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You never gave me time
to write your poem.
I needed time to know you:
the fledgling husband playing
his unaccustomed role,
no model given from the past;
your hip-hop scene, what lines
or rhythms hooked your soul
until you felt all that was earth
and heaven pulsed within this music;
what zeal, what rebel songs
ignited you, your manhood,
your secret passions into being.
When should I have written your poem?
The day of your wedding?
when you, handsome in tuxedo,
took her hand and swore
that you would love her always?
Would it have been the day
you placed my grandchild in my arms?
For in that very moment, my heart
would have soared upwards.
Or when we strolled the summer
morning in the woods, and laughed
at makeshift walking sticks,
cleared a few vines, picked
some wildflowers for my daughter,
talked of dirt-bikes, old relics,
nothing in particular;
just glad a woman and her son-in-law
could have no discord.
Should it have been the night
I stood behind your sleeping form
and prayed with all the fervour of my heart,
my right hand stretched towards you?
And deep in your unconscious sleep,
you stretched your right hand out
and held it still, suspended, under mine.
I did not speak for fear of waking you,
nor could you see me in the darkness
where I stood. I never will forget
the strange, transcendent moment.
But now you’re gone,
and all the hopes I cherished, prized,
will flourish in the gaze of someone else’s eyes.
How does the heart recover from the lives
we’ve met and touched? So little time,
so little time, yet loved so much.
From: The Stone Gatherer, published by Peepal Tree
Press, United Kingdom, 2009.
SOURCE: Zócalo Poets
ESTHER PHILLIPS, a
poet and teacher, was
born in Barbados where
She attended the
College at the
University of the West
Indies (UWI), Cave Hill
She won a James
Michener fellowship to
the University of Miami
where, in 1999, she
gained an MFA degree
in Creative Writing. Her
won the Alfred Boas
Poetry Prize of the
Academy of American
She is a Sunday
columnist of the Nation
newspaper and editor of
Bim: Arts for the 21st
Century, a revival of the
literary & arts
published in 1942.
In 2012, she founded
Writers Ink Inc., and
the Bim Literary Festival
& Book Fair.
In February 2018, she
became the first Poet
Laureate of Barbados
for a period of three
years with the
possibility of renewal
Her poetry was recorded
for the Poetry Archive,
My [poetic] form is more often than not free verse,
though I am very conscious of employing metre in order
to produce the lyrical quality; I pay careful attention to
where the stresses fall. Much of my work is also driven
by metaphor and visual images. I avoid abstractions as
much as possible; readers are more easily able to
connect with the visual and concrete.
I read something, hear some phrase, have some
experience, and I know a poem is there somewhere.
Then I wait for the poem to come, and I actually
feel/hear the music of the poem first before I have the
words. It’s often a process of waiting. I don’t impose my
thoughts or ideas on the poem initially; I wait to hear
what the poem has to say. Once that first draft is
completed, which is as true as possible to the ‘music’
that I’m hearing or feeling, then I apply the various
techniques that complete the final effect.
— ESTHER PHILLIPS IN INTERVIEW WITH JOE SHOOMAN FOR ZING
CARIBBEAN MAGAZINE, PUBLISHED JULY 3, 2018.
Poetry cannot change human nature: the endemic
inclinations that move us towards chaos. Nor can it
obliterate the reality of evil. But I believe that poetry
may offer us times of respite and the realization that
there is still Beauty in the world. Poetry may offer us the
knowledge that as long as there is a community out
there sharing common experiences, we’re not alone. The
cathartic value of that awareness is not to be
underestimated. I believe that Hayakawa was right
when he spoke of the psychological equilibrium that
poetry makes possible.
— ESTHER PHILLIPS IN INTERVIEW WITH SAINT LUCIAN WRITER
JOHN ROBERT LEE, PUBLISHED IN ARTS ETC MAGAZINE, 2018.