Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Monday 14th June 2004

Today my brother Jami, graduates. I am seated in a huge tent at York University with my mother waiting for the ceremony to begin.

I am thrilled that I have my notebook with me because it is 5:40and things will not start till 7:00. I’m proud of my brother. He’s done this in a town he does not like, and battling his own personal demons and issues (as we all do). He is also giving our mother a chance for this sort of pride, the chance that I didn’t give her (I didn’t graduate – just finished my courses and left). Hopefully I’ll get this MFA thing done, and it’ll be another graduation she can be proud of. This is not why I’m doing the MFA of course, but it is going to be an opportunity for that nevertheless.

Lately I find myself chomping at the MFA bit. I feel like my writing is really stagnant, like I need a kick in my ass to get to the next level. I feel like there are things I want my writing to do next, that it’s not doing; and that it’s not doing them because I simply do not know enough. That is making me crazy these days, especially since I’m more or less done with the ‘tarnish and masquerade’ manuscript (save for the litany of editing to come) and I want to begin the next one, and have it be significantly better than the first. The work’s already coming but I’m dissatisfied with the quality.

(Break to go get a hot-dog and use the rest room)

Okay, so I’ve just met my brother’s girlfriend, Carmen. She’s beautiful, and so far (5 minutes) very sweet. She just took my mom to go looking for something to eat. I’m hoping Jamil gets into the kind of more well-behaved traditional family unit quick, so mom can stop asking me for grandkids, so I’m championing Carmen all the way. After all, Jamil will be 27 soon (December). it’s about time he did sump’n 

Tuesday 15 Jun, 2004

I didn’t think I’d be as excited for my brother as I was last night; to see him cross the stage (one of about a thousand in that ceremony) and receive his degree (Honors in Political Science – Political Science was my major too – he asked me what one does with Poli Sci degree. I told him apparently one writes poetry…). I’m not particularly one for pomp and circumstance and dudes in velvet robes and hats with tassels and feathers, but I was overjoyed to see Jamil complete his walk.

My mom, a family friend, Kathy, Carmen, Jamil and I all hung out after driving interminably throught Toronto trying to find some place that was still serving food (Jamil is not much of a party guy out-all-the-time-at-night-so-would-know-where-to-find-these-things-easily type of guy. We happened upon a Firkin Pub (I’m not making this up. This is not from my twisted head), where we had buffalo chicken wedges (don’t ask), bruschetta, fries, local micro-brews, a series of other drinks and the sort of semi-drunken Midnight Robber toast speeches of which the Trinidadian DNA is made (ask me about Midnight Robber later). Carmen Almeda Torres (Oscar, stop what you’re thinking right now!) is a wonderful human being and I’m happy for Jamil on that front too. Jamil is traditionally a bit more pessimisstic than I, but I feel so hopeful about his future that I think getting to the end of this is about to be his major launchpad.

On the way to the airport now. That’s enough Toronto for me for now. Hopefully, I get to see Jamil July 4th weekend when we go to see our uncle in New Hampshire.

So I’m writing this series of poems from out of my childhood – the characters and stories that made this mess. Here is a rough draft of the first one. Some of you heard an even rougher draft at The Open Room hosted by Rich Villar last Friday, but feel free to give your comments, ask questions or generaly tear the poem down/apart. This is an experiment. I don’t know how often I’m going to have the stomach to open stuff up like this to the general general on-line public.



In most countries
Football is God
And in the Trinidad hot sun
under the shadow of the QRC clock tower
Giuseppi was high priest
many of us arcolites to his awesome mass
we left brilliance to the dim remembrance of classrooms
and sought glory on the fields

Gip (we called him) was a baller
from hard scrabble Laventille hill
up where they happened upon
the grail of steelpan music
We were fifteen and sport was all
that mattered We played football
until the lights went on then continued
until they went out but we were descended
of slaves and colonialism
so we didn’t care if we scored much
as long as we looked good on the ball
as long as we could move past defenders
and make it look easy embarrass the opposition

The ball stuck to Gip’s foot
like an unusual magic skinny and bow legged
he slipped past defenders like a shade
high top fade zig zagging toward goal
like a joker’s crown
moving past everything
that ever held us down

defenders had been beaten
before he turned
and when he did he was slipping
the ball through their legs
(we called that move a “sex” – the most embarrassing way to be beaten)
while we hollered and high-fived and laughed
waiting for the next swell of action to share in the glory

we return for our 18 year high-school reunion
under the shadow of the QRC clock tower
most of us more fat than fit
Late evening we play the pick-up game
drunk and overfed
as much to see if we can still hold
audiences and opposition in thrall
pray in rhythm as to see if Gip
could still hold high mass
tackling him nervously not wanting to be the one “sexed”
even now not wanting the ignominy
less concerned about embarrassment on the field
because now we know what we’re good at
where we turn on our opposition

Back in the day we asked Gip
how he could sex other players that easily
He said “When I collect the ball
I know where the defender is
I wait for the footsteps
and count them coming They tell me
when the defender gets close
where his legs are…”

we listened in awe
understanding for the first time
that brilliance at something was possible
outside of our classrooms
in hand with our glories
that we’d eventually get good at something
if we played it often enough
if we counted all the opposition coming
listened to the footsteps bearing down

so talk to a brotha y'all - latah


Blogger oscar said...

so when is carmen coming to Acentos? ;-)

take care,

8:51 PM  

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