Listening RoomThe Poet Speaks

The Worm



-Elderslie Clinic, Jamaica

This is a day of trowin up
and cry for de belly,
a day de pickanee, him toss
de whole night tru

This is a day your child of bones
is wasting away with watery stool.

This is a day I twist in me belly bottom
and de pickanee, him grindin his teet ,

a day of worn joints,
of bad lungs coughing bright red blood
and grainy throats
sore as marl roads ground in sun,

a day of bodies to fingers,
fingers to lips, of lips to eggs
and eggs to worms,

of loneliness to pangs of loss, of loss
to oily medicine, of oil to angry throats,
of angry throats to light, of light
to light’s absence, to the dividing line
of light and time, of time to a lizard
that waits on the wall, of the wall
to rain on the corrugated roof, of the roof
to loneliness, of loneliness to deep escape,
of deep escape to deep connection,

a day of sadness to sickness and sickness to movement
and movement to song and song to the past
and past

to pain, to the worm that inhabits us,
until at last this metal roof is silent
and in darkness crickets mark.

Poet’s Commentary:

“This is a poem about practicing in the mountains of Jamaica at a place called Elderslie and of course the worm is real and the worm is also a metaphor and it makes you wonder whether metaphor is sometimes realer than the real. It’s also a poem, I think, about transformation, or affirmation.”

*Reproduced with the permission of Jack Coulehan and Human Sciences Press: Journal of Medical Humanities 15:183, 1994; and with special permission of Nightshade Press: First Photographs of Heaven, 1994.

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