In Grand Mountain, Jamaica

The earth is redder than the blood
Of skinned hogs and sticks to your white
Shoes and hands. I feel like a murderer
Every time I cut a cabbage head out
The ground; rumor had it light was coming
Here but that’s been thirty years now
And so we still use candles and kerosene
Lamps to light our white nights. The dying sun
Is something powerful when I’m standing in
It this high; I wear no shirt, just my khaki
Pants from my school boy days and you should
See the way the sweat timbers down my scarred body
As somewhere in the green day the goats
Bleat for water. From here one can almost
Mistake that stony hill for a cemetery,
But no, here we bury the dead in
Our back yards away from the wells.
When I was young I used to think
When I was finally allowed to climb
This high I would be able to see
Clear to freedom of the Caribbean Sea,
To the impossibly tall hotels and careless tourists
But no. From here is just more cabbage hills
Punctuated by lanky pear and star apple
And coffee and breadfruit trees all growing
In the furnace of the sun. Me too. Thirsty,
I go down to the two story concrete shop down in the valley
That got burnt a while back-burnt down
With my mother, grandmother, brother and sister.
Only I survived to die again. The top of the shop
Where we used to live is still burnt up, hollow,
No roof, nothing. Only the bottom has been dolled up,
Painted a yellow brighter than the heart
Of the sun. I stand awhile and watch people pour
In and out. And then I walk in. It’s as though nothing
Happened. Conscious Music. The Rasta clerk
Behind the mesh springs up when he sees me
Enter and someone kills the music and suddenly
I’m six again and learning how to smoke
In the shop while everyone is asleep upstairs
And I’m forgetting to snuff out the candles
And cigarette and falling asleep on the floor
And waking up to the house on fire as the night
Burns down and I feel myself running,
Running out on fire and half-believing
That I’m still in a dream, jumping into
The well behind the house and crying
And screaming until screaming men show up
For water to douse the house. But it is too
Late. It is always too late. The sun falls
Asleep and to my surprise the street lights come
On. I turn around now, because nobody knows
What really happened that burning night.
I’m just an old boy, walking back
Into a new light, learning to forgive God.

 

 

Rayon Lennon was born in rural Jamaica; he moved to New Haven County, Connecticut,
United States of America when he was 13. He currently resides in New Haven, CT. He holdsa B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing from Southern Connecticut State University. He holds a master’s degree in Social Work. His work has been published widely in various literary magazines, including, The Main Street RagStepAway MagazineFolioThe Connecticut River Review, The African American ReviewNoctua ReviewThe Connecticut ReviewCallaloo and Rattle. His poems have won numerous poetry awards, including the 2017 Rattle Poetry Prize contest for his poem “Heard”; he won the Folio Poetry Contest for three consecutive years–2007, 2008, and 2009. He won the Noctua Review Poetry Contest in 2014 and 2015. He also won Rattle’s Poets Respond contest in 2015. His first book of poems, Barrel Children, was released in March, 2016, by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Barrel Children was a finalist for the 2017 Connecticut Book Award for best poetry book. He is currently working on new collection of poems entitled Homeless at Home.