Personal Choice It can be sentitive or insensitive free the spirit or give birth to the horros around you. It can fuel your compassion or make you immune out of tune, to how you, impact me and the few who don't agree with you. Just be certain that your choice cure and does not obsure.
Lorna Goodison is a prolific Jamaican and Caribbean writer and overall artist extraordinaire. Her poetry dates back to the year 1980, with her first collection entitled Tambrind Season. Her second collection bears the name of the poem I will be looking at today, I Am Becoming My Mother, published in 1986. With a decided feminist twist this poem harkens to womanhood and motherhood as being interwoven. Short and spicy (pun intended) is how I would describe this poem below:
Yellow/brown woman fingers smelling always of onions My mother raises rare blooms and waters them with tea her birth waters sang like rivers my mother is now me My mother had a linen dress the colour of the sky and stored lace and damask tablecloths to pull shame out of her eye. I am becoming my mother brown/yellow woman fingers smelling always of onions.
Now I am not here to speak of line length nor so much about poetic technique. What I am willing to talk about is the idea of doubling, culture and identity as it relates to the Caribbean experience. Now the speaker of the poem comes to the realisation that she is becoming her mother. This suggests a kind of doubling where she begins to morph into her mother. This suggests an inheritance, a physicality that establishes her identity once and for all. There is a sense of ambivalence that I recognise in the tone of the speaker. There is a sense of inevitability about this revelation also. Many young women vow to never be like their mother but in the end, have much of her characteristics and physical appearance. By verbalising this truth the speaker here is not only coming to terms but has reached the stage of accepting that her identity, “yellow/brown”, is forever interwoven with her mother’s and is a generational legacy. This reference to skin colour also harkens to the legacy of slavery which is a feature of Caribbean history.
This legacy not only manifests in her physical appearance but also in her performative rituals. She specifically indicates “always smelling of onions” which speaks to her mother as a provider through the provision of food. In stanza two she refers to the idea of her mother as a gardener. This metaphor captures fully the nurturing characteristics of her mother and how good she was. The daughter here indicates this mother as being attentive to her garden, as she waters her flowers with “tea” or a culturally stimulating environment that ensures traditions essential to her identity are passed down. She also celebrates her mother’s fertility through the mentioning of “birth waters that sang like the river” always flowing.
Next, there is stanza three which highlights the resilience of a mother who came from wealth to poverty but one who remained dignified in the face of adversity. The “linen dress”, “lace” and “damask tablecloth” symbolise the wealth from which the mother sprung. This is contrasted against the sentiment of “pulling shame out of her eye”. Note that these fine items were “stored”, likely brought out on special occasions and for special guests. It is a Caribbean condition I would think to want to put the best foot forward and these items represented the opportunity for the mother to do so. Not only was it a means of “pulling shame” from her eyes but that of the other members of the household, her children especially.
At the end of the poem we see what now becomes the refrain
I am becoming my mother brown/yellow woman fingers smelling always of onions.
Here there is full acceptance and agreement that the repeated sentiment carries. The speaker now feels fully entrenched in this new and emerging identity. It is one she cannot escape or deny and one she has come to terms with. I like how nuanced this poem is and how layered. It reflects a mother-daughter relationship that required coming to terms with. This idea is reflected in the silences found in this poem. SIlences that speak to acceptance celebration and respect. It is a celebration of a tradition that the speaker is now fully committed to carrying on.
Children of the Day For you are all children of light children of the day you cannot be swayed by what they have to say. Though they revel in your temporary dismay you are not delayed unjustly, but the evil ways they choose will lead them astray. Within you no dark places no unbroken spaces to let the darkness in. So shine in every corner your light that sustains the beauty of the day.
Every Blooming Thing. Every blooming thing is a treasure and all must grow and thrive nothing must be left below they must sway and dance day and night. Every blooming thing has beauty natural and not contrived spreading wide enough to gather all the bouncing shining lights. Every blooming thing must produce their talents must be used to give love and life and so be profuse. Every blooming thing must live so all their talents they can give to those weary beaten broken souls who need their fragrance to forgive!
Two Elephants Fought Two Elephants fought, and there was inconsolable weeping because they brought nought but senseless destruction and bleeding. Two politican made a bet, each from the comfort of their cars how many citizens will welcome death to make them their luminous star. Two enemies tampled underfoot, the gentle blades of grass, the grass rooted helplessly looked as hastily their futures scurried pass. Two goliath drew their sword, in a worldly display of power they each declared themselves lord but mercilessly shreded the gentle flowers. Two sycophants stood at court, before the people looking for their support but their words were poison and lethal. The weak though many, are the ones who get hurt the ones whose loads are heavy loads which stomps them slowly in the dirt.
Where You Want to Go Look where you want to go not at the distractions, for the world has many that trips you up takes you down over the precipice, because you fixed your mind on them. Look ahead! do not be led into certain danger. For it is easy to lose sight of your Source of light and life. Where you want to go? Fix your eyes there! Not the glittery show of nothingness. Know you have the vision to see your true mission, look there and only there, and you will stay on the road that will lead to your overflow.
You Are Not My Enemy I see you bleeding just like me In anguish you scream! Just like me. You too have dreams like me too. I see you in me and me in you. You are not my enemy and that is the key to restoring your humanity in me. The Darkness would have it not so it gives strive, hate and pain creates a wall and locks us into unbroken chains. But I see you and know this to be true You are not my enemy. Me and you, me and you? Our love can be heavenly.