Circles

MERRIE JOY WILLIAMS

The sun is melting, a disc of dark honey in a sky of white rum. Crimson bleeding every which way, like the air around this house is itself a young woman — stood slightly proud from the road through this village to Kingston and beyond. Pearl stands on the veranda she has just finished shining with well-trained hands; plunging the rag in the smooth russet polish, then circles, red circles like waving goodbye to bygone times encrypted in its wood. Aunt Fanny’s fierce footsteps; or dangling from the rails to wave at the Pioneer bus; the doorstep games of younger siblings, once the day’s chores were done: Bruk dem one-by-one — galong bwoy! Bruk dem two-by-two — galong bwoy! Finger mash no cry…

Pearl watches the horizon hide itself behind dusk’s many petticoats, non-committal, if it might emerge again tomorrow to repeat its entreaty: there are other horizons beyond me — if you just pack your things and come. But how? Mummy and Daddy are getting old. Duty is a tether like the one that winches the old nanny goat. Pearl stands, one foot flat, the other mid-step, arrested in the act of folding up the chamois; looking up to see the sun — lower now, amber — glowing beyond all need for elbow grease, all reasons not to chase the dream that there are other places a woman might call home, than this eight-apartment house, its flourishing tomato vines, rampant callaloo, chochos, cocos, plantain, cassava, badoos, grapefruit, and oranges offering themselves like lamps in the twilight above swollen green pumpkins.

In the evening sky, a yellow-faced grassquit chirrups from its perch in the thicket and Pearl thinks, even birds have lovers, an urge to make their own nests — the grassquit’s nest green, globular, assembled from grass. Even the cloth that puts the polish on, needs another to take some off again, to buff. All things must come to a point at which you call them done. And maybe this is the gist of the grassquit’s dusk song. Pearl nods, takes the other tiny rag in her hand, folds it and tucks it beneath the moon of tinned polish, placed snugly with the other, in the small enamel bucket.

Merrie Joy Williams is a British-Jamaican poet, who was a winner of the UK Poetry Archive’s ‘Wordview 2020’ competition, and shortlisted for the 2020 Bridport Prize. She is the recipient of Arts Council England awards for fiction and poetry, a London Writers Award, several residencies, and an Obsidian Foundation fellowship. Her debut collection is ‘Open Windows’ (Waterloo, 2019). She teaches writing, and edits prose and poetry anthologies.

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