Personal Choice

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. 

Mother and Mothering in “I Am Becoming My Mother” by Lorna Goodison

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
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

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
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.

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

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

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.
 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

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
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.