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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.