To get to the usefulness in a calabash, you must pick the green fruit;
it may be above your reach
but stretch a little.
Hold it carefully, then slowly saw its guts
open. A brown calabash will shatter under the torture
but the green
holds its shape,
endures all violation. Let the rancid emotions spill.
Hollow the halves of the gourd, scrape until it feels
it has nothing left to give: then put it in the sun to dry.
When the sun has baked the shell
into a corpse
brown as Bagotville canals,
it is ready.
Dip it into water: drink. Bathe. This is what a calabash is good for.
Calabashes have been found
offering their zombie services in kitchens,
bedrooms and bathrooms
in holy rites.
Drafted in as wash basins,
holders for herbs and fruit, gourds to wash fellow dead;
vessels for sweat rice, tie foot and other obeahs.
And even in abandoned houses you may find a cracked calabash,
face down but still standing guard,
and filled with nothing more than memory.
I once saw a calabash
balance herself on the road,
ignoring cars that flashed past,
sauntering school children.
This calabash wasn’t a young one. Her unclean edges rounded out
like her speech
like her brown, stiff curves. She wasn’t young.
She was tipping to one side, showing
entirely too much
speckled leg and bumsee.
This calabash was coasting. Breezing out.
Indecent blank eyes sliding
down my embarrassment for her.
What happens when a calabash is no longer young?
No longer freshly green;
smelling her own ripe
stink wafting up from
between her legs. No longer tauntly naïve,
when she can no longer taste saltlessness
on her skin?
What happens when a calabash develops a little spice
on her tongue? When she balances herself at the roadside:
Speckled skin and hardened eyes.
My great-grandfather’s second wife
was not an obeah woman,
But when she could not
bend my great-grandfather –
the war hero, the knotty porkknocker, the village overseer –
When she could not bend
this purple-heart old man to her will,
when she could not divide him
from his daughters
(don’t mind that these were Daisy’s daughters,
born from bauxite blast)
When she could not convince him that
his favourite granddaughter – my mother –
was trying to poison him
with fish tea and mettem.
When she could not stop him from
from riding his own bicycle
in his own village
in his old gardening clothes
She took a long-suffering calabash
and used it to perfume rice
with her 70-odd year essence.
If Cousin Ronald hadn’t caught her at it,
Gershom might have boiled down
and become the house boy she wanted.
The sweat rice failed;
after a few tepid years
she packed up back to Barbados.
He never said a word.
- FREE: 20 Poets anthology
- 91: NO THEME VIIISUBMIT to C Gaskin 90: MONSTERwith N Curnow, coming soon! 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith Fiona Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith Vladimir Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith Judith Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith Keri Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with Dan Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with Pam Brown 52.0: TOIL with Carol Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with Luke Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with Bonny Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with John Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with Tracy Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with Corey Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with Michael Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with Felicity Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with Jan Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with Derek Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with Kent MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with Ann Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with Gig Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with Duncan Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with Kent MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with Libby Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with Sarah Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with Sam Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with Astrid Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with Sean Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with Alan Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with Jill Jones
- Review Short: Simeon Kronenberg’s Distance
- Review Short: Judith Beveridge’s Sun Music: New and Selected Poems
- Melody Paloma Reviews Keri Glastonbury
- Submission to Cordite 91: NO THEME VIII
- Judith Bishop Reviews Phillip Hall’s Fume
- Bella Li on as Associate Publisher
- Alex Creece on as Production Editor
- Review Short: Diane Fahey’s November Journal and Carmen Leigh Keates’s Meteorites
- Review Short: Vahni Capildeo’s Seas and Trees and Jennifer Harrison’s Air Variations
- To Outlive a Home: Poetics of a Crumbling Domestic
- ‘The Rally Is Calling’: Dashiell Moore Interviews Lionel Fogarty
- Jackie Ryan: Teaser to Burger Force 3
- Dispatch from the Future Fish
- Introduction to Cordite 89: DOMESTIC
- 7 Portraits by Ali Gumillya Baker
- Selections from 3 Yhonnie Scarce Series
- Kathy Acker and The Viewing Room
- To Live There: on ‘Dispatch from the Future Fish’
- The Wild Workshop: The Ghost of a Brontëan Childhood in the Life of Dorothy Hewett
- Externalising the Symptom: Radicalised Youth and The Membrane
- On Deep Breaths and Friends Forever: Im/materiality and Mis/communication in Happy Angels Revisited
- Letter to Anne Carson: Work of Remembrance and Mourning
- Translated Extracts from Chantal Danjou
- Translations from Old English
- The Poets: Pejk Malinovski Self-translates
- Carnage, Crosses and Curiosity: 13 Images by Yvette Holt
- Body of Sound