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POEM: pretty lights

May 21, 2012

My poetry becomes more and more personal with each stanza I write. Death has been on the forefront of my mind lately and I’ve been meaning to write a poem for someone very special who is gone. Robert “Bobby” Beckford passed away in 2006 and it was the first truly devastating loss for me. Bereavement is strange, I have made my peace but I’ve been compelled to honour him with a poem from the moment I went to the funeral. Only now have I found the words. It’s never too late Bobby, this one is for you. Rest in peace.


pretty lights

r.i.p. bobby


saved by

grace, she’s canned jamaica.

tins of bully beef

ackee, jack fruit


mr. goudas signatures quality across

green tubs of Milo, bottles of ting

and mangoes found in light syrup.


a variety store

as essential as a hospital

the homesick pass through

and are prescribed packaged



a weary traveler,

cured by a wiff of pimento.


bob’s shop

runs along st. clair

runs a smile along his face

his whole life.


he let us put stickers

on his walls, he let us watch wrestling and

let us call him by his first name


we were his.

not a grandpa or an uncle but a bobby

our bobby


i’d lines up cans behind the counter

then get scooped up in his arms

smelling of salt and smoke and aftershave


while nicki nibbles

a plate of water crackers

sopped with margarine

chubby fingers

grip a kola champagne chubby,

drank too much and we race

to a dettol scented bathroom


when the sign is turned around

CLOSED for the night


we’d pile into his buick

on nicki’s request

through a lisp she’d squeal

pretty yights


to Honest Ed’s

another immigrant shop

only this one’s dressed as a carnival



a block of brightness


and we’d bounce and point

and drive around it again and again

never asking to visit the store

we’re satisfied by the glow.


soon st clair has too many

caribbean clinics

not enough ailing bodies

satiated on nostalgia

the shop shuts down.


bobby loses his house,

his hair, his teeth

but not that smile

in the sink, grandma washes

a tiny tube of hot sauce

two parrots protecting the sacred pepper

plastic flowers in ceramic vases

are preferred,

real flowers on a coffin

are less likely to be played with


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