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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.

i

pretty lights

r.i.p. bobby

 i

saved by

grace, she’s canned jamaica.

tins of bully beef

ackee, jack fruit

 i

mr. goudas signatures quality across

green tubs of Milo, bottles of ting

and mangoes found in light syrup.

 i

a variety store

as essential as a hospital

the homesick pass through

and are prescribed packaged

sorrel

 i

a weary traveler,

cured by a wiff of pimento.

 i

bob’s shop

runs along st. clair

runs a smile along his face

his whole life.

i

he let us put stickers

on his walls, he let us watch wrestling and

let us call him by his first name

 i

we were his.

not a grandpa or an uncle but a bobby

our bobby

i

i’d lines up cans behind the counter

then get scooped up in his arms

smelling of salt and smoke and aftershave

 i

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

 i

when the sign is turned around

CLOSED for the night

 i

we’d pile into his buick

on nicki’s request

through a lisp she’d squeal

pretty yights

 i

to Honest Ed’s

another immigrant shop

only this one’s dressed as a carnival

 i

bathurst

a block of brightness

 i

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.

 i

soon st clair has too many

caribbean clinics

not enough ailing bodies

satiated on nostalgia

the shop shuts down.

 i

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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