by Afreeca Daniel
First place winner in the 2021 Ellsworth “Shake” Keane / UWI Open Campus Poetry Competition
Mango Seasons Were Like Black Women With Polished Curls
It was those days of May again
The days May swept together to form one last heap.
Where the short rain met tenacious heat.
Mango trees were promising the valleys
That they’ll soon be in the height of their prime.
’Harsie’ and ‘Paul Over’ ‘Grafted’ the yard of ‘Julie’
And you’ll ‘See Lan’ of ‘Pere Louis’ and ‘Graham.’
But first, five flimsy florescence extending from branches.
Bear and naked butts against stinging scorch.
Then, you’ll wake up to roosters to see
Mango tree heads
Big, bountiful and abundant full of chartreuse green blossoms like curls sitting on walking melanin.
And trunks looked like masculine arms gripping
Holding heavy and showing rich pride.
You’ll walk on a premature one.
One that had abandoned nurturing arms
Far too inquisitive to feel earth
And one too weak against the whisperers of the wind.
But green sliced ones and salted with pepper edged our teeth
Burned our lips and
Ma will say that we’ll get high blood pressure.
But a mango season without ‘chow chow’
Simply didn’t existed.
So now the heat had died
And it was April and it’s much expected unexpected showers.
And death of blossoms
And the speechlessness of a black woman who had neglected curls and coils and roots and flowers.
And the sky will cry
And water will rush down to gutters and meet tins and cans.
Voicelessness in it too.
And then the mango tree will call you.
Over the rain you’ll hear bap!
And ‘Sweetie Come Brush Mi’
And someone will rush out
A palm size green with specs of gold around the stem
If it’s fresh it’ll be moist and running liquid
It it was black it has been there for a long time
And it’ll remain there until flies felt friendly for feast.
And I’ll ask for half
The thin slice was a tease for my tastebuds.
I’ll hear the next call in a while.
It never takes long.
And Bread containers will have ugly gray and black stains of rebellion and defeat as they’re thrown from canopy
Full to the brim of gold polished and varnished with ‘Turpentine’ we hadn’t reap
and sow we did.
“What we gonna eat?”
Ma will just bite in harder into yellow plump.
It was sweet and rich and proud.
Then it’ll rain harder and blossom will fall like tiny army men
A sacrifice I resent.
It was August now and our kitchen was smelly a bit sweet and bit stinky and sticky.
All mango charms.
And at the bottom of the container will be
Fermentation and sour flies
And all under the tree you’ll hear the buzz and demise.
And mush of mud.
And you’ll wipe your feet from the dead black fungus
That was rotting and hiding in some bush.
’Fine Skin’ and flesh transforming into some unpleasant horror.
Was all the airy blooms.
I always wished the flies were quicker.
And the worms worked
Like drunk men bicker.
Another dozen we threw away
Another two dozen we find.
Thank mother nature for May.
But I always looked for the ones
That were stucked in between half and ripe.
Those that didn’t leave juice dripping form your chin but leaves strands between your teeth.
Then it was over
Mango season bottled and seasoned with aniseeds and cinnamon, cloves and sugar in buckets with thyme.
Stocked and fizzing in dark under shelves like
Pictures in a red room
And jean skirts were already washed of dirt falls and slips with satisfying intentions and burst of laughter and mango stains not even mossy gutters will remember.
And we won’t even recall
Using and abusing the weaker mangoes like stones to knock down the ambitious smug looking ones on high
But our hands weren’t straight all the time.
And collisions of mango crushing against humble bark
And we’ll duck
And mango blood will get into our eyes.
And it’ll burn for a bit.
And the person who pass by the empty tree being of little vain
To find a mango green in gold glory
The ‘Emperor’ mango
Will be lucky.
That person is usually the birds anyway.
Not a ‘Robin’ though.
Perhaps it fell and landed in a waste pile of brethren and sisthren
Hearing the buzz of prayer until
About Afreeca Daniel
With this human experience, I was given a name. Afreeca Daniel.
I’m not a writer or a poet. I don’t classify myself to be of that genre or class.
Those titles are for persons who make exceptional use of words. Words make use of me. I grew up with a wild imagination and will often keep my mouth closed in case fantasies one day decided to jump out and dominate the world. And thus, I was labeled a ‘quiet’ child with frequent complains of ‘not speaking much’ from teachers on Parents day. Sometimes, it’s those with too much to say that end up saying nothing at all. In my early primary school days, I rejected the school system who crudely judged fishes by their ability to climb.
I wished to quickly escape that primary box of limitations and to seek something in which I could express myself. I remember the words to a great story in one my brother’s old notebooks one day. “And as I drifted off to sleep, I took one last look at the galvanized roof.” Those words changed the way I saw the world.
I attended the Thomas Saunders Secondary School where I met my first writing guide. My Literature teacher, Mrs. Williams, read my first piece, “My theme for English B.” Composing that piece was more than a release and it reinforced something in me, I was here to write because it is when I write that I, a quiet child really talk to words.
I love to think that words have thoughts and feelings and norms and morals of their own and dreams and even death too. You can kill a word simply by muffling its song or adding a hyphen. And you can bring a word alive simple by calling it into existence. I love the silence followed by the settled breeze as it gently pushed the breadfruit tree to the side and you can see the ocean and its horizon, just for a second.
If I had the choice to live anywhere else in St, Vincent, I’ll always chose the countryside. Lowmans Windward has a silence at odd periods of the day, where it’s just you and some form of great understanding of the world that no one knows yet. I grew up with happiness served by my mother every morning in small plates of contentment.
I attended the Saint Vincent and The Grenadines Community College where I met my second writing guide, Mrs Morgan. She scaffolded my writing foundation and confidence. After college, I wandered the countryside lost with a pen and a book and I write about everything and about nothing. I enjoy staring at the moon especially in its new phase. I like the feeling as though I’m the only one who remembers that she’s there in the sky. I love watching animes and korean dramas.
Reading mangas about reincarnation and second chances and fantasizing about my tragic death where everyone survives but me because when I die, death will be the only thing I wouldn’t be able to write about.
It was a year after college that I decided to send my works for publishing. Some of my published works include, “A compliant from a rose’, ‘COVID-19, The Wind’s Predicament’, ‘Mushroom’ and ‘Where Death Was Kind.’
I aspire to become immortal like Shakespeare or Dereck Wallcot, Emily Dickinson or Lorna Godison and leave my mark on the world before I burn out. I also envision myself seated in front of a long line of readers and writers with my book in their hands as I smile and sign my name with a thank you for reading.
I want my poems to be included in Literature Syllabuses throughout the Caribbean and even the world so one day, while travelling the world, I’ll stumble into an old bookstore and my eyes will gravitate towards one of my books. And I’ll smile.
I encourage closet writers to come out and shout and scream with their words because the world is big enough, strong enough, brave and empty enough to hold your hurt, to hold theirs, to hold his and hers and ours.