Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism

A FEELING OF ISLAND PROVENANCE
(at Club Med, Fort-de-France, Martinique)

In one transcending moment, all stops

along this sandy beach. The parasailers hang

motionless. The jet skiers throttle down roar.

The servers at outdoor drink stands freeze,

motionless like mannequins caught among

the silence as steel drum vibratos

of Carib goombay bands fade to whispers

beside almost naked light-skinned tourists,

looking as if they were sides of beef

roasting in an oven while sweat sizzles.

Everyone trying to ignore poverty

and the ever present women beyond

the chain link fence. Large dark women wearing

djebas and print dresses, once as colorful

as plumes of strutting peacocks,

now grayed and worn from daily travail.

Women, whose descendants were once fastened

to merchant ships which sold, leased,

bartered flesh to sons and daughters

of wealthy French planters enabling

sugar plantations to prosper—

these dark women beg money from female tourists.

Trying to do anything to earn dollars for food.

Braiding hair with cornrows of beads.

Deftly working with their hands,

quick and forceful like ka drum beats

keeping rhythm. Weaving, combing,

always with forced smiles. Imitating looks

of the interested entrepreneur, an ability

learned from blue-green European eyes,

eager for a larger tip. Agreeing with customers

by nodding heads and genuflecting to rich whim.

Supposedly bestowing island authenticity

with chignons arranged by natives

who now suddenly halt pulling, twisting,

bobbing and coifing. Leaving cheap beads

and feathers in their bags. Pink tongues poking

from beyond lips as if they could taste the air

beyond cycles of segregation. Heads in unison

gaze westward straining to see beyond

volcano horizons of mid-sentence reality.

They pause to sniff afternoon's heavy air

like cats, stretching necks in constant hunger.

Winds carrying gifts of rain along with chants

from tribes of Yoruba, Sonqhay, and countless others.

A flash of lightning followed by rolling thunder.

Kikuyu gods making their presence felt as

vacationers scamper to gather belongings

running to safety in carpeted hotel lobbies.

A momentary triumph over an island of multitudinous wealth.

Beyond modern chain fences, dark women once—valued

only for their children and ability to breed—

lift their arms to ancient deities,

consecrated by gentle drops as each moment clouds

with breezes spiced from the coast of l’Afrique.

z y s k a n d a r   a .   j a i m o t
m a r t i n i q u e ,   l a t - 2 3 . 5 n

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Rev'd 2004/05/22