to Great-Grandpa

O hands that wound, even you grew flowers,
the red-petaled hibiscus, the soft trumpeting
yellow bells, even you grew banana trees
and the dasheen root, and we too
are your blossoms.

I am here, I am here,
Mwen la, mwen la,
the animal of my body
chants my praise. I strip
to my underwear,
press against the cool tiles,
let the sun trample my skin
let the light take root inside.

Tonight, I’ll listen to the unlit sky
teeming with rain,
tomorrow the hills will sparkle
emerald, and one day I will tell another,
these hills live in me,
Morne Fortune and Belle Vue.

And you too threaded this place through your bones,
abandoned the great house for a hut on the beach,
its lullabies, its dead fish.

We wanted Grandma to pepper
your food with crushed glass,
she called you, Daddy.
We thought she would tongue
your name, a curse,
she spoke of the coconut heads
you split, gave her the water to drink.

Who wants to begin in violence, we pressed
our fingers to our wound,
felt its widening mouth
chorus, we are ashamed.

O hands that wound,
no one sung this song to you,
no one rimmed your neck with shame.
But sew into a girl-child
what is hidden and hurts.

O dead man, with your ears
stuffed with dirt,
I string you into verse—
a vengeance,
an attempt at teasing out the light,
to bear witness.
I call you monster.
I call you father.
How this song blues the kitchen floor,
bloodies our feet.


—previously published in SWWIM, 2020—

Catherine-Esther Cowie


Catherine-Esther Cowie is from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia and has lived in Canada and the US. She is a graduate of the Pacific University low-residency MFA program. Her writing has appeared in the Penn Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Common, Potomac Review, Southern Humanities Review and Portland Review. Her work is forthcoming in Poetry South, West Branch Journal, TriQuarterly and Little Patuxent Review.