I. I was weeding the back garden and thinking about you – you, stranger of the fields, fugitive farmer, runaway planter marooned from your dirt, mud golem of a land mistaken, crowned with the same drought swelling on our minds. When the river dried up to clots of broken earth and a nameless throw of stones, the last patch of swamp-mud, resistant in its shade, did all it could to keep its moisture safe. For the mud had never been dumb; it was only silent. With too much flood over there and too much drought over here, the dirt could no longer afford to prolong the refusal of its dumbness. Fresh out of silence, mud imagined itself otherwise. Its memory deranged, mud would produce you in the mondi with the haste of illicit prayers and the elation of a seed. When the dirt takes to planting, one can’t help but wonder what the dirt might seek to weed. II. You were weeding your wilderness and thinking about the town – a shirt of wet cement yoked around your neck; a stone duppy cast to keep you knelt. You had no anger for the pavement’s crops; fleas on your back, worms in your belly. No, you had no frenzy for these poisons turning in your caves. You just wanted to plant a different future for yourself. Planting aloe was not a revenge— you couldn’t know of such plots. You were a poet of the plough and a griever of the dirt and, given your symptoms, aloe seemed like it would do the trick. No, aloe was certainly not a revenge; bandage and tombstone are not planted out of vengeance. Mourning your limbs festered to the grip of deferred futures and lost harvests, maybe the tearful goo of aloe would at least preserve the remains. It was only a practical hope you could manage, rattling in the mouth of your trowel; the secret that you would outlive us all, even if only in remains. The story goes that we hang aloe by the trestles of our verandas upside-down to keep the duppies away. The story goes that we rest aloe under our pillows to keep bad dreams away. So, when you’re planting beds of aloe, weeding your wilderness and dreaming – of poison pavements, plastic islands, ceaseless droughts and hurricanes no longer curbed to seasons are these nightmares the weeds you intend to uproot? III. No, planting aloe was not a revenge, only a reassurance and a remembrance. Each finger of the crop would keep your vision watered. When the dirt takes to planting while tending to its wounds, yours is the task of sowing other futures in the concrete topsoil of a soon weeded world. And when the poem refuses to believe and slimes to aloes in our hands, yours is the task of awakening the crop, you, mournful farmer of now barren lands.
The Whole World is Turning
I am not separate from her there is no place where I stop
[…] all of it is now it is always now
— Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
We could feel you coming in Sahara dust and your breath against our necks. That being said, we have never known breath on a neck to feel like cutlass. And we have never known a love like yours from cutlass. There was the funny feeling that the sky was watching us from afar with a hungry, hungry eye. Your arrival was known when that same eye looked more like a hole and an insatiable one at that its lids a lock of lips ready to nyam and smack our little islands our little worlds our backyard mutts the petty defiance of our homes the hesitant kindling of our bodies. We don’t blame you, Sis, really. You were a guest of unscrupulous appetites but a guest nonetheless. And cursing you for coming would be a foolishness not unlike calling the sea a murderer or worse yet a god. Let’s tell each other where it hurts, Sis. Let’s tell each other where to love. It’s the kind of love a dog gives; an obscene dedication ruled by feedings. You couldn’t help the smothering as you didn’t know what was happening to you or your kin. And the same could be said for us, the people at the shoreline of the end of the world; or at least at the end of this world. Turning from a world we had learned to love in to a world we would learn to die in, it’s good to know that you’re right here with us. You couldn’t know what they were doing to you and consequently what you and they were doing to us. Sis, what could they have done to you to make your love so unbearable? What could we have done to deserve this; this queering of our lives? this queering of our love? Now that they know they’re doing this to us, why don’t they stop? We used to be one inside each other. You could see inside us and in turn we could see inside you. We still see you, Sis, even though you’ve grown, even though they fed you more than we could ever afford to, even though your tickles now laugh like centipedes, even though our knees burst from the seat you take in our laps and even though we tread water in your deranged love— We still see you, Sis! Hurting from your swollen eye, you can’t see we’re hurting too, Sis, can you? Even though they took your sight away and you turned so much we couldn’t hold you anymore, we still see you! Look how much you’ve changed, Sis, isn’t it incredible? They’ve queered you and they’ve queered us— it’s wild, right? Sis, when you’ve turned the tables and once we’ve left this world ungrieved, let them know who sent you and send our love onwards just as you have loved us with a most devastating commitment.
Adam Patterson is a visual artist and writer based between Barbados, London & Rotterdam. They like telling new stories or rethinking old stories in new recuperative ways. Working across a variety of media including masquerade, video, critical writing, poetry and performance. Patterson’s works have been exhibited at the Live Art Development Agency and Jerwood Space, London; the Barbados Museum & Historical Society and Fresh Milk Arts Platform, Barbados; Roodkapje, Rotterdam; Ateliers ’89, Aruba and Alice Yard, Trinidad & Tobago. Their writing has been featured by Fresh Milk Arts Platform, ARC Magazine, Sugarcane Magazine, PREE, Mister Motley and Metropolis M.