacon Press, Feb 2022).