Suite from Martinique

A photograph of red flowers against fat green leaves
Photo by Hunter W on Unsplash

Familiar, Tartane, though I’ve never been here 
before. Whole coast, Atlantic, stops believing 
in sun, or maybe that’s me, bouldered by winter. 

Presqu’île de la Caravelle points fingers.

Look, some residue on shore.
Know your home. Own it

* * *

All the way to L’Ajoupa-Bouillon, air’s cool
as blades, cut like mangroves’ green leaves.

I am not half what I was when I was first

Let jungle disturb prisms.

* * *

Can only touch surface but confession 
slips in. I’m angry, want to write
at a distance.

I reach out to traveling palms, water
somewhere in there.

Wash all this away, I pray.

* * *

I damn the first person,
look over balcony.

Ixora grows within steel 

* * *

I search out manchineel, urchins, poison
burns, puncture. 

Strange priests in this poem.

Birds in the house ride comforts 
of draft. But no danger.

I want to say I’m tired of mirrors 
on vines that reach out.

* * *

I can’t decide on love so throw it high 
and away to trade winds.

I should be writing about this isle
but can’t escape the self.

I have arrived in the dry season
lessons learned from thirst.

* * *

For years, archipelagos rose drums 
in my breath, couldn’t get air 
and bam! Such beauty, such whirl 
and, frenzied, I gathered palms 
to place under feet. 

Know and now the world 
has stopped. Can only swim 
so much ocean, take 
so much blue.

Strange fort. Confusing, beautiful,

The Indies cut in half. 
Survey this slice.

* * *

Aréquier and green fruit of the palm 
turned red. Time’s grown.
Gorge, their manic wings. If I could 
reach out, I’d cage air. 

* * *

Some knowledge here. Sustenance 
is fleeting, they say.

Grab hold.

* * *

I stand with my camera, raise hands, 
snap the photo.

Belief is a martyr. Frame it.

Photo by Joel Zobel

Stephanie McKenzie has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean and lived in Jamaica and Guyana for short periods. With Carol Bailey, she edited Pamela Mordecai’s A Fierce Green Place: New and Selected Poems (New Directions, 2022). McKenzie has published three collections of poetry with Salmon Poetry and is full professor in the English Programme at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.