Nine Nights

The Set Up 

 

If you did see people that first night. People for so. Who come from town, from far like St David,

from near like St Mark to this little St John parish. It had the makings of a good funeral. Pure bus

park up by Gouyave roadside like ants. Them mourners arrived, shuffling with the shock. The priest

opened up that wake with plenty prayers. Corn soup bubbled in the iron pot, red beans slowly

mixed up with rice, thyme and coconut milk. Chairs clustered together like fowls in the yard. Only

grouping and re-grouping. Till he mother fell down under the weight of her dead son. So young she

muttered so young.

 

Song 

 

Grief song is a different story. A clap of hands then a rocking back and forth story. Grief song is a

body dancing to a jagged melody story. Grief song is so searing, the belly drops to knees story. Grief

song is the way his mother sinks into the arms of Rock of Ages story. I tell you  Grief song is a hard to

tell story because Grief song is a different story.

 

The Dreams 

 

Martha had dreams for so since the night he dead. And wise woman Clarise could not make head

nor tail of flying fish and hummingbirds over rough river water. Of eddo swelling under rocky soil.

Of septic tank full of bleach and blue soap. What does it mean she muttered what does it mean? 

 

Funeral Announcement 

 

To hear his name called dry so on radio –was the son of… brother of… left behind, bruck her up. Like

razor scraping against her skin. And them doltish dogs sprawl off hollering a relentless dirge for they

master who never pelt them with kick, who boil one fresh pot of dog food; chicken neck with gravy

and white rice, every morning like greeting. Them dogs howl so till grief lock off they windpipe. 

 

His Resurrection 

 

When Lazarus fas up and step cross the threshold of he own wake, rank with corpse stink, the wake

bruck up. Who start pray fast fast. Who faint and get revive with smelling salts. Miss Gibbs forget she

hips bad, till she tek two steps and fall Bra-tap. Mr Power start moan about the good good money he

dash way on good funeral dress for Betty and now she can’t even use it. Uncle Johnny start fling rum

shouting You   dead   man,   you dead!   like libation have any power over the resurrected.

 

Vexation 

 

It had the makings of a boss funeral, mourners muttered, sulking into wake’s shadow. Martha steups

over and over like chant, her venomous kiss teeth terrifying even tough back crapo. And Mary vex

too bad, How he could go and make their serious work of grief into a pappy show. Mary vex at how

much white candle he mother burn to light his way and how like a stubborn jackass he refuse to

follow instruction, Just turn away from the light boldface so. This was just like when he was hard ears

to leave he mother womb. And the old  women in the back room only cussing bad word, wild at the

shame and slander of this thing. 

 

Fling Down Party 

 

Lazarus dash way hymns and cuss words from he house with the heavy bass of a thumping speaker

box. The floor boards started tremble, as he foot rise up and skip, as he fingers lick and clap, when the

Rasta man chant take over. Give thanks. Lazarus dance fire and brimstone. Dance chant down

Babylon. Start lick his fist on a fragile board wall. Start shout more fire, more fire as if alive scatter

springs into him steps; as if alive shake up he mind. He locks swinging like thick twine tied to air and

he chanting i&i livity, i&i livity. 

 

Geography of Resurrection 

 

And when that reporter woman ask Lazarus what was it like, as they sat in the cream-wall room with

the hum of mosquitoes and he say, there is a topography to being resurrected. An atlas that have

mud swamp, sweet water river and thorny paths. There’s a one foot in front of another chart. A

believe and it shall be chart. A surrender chart. A rhythm chant chart. And you just have to trod it all

rude girl, you just have to trod it. 

 

The Laying of the Hands 

 

And when they saw he still lived to this ninth day, they cancelled La Qua funeral parlour, grab he up

in a white sheet, tote him swinging like he in a rocking hammock to the sea shore and roll him in

the coarse hot sand. Then dunk he head in the salty sea, washing death’s stench off of him. Then

they anointed him – all palms seeking to touch their feeble miracle. 

First published in Poetry Review Autumn 2016, © Malika Booker 2016, used by permission of the author.

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Malika Booker is the author of ‘Breadfruit’ (Flipped Eye Publishing, 2007) and ‘Pepper Seed’ (Peepal Tree Press, 2013), which was ...
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