“Since you” by Dionne Brand

 

(Photo credit: Jason W. Chow)
(Photo credit: Jason W. Chow)

(in celebration of 2015 (US) National Poetry Month)

I’ve been struggling to understand how it is that I only heard about Dionne Brand this year. I take pride in knowing some things but obviously not, because Brand escaped the Kinna net!  Brand, a Canadian poet/essayist/novelist was born in Trinidad and Tobago. She has published ten collection of poetry, five novels and also a number of non-fiction. Her latest books are Ossuaries (poetry) and Love Enough (novel).

 

Since You

Since you,
I passed some nights in hell,
thought of destroying myself,
then thought of destroying you.
Panicked, took an iron bird
on one dragon cloud,
and flew from summer to summer,
till tiring we landed
where demons shadows eat away at my sleep.

Since you,
I walked mile and miles with a close friend,
listened for hours to street cars passing by,
talked rivers and rivers to find myself,
climbed twenty hills to take one breath.

Since you,
I bought a painting,
wrote a verse,
devoured many books,
hung out with friends,
lived a whole year,
never once discovering
that you weren’t there.

– by Dionne Brand

 

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6 comments

  1. Hi Kinna, here is another for you to read

    ossuary VIII

    Havana. Yasmine arrived one early evening,
    the stem of an orange dress,
    a duffle bag, limp, with no possessions

    the sea assaulted the city walls,
    the air,
    the birds assaulted the sea

    she’s not coastal,
    more used to the interiors of northern cities,
    not even their ancillary, tranquil green-black lakes

    though nothing was ever tranquil about her,
    being there out of her elemental America
    unsettles her, untethers her

    being alive, being human, its monotony
    discomfited her anyway, the opaque nowness,
    the awareness, at its primal core, of nothing

    a temporary ache of safety,
    leafed her back like unfurling fiddleheads,
    she glimpsed below the obdurate seduction of Atlantic

    and island shore,
    when they landed, a contradiction,
    a peppery drizzle, an afternoon’s soft sun

    the oiled air of Havana pushed its way onto the airplane,
    leavened, domestic,
    the Tupelov cabin like an oven darkening bread

    she was alive in this place,
    missing forever from her life in the other,
    a moment’s sentimentality could not find a deep home

    what had been her life, what collection of events?
    these then, the detonations,
    the ones that led her to José Marti Airport

    so first the language she would never quite learn,
    though determined, where the word for her,
    nevertheless, was compañera

    and there she lived on rations of diction,
    shortened syntax, the argot and tenses of babies,
    she became allegorical, she lost metaphors, irony

    in a small room so perfect she could paseo its rectangle,
    in forty-four exact steps,
    a room so redolent with brightness

    cut in half by a fibrous bed,
    made patient by the sometimish stove,
    the reluctant taps, the smell of things filled with salt water

    through the city’s wrecked avenidas,
    she would find the Malecón, the great sea wall
    of lovers and thieves, jineteras and jineteros

    and there the urban sea washed anxiety from her,
    her suspicious nature found,
    her leather-slippered foot against a coral niche

    no avoiding the increment of observation here,
    in small places small things get their notice,
    not just her new sign language

    oh yesterday, you were in a green skirt,
    where’s your smile today,
    oh you were late to the corner on Tuesday

    don’t you remember we spoke at midday,
    last week near the Coppelia,
    you had your faraway handbag

    your cigarette eyes,
    your fine-toothed comb
    for grooming peacocks, anise seeds in your mouth

    you asked for a little lemon water,
    you had wings in your hands,
    you read me a few pages from your indelible books

    what makes your eyes water so,
    I almost drowned in them on Friday,
    let me kiss your broken back, your tobacco lips

    she recalled nothing of their encounters,
    but why,
    so brilliant at detail usually

    the green skirt, the orange dress, the errant smile,
    the middays all dissolved into
    three, five, ten months in Havana

    one night she walks fully clothed, like Bird,
    into the oily pearly of the sea’s surface,
    coral and cartilage, bone and air, infrangible

    and how she could walk straight out, her dress,
    her bangles, her locking hair, soluble,
    and how despite all she could not stay there

    (From Ossuaries – Dionne Brand)

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  2. She is one of my MRE authors (must-read-everything), so I can well imagine how excited you must be to have freshly discovered her work. Her most recent publication is a novel called Love Enough and it’s eerie how much of the same feeling which I discovered therein is reflected in this poem too. You are in for many pleasures to come!

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