Moving Towards Refuse & Other Poems

Maxine Archer

Moving Towards Refuse

waves of history roll across his shoulders,
each muscle seared by a narrative of dysfunction
as he sits there, surrounded by the filth of thoughts
that judge him. head bent to face his chest, he
denies them their blank stares that now collide against
each other in their haste to refuse him his humanity.
in Walcott’s almost unfinished society, he is the almost free,
the almost unhinged, the almost true – the product of a wasteland
that vomited his grief onto its streets, his dis-ease
permanently graffitied in its passages and doorways. his blackness
sings the sorrow of a splintered system whose shards
no longer struggle to pierce the mind.
instead,
his blackness stains the street corners, sullies cities, suffers
the suspicion of those who seek to earn their daily bread.
his blackness sidles past averted eyes ready to condemn his struggle
to the Beetham La Basse, for it serves no purpose – other than to remind them
of their abject failure. his unheroic struggle. this violence.
soon umbra shadows drape this darkening city with its illusions
of equality. eyes raised, he confronts the streets and unhurriedly,
shuffles toward the nearest drain and voluminously spits the daily shame
he gathers. his homily is routed as an-inclusive carnival of curses
designed to purge him of their diffidence. satisfied,
he moves toward the city’s refuse and rummages for food.

Kitchen Dishes

the house shuddered and groaned
as the door slammed violently against its walls.
dishes clattered to the ground,
some spun in mesmerising concentric circles,
moving yet going nowhere,
the forced scraping of their edges against the cold ground
a constant reminder of how uncompromising marble floors remain.
others, shattered immediately – unable
to cope with this doomsday destruction;
still, there were those that fell and survived against the polished floors
that gleamed in anticipation for the fate of those
who remained shelved, teetering
tottering, wondering whether to dive
into the abyss,
believing that theirs was the decision to remain intact.
in fact, no one knew their fate.
as shards of unspoken pain lay hidden in corners,
stored. unnoticed, they remain in waiting,
ready to make their presence felt by searching fingers
reaching for prized dishes. normalcy repaired.
look again. sometimes, you are the shelf –
a repository for memories
built into the recesses of a mind
preoccupied by the entanglement of questions past,
besieged by the numbing existence of the presence,
filled with rage at the absence of the future that hovers,
not quite in view. finding surcease
as you watch your dishes fall and attempt pity
for those who know not
the value of discard and repair.

On Mothering

Once upon a year, I persuade
myself to shed my drawn skin
in the hopes that the new
me emerges, youthful and vibrant, ready
to conquer untold worlds of paper,
soiled lunch bags, mounds of laundry and
my perennial mistrust of alarm clocks.
Once upon a year, I reclaim
my flailing authority that battles rebellious crowns
of coils and curls bent on proving
me inept and inadequate. Thus decreed,
I embrace my throne and perilously sit
amid new combs and brushes, new hairbands
and clips, to colonise the savages.
Once upon a year, I reveal
my chameleon nature, and allow her
to bask with the New Year’s dawn
before she begins to slowly synthesise
my pastiche of personalities, set to
deify my solitude yet blend into domains.
Once upon a time, I cried.
Wounded, I knew no peace within,
as salty tears bore the years
that measured sacrifice as one teaspoon
of flour against one yeast sachet –
no proof. Nothing left to rise.
Not today. Instead, I found release
in the spaces between teardrops and
laughter, as mothers are inclined to do,
when giving birth bridges the abyss
between life and death. My joy
illuminates me, once upon a year.

Maxine Archer is a Trinidadian writer whose work focuses on the hidden stories of everyday living. She is studying for her MA in Literatures in English from the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and believes that there are tiers of untold histories within the mundane waiting to be explored. When not writing, she can be found teaching Literature and encouraging her three daughters to confidently articulate their thoughts.