Just a spoonful

"just a spoonful..." by Sarah Klockars-Clauser, CC BY-SA 3.0

Anyone who has ever met my Auntie Clarie knows that she marches to the beat of her own drum. She is fiercely independent and headstrong – characteristics that she has possessed since childhood.

In the late 1960s when Clarie was a girl, parents typically implemented some preventative measures to safeguard the health of their children. For my grandparents, Clarie’s parents, one such measure was a regular dose of liquid (not encapsulated) cod liver oil. If you’ve never had the pleasure of taking cod liver oil yourself, it’s as delightful as it sounds: oily and fishy. On the list of things children will willingly consume, cod liver oil does not make an appearance. Children will say it’s because it tastes awful and is almost impossible to swallow but for some strange reason, parents are convinced that it’s because children enjoy rebelling against things that are good them. Nonetheless, most children will bend to their parents’ will and obediently but reluctantly swallow their allotted dose. Not Clarie. Clarie would have no part in this supposedly healthy regimen.

One day, Clarie’s sisters and her mother decided that this would be the day that she received her dose of cod liver oil, whether she liked it or not. They knew it would not be easy but they thought that among the five of them – all bigger than Clarie – they should be able to pull it off. The plan was fairly simple: pin her down, pry her mouth open and pour in a fishy, oily spoonful. One person had her legs, another her head, another still her flailing arms, another tried to pry her mouth open and the final participant was tasked will delivering the dreadful dose. But Clarie was not intimated by this coordinated attack, nor was she going to make this easy for them: she struggled and fought, even through the occasional slap meant to inspire good behaviour and cooperation.

This harrowing scene continued for some time when suddenly, Clarie appeared to calm down. Her body went limp, she opened her mouth wide and docilely accepted the spoonful. If they had looked into her still fierce eyes, they would have known that something was amiss. She immediately closed her mouth and then unleashed the contents in a spew all over her oppressors. The cod liver oil was everywhere: on the walls, on their faces, in their hair. The team, now deflated and defeated, spent the rest of the morning trying to rid themselves, and that room, of the fishy film. Never again would they attempt such a feat.

Clarie: 1. Cod liver oil: 0.

Featured image is “just a spoonful…” by Sarah Klockars-Clauser, CC BY-SA 3.0

Lunch-time luck


As a child, I always thought that my father had a strange first name: Alford. For the longest time, I’d never met or heard of anyone else with that name. When introducing himself for the first time, he often has to overemphasize the “ford” part so that people don’t assume he’s an Alfred who cannot enunciate. But most people just call him “Allie”. I learned, however, that in high school, he went by another name and this is the story of how he got it.

My father, Allie, went to Kingston College, a high school in Kingston – Jamaica’s capital city. During this time, he was living with his eldest sister, far from his home in rural St. Ann. Needless to say, there were high expectations for his academic performance as well as his behaviour. However, anyone who has been to high school will know that the environment is not always conducive to good behaviour. When you’re being bullied or provoked by other kids, there usually comes a point when your good-naturedness becomes futile and you must resort to other tactics. One on such day, Allie was at lunch and the boys – Kingston College was an all-boys school – were being particularly troublesome. They were trying to pick fights with any and everybody for no particular reason. As it turns out, Allie’s number had come up, his good-naturedness had had enough and he was in a fight before he knew it. The altercation quickly escalated to a physical struggle and soon Allie was pinned down on a desk. His opponent, who probably had a lot more experience in this arena, was poised to throw the first punch.

As luck would have it, Pepsi-Cola was quite popular in those days and Allie had had one with his lunch. Just as his opponent was getting ready to end the fight, an unintended effect of consuming the carbonated beverage was becoming apparent. Allie quickly shouted, “Wait, wait wait! Lemme belch fuss!”, fuss being the patois equivalent of “first”. The group of boys all stared in stunned silence before erupting in boisterous laughter. That, of course, was enough to end the fight and earn Allie a new nickname: Belch-fuss.

House of Lies


This is a house of lies
I guess that makes me liar-in-chief
Chief Supporter of Delusions
Chief Enabler of Foolishness
Chief Promoter of Farces and Falsehood
Can I put that on a resume?

Sir, do you have mess that needs hiding?
A jalopy that needs a selling?
Then, I’m your gal.
At least until you want the Truth
Ain’t seen her sorry face around here in years
Not sure I’d even recognize her.

Yell, if you see her coming
Tell her I’m in the house of lies
The one built of walls with no footholds.
But like a rock face in the sun
The cracks hold promise:
Maybe Truth is a climber

Freedom Tongue


“Good morning, how are you?”
When I really mean, “Mawnin, how yuh do?”
Colourful vernacular paints the corners of my mind,
Eager to confront the world with my point of view
Though conditioned to use the Queen’s English,
I gravitate towards those wild refrains
Choose different words, better words, I am told, but how can I resist?
How can I resist the chance to honour them, resurrect them,
Immortalize them who gave me this sweet song?
This patois, this amorphous dialect,
So refined and delicate to the trained ear and open heart

Battles have been fought for this in-between tongue
Soldiers walk with arsenals of grammar and spelling,
Ready to strike for the right twang, the right to twang
But like many before me and beside me, the joy is in the freedom,
Freedom of words frolicking to their own melody
Even when it’s mostly unspoken, the laughter of my mother tongue,
My mother’s tongue
Connects me to the legacy of home,
The wonder of my people,
The fellowship of family

And when the day’s work is done
I take up residence with history
A history both misunderstood and cherished
To deliver me in ways no other can
To mis-educate myself and journey this bless-ed freedom tongue
Yours to discover with a little imagination
My dear brave reader, I bid you “Good evening, take care”
Or better yet, “Likkle more, walk good.”

(Written March 2012 for the Come Home Jamaica competition)

Sleeping Beauty


She woke up to find her happily ever after had morphed;
This version had hard edges and harsh fluorescent lights.
Like a cruel joke where someone rips the pillow from beneath your head,
Twas a rude awakening, indeed.

Each morning, she recalls anew the series of unfortunate decisions:
She never planned on forever but somehow fell head first into this cesspool of mediocrity.
She gave up on feeling celebrated, regal, and cherished,
Sold the dream for a one-way ticket out of the present.

Fear looks a lot like bravery when you’re fiending for a change.
Now that brave face stares down a road of unending strife;
Those brave hands wring resentment from the party clothes that mask her pain.
And each day ends with tear-spiked tea and little less of her soul.

Meet me in Montauk

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Wander, http://www.pbase.com/wwcsig/image/53410670

Meet me in Montauk.
No, I’ve never been
But I hear it’s where you go
to pick up pieces of yourself,
Pieces of a life once dreamed

Where you go to fish memories
from the ocean of time
And stitch them together like a patchwork quilt
A soggy patchwork,
but yours

I don’t know if the sun shines eternal or what shoes you should wear
Just that I need you to catch the dreams
that have slipped through my fingers,
through these sieves for pockets,
and left a trail of dust in my wake

A trail of half-living, easily blown into the abyss of history
The ethereal evidence of my consciousness
Lost to futile strife for a spotless mind.
Memory-fisher, Dream-catcher, Consciousness-finder:
Please, meet me in Montauk.

(Photo credit: Wolfgang Wander)



I’m feeling
Wanna do something
I think I’ve forgotten what that means
in this time of sickly comfort
and mobile fortresses.
I’m craving something
that can get my
heart pounding, blood rushing
to oxygen-hungry grey matter
and oxygen-deprived red,
something to jolt me
out of this sober stupor,
something that can seed a
“Remember when…?”
or a “Can you believe…?”
Something to sustain me after
the mind is mush and limbs are listless.
What do restless people do?
Can I be reckless with you?