The Set Up
If you did see people that first night. People for so. Who come from town, from far like St David, from near like St Mark to this little St John parish. It had the makings of a good funeral. Pure bus park up by Gouyave roadside like ants. Them mourners arrived, shuffling with the shock. The priest opened up that wake with plenty prayers. Corn soup bubbled in the iron pot, red beans slowly converged with rice, thyme and coconut milk. Chair clustered like fowls in the yard. Till he mother fell down under the weight of her dead son. So young she muttered so young.
Grief song is a different story. A clap of hands then a rocking back and forth story. Grief song is a body dancing to a jagged melody story. Grief song is so searing, it’s the belly drops to knees story. Grief song is the way his mother sinks into The Rock of Ages story. I tell you Grief song is a hard to tell story.
Martha had dreams for so since the night he died. And wise woman Clarise could not make head nor tail of flying fish or hummingbirds over rough river water. Of eddo swelling under rocky soil. Of septic tank full of bleach and blue soap. What does it mean she muttered what does it mean?
To hear his name called dry so on radio – was the son of… brother of… left behind, bruck her up. And them doltish dogs howling a relentless dirge for they master who never pelt them with kick, who boil one fresh pot of dog food; chicken neck with gravy and white rice, every morning like greeting. Them dogs howl so till grief lock off they windpipe.
When Lazarus fas up and step across the threshold of he own wake, rank with corpse stink, the wake bruck up. Who put foot out of door quick time. Who start pray fast fast. Who faint and get revive with smelling salts. Miss Gibbs forget she hips bad, till she tek two steps and fall Bra-tap. Mr Power start moan bout the good good money he dash way on pretty funeral frock for Betty and now she can’t even use it. Uncle Johnny start fling rum shouting You dead man, you dead! like libation have any power over the resurrected.
It had the makings of a boss funeral, the mourners muttered, sulking into wake’s shadow. Martha steups up and over like chant, her venomous kiss teeth terrifying even tough back crapo. Mary vex too bad, How could he go and make their serious show of grief into a pappy show. Mary head got hot – look how much white candle he mother burn to light his way and how like stubborn jackass he refuse to follow instruction, Just turn away from the light boldface so. This was just like when he was hard ears to leave he mother womb. The old choir women in the back room stop singing and only cussing bad word, wild at the shame and slander of this thing.
Fling Down Party
Lazarus dash way hymns and cuss words from he house with the heavy bass of a thumping speaker box. The floor boards start tremble, as he foot rise up and skip, as he fingers lick and clap, when the Rasta man chant take over. Give thanks. Lazarus dance fire and brimstone. Dance chant down Babylon. Start lick fist on fragile board wall. Start shout more fire, more fire as if alive scatter springs into he steps; as if alive shake up he mind. He locs swinging like thick twine tied to air and he chanting i&i livity, i&i livity.
Geography of Resurrection
And when the reporter woman ask Lazarus what it was like, as they sat in the cream-wall room with the hum of mosquitoes and he say, there is a chart to being resurrected. An atlas that have mud swamp, sweet water river and thorny paths. There is a one foot in front of another chart. A believe and it shall be chart. A surrender chart. A rhythm chant chart. And you just have to trod it all rude girl, you just have to trod it.
The Laying of the Hands
And when they saw he still lived to this ninth day, they cancelled La Qua funeral parlour, grab he up in a white sheet, tote he swinging like he in a rocking hammock to the sea shore and roll him in the coarse hot sand. Then dunk he head in the salty sea, washing death’s stench off him. Then they anointed him – all palms seeking to touch their feeble miracle.
Reproduced with kind permission from The Poetry Review.