Esther Phillips: “How does the heart recover from the lives we’ve met and touched?”

Paper cutouts in the snow_February 2015_Toronto Canada

Esther Phillips (Barbados, born 1950)
My Brother
A little boy ran down
the road with a roller,
his magic metal wand
striking mirrored
memories of you,
my brother.
How often did your
bare feet hammer
your frustration into
this hot tar, insistent
hands striking, every
lash echoing your own pain,
willing with furrowed brow
and glinting tears the roller
to go straight, for so might
your own stifled dreams
one day run straight and true?
What gadgets do you play with now,
Time machines? Computers?
Do you drive your high-
powered car with surer aim
down paved highways,
your eyes glinting blood and steel
so that I hardly know you?
For a moment now you’re pushing
your roller back down the road.
But as it swerves off-course,
I rescue it for you
I right it for you
I hand it back to you
and you smile at me.
. . .
Unwritten Poem
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 © Esther Phillips 2009
. . . . .

Black History Month: Love Poems for the Belovéd; for God; for a Child

 Paper hearts in the snow_February 2015_Toronto Canada
Eric Merton Roach (1915-1974, Trinidad and Tobago)
A Lover Speaks (1948)
Climb up a rainbow’s arch
And be arrayed in all that loveliness;
Be gilded as a sunset cloud
Or take the moon’s soft radiance for gown
And the great stars for diamonds,
Be costumed like a queen in cloth of gold
And all the earth’s rare and famous finery,
Be what you will for I am fancy free.
Become all legend beauty,
The glorious goddess from Olympus leaping,
Contested Helen or the Pharaoh queen,
Isolde or Deidre,
All that fair company that pass
In love and sorrow down the corridors
Of rhyme and story.
Be what you will for I am fancy free.
But, when your bright imaginings shall end
And you are your black hair,
Black eyes, deep lips and dark complexion;
When you are native to this time and island,
Attractive in the streets and gay and graceful,
Your beauty maddening in the moment’s dusk,
Your Naiad nakedness in the clean sea;
When you are you
Then shall my fancy not be free
But slave and bound to what I love to see.
. . .
Eric Merton Roach
Buy her wine and roses,
gladden her laughter,
tell her she’s legend
like Ledas daughter,
a boldly made beauty
aching the eye, Isis, Astarte.
But never ask her
of hearts that keep honour,
puritan modes,
ethics and codes.
Cords that should bind her
to one bed
crumble in
her passionate blood.
To the body only
that ripe beauty,
golden as honey
hum your canzone.
. . .
R. L. C. McFarlane (born 1925, Jamaica)
O Girl, How Should I Tell You
O girl, how should I tell you how
You shatter all philosophy,
And melt the hardened theory,
And lay the walls of reason low?
For so I yield within an hour
The strength that I had wrought with pain,
And am become a fool again,
Colonial to an alien power,
Seeking the furtherance of my being
Within another’s happiness;
Enwombed in utter helplessness
– Blank days that jump the time for freeing.
No, stand apart and keep your state
Free of my tribute, lest we prove
How in the curious knot of love
The mind conceals a knife of hate.
. . .
Mervyn Morris (born 1937, Jamaica)
Love gave her eyes:
the tough man snatched,
locked them up tight.
Love gave her hand:
the tough man tickled it
early one night.
Love gave her tongue:
the tough man found
it tasted right.
Love gave her body:
the tough man smiled,
switched off the light.
Love gave her heart:
the tough man fled,
flaccid with fright.
. . .
Esther Phillips (born 1950, Barbados)
Between the silent Seraphim,
Wings overarching me,
I kneel before Your Mercy Seat.
Oh, do not speak, I fear
Your anger; I cannot bear
The censure in Your voice.
Commune with me,
Your great Heart to
My trembling heart.
Feel my love torn,
The greater portion Yours
And still shall always be.
The rest is his, and he
And I are flesh – eyes, lips,
Hands and thighs, and sweetness.
Do not forsake me,
Oh, do not cast me off!
Was it for love You died
That I might live
– And love?
. . .
Esther Phillips
Night Errant
You hate the ignoble
thing, the unworthy.
You believe man is
the measure (despite
your brilliance.)
So when the wolf rips
the night open,
the night you had so drawn
with soft colours,
you deny, you deny,
you deny.
And the creature,
on cue, disappears;
the air, snarled, lies
heavy between us.
I’ve not much use
for a cerebral-shaped heart
nurtured on some one-eyed
Love me with your own
heart hoarding the traitor,
the rough rage, your un-
certain compassion.
. . .
Kendel Hippolyte (born 1952, Saint Lucia)
The child is sleeping,
folded in among the brown boughs of my arms,
and a promise, formed beyond language, drawn upward
like sap through a pith, stirs through me.
In its slow course, I feel a vow so deep
it does not reach the flower and fade of word
but leaves me steeped, resined, in its truth.
Because I wish this child, awake, a man,
to know that he can keep, lifelong,
the trust, the self-astonishing joy that he has now
and he can draw from them the strength to make
his true path from the place I am
to where he will become, for his own child, a tree,
I vow: these boughs will never break.
. . .
Margaret D. Gill (born 1953, Barbados)
I want to make you cry tonight
I want to make you
cry tonight
I want to shake you
and break you
and take you apart and then –
want to create you
To begin you
And sing you
And bring you
(if you care to)
They say heaven is
heaven is
heaven is.
I want to make you
cry tonight
Like a big ole man child.
Shall I liberate you from all that holding in and
holding on and
self sufficient?
I may not succeed now! But
I shall certainly try –
cry, cry
cry (it’s good for you).
. . .
Gladys Waterberg (born 1959, Surinam)
Never before
the past
has been
such a
great future dream
when I met you
the first time
and wished
that the future
would never
become part
of the past.

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More Love Poems at ZP:
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