Leaving Island, If At All

OONYA KEMPADOO

The check-in lady at the counter has a way of not looking at anything other than her computer.   Her eyebrows are all pencil. She ignores the loud man next in line who is entertaining everyone about LIAT strikes holding the country to ransom. ‘But is de tax is de killer!’ he declares, spinning back around to his audience. ‘I don’ know why de governmens just don’ wipe off de tax – swoops—’, swiping his hand, ‘half de ticket price gone. In fact, mo’ dan half.’ He checks to see if it’s his turn yet and grimaces at the check-in lady’s downturned face. ‘But de worse t’ing is dat LIAT don’ even pressure govermens to do dat!’

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Any Card Can Play

VANESSA SPENCE

She watched him put his boxes into his car. Walk back to the door, put the keys in her hand, get in the car, reverse, drive away. No goodbye. But no threats either. She no longer lived with anyone. Thank you, Jesus.

She locked the door and went to root up the avocado tree they had planted in the yard two or three years ago. The ground was dry and she couldn’t move it at all, she succeeded only in breaking the green trunk, but this was enough. It would die. She let the warm water in the yard pipe trickle over her smeared-with-green hands and dried her hands on a chamois cloth she kept in the car. Next door a child riding his tricycle stopped to wave goodbye. Alan. Or Adrian. She waved and drove away, through the dry-bush, baking hot roads of Portmore, across the causeway over the harbour into Kingston.

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Nothing the Forest Raises is a Monster

AYANNA G. LLOYD
(After Shivanee N. Ramlochan, Duenne Lorca)

Shelagh paused in mid-flight, her belly low to the ground, talons gripping the softened earth. She sniffed the air: Blood and iron. There, just there. The next turn. She’d find her at the next turn in the path. The warm wet pounded in her belly, down her thighs. Her ears pricked up, catching the edges of a small voice, calling, urging her on:

‘Just there! Just ahead!’

She knew that if she just followed the voice, it would tell her where to go, that all would be right again.

But before she could get there, she woke. The forest was gone. There was nothing but the beeping of metal things, the bars of the bed raised against her, the whiteness of the room and the faint taste of iron in her mouth.

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Pear Tree Bottom: Land at a Crossroads

DIANA MCCAULAY

During the 1990s, I spent many weekends with friends at an old house on a hill, overlooking the Runaway Bay coastline on Jamaica’s north coast. One of my routines was a sunset walk at a place called Pear Tree Bottom, which by then had already experienced ‘development’ – the coast road had been moved inland, groynes had been built to trap sand, and Jamaicans living on the beach had been removed. There were five small coves with white sand beaches and the waves broke on a reef offshore. Later, I learned the breaking waves marked a spectacular wall dive; that a scuba diver could simply wade into the shallow water at Pear Tree Bottom, swim out to the reef, and then descend to blue depths along a living coral wall.  There was a fresh water marsh on the other side of the north coast road, an expanse of rippling reeds in flowing water, and then the land climbed to the Runaway Bay hills, where there were ordinary houses and tourist villas and a Great House called Belle Aire, which every Jamaican knew, because a long-running local soap opera, Royal Palm Estate, was filmed there. The Pear Tree River came down from the hills and meandered through the marsh to the sea. Every natural science student at the University of the West Indies (UWI) went to Pear Tree Bottom to learn about mangroves, seagrasses, rocky shores and coral reefs, because they existed together in a very small area, unique on the north coast. Pear Tree Bottom was a living university, containing remnants of what the whole north had once looked like.

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State Capture

POLICY DUDE

The limits of the power elite have been exposed in South Africa. Jacob Zuma and his private sector cronies have finally been brought to book. Perhaps they got away with corruption for so long that they thought they were untouchable. In any case, their spectacular demise has put the term ‘state capture’ on the lips of millions of people around the world.

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A Brief History of the Word ‘Pree’

ISIS SEMAJ-HALL

On the face of it, pree is not a Caribbean word. Pree is a Jamaican word. Press play on any dancehall song and you’ll hear a boastful deejay chatting about which ‘hot gyal ah pree him’ or how ‘im a pree di money’ or how ‘im nuh pree badmind people.’ Eavesdrop on any sidewalk conversation, rum shop debate, or single-sided phone call in Kingston and you are likely to hear the word pree often followed by ‘yuh zimme?’ This is because in Jamaica, to pree is to take a long, deliberate look or a careful, focused listen. When someone says pree, it is not a request; it is a gentle command that the listener take notice of something or someone new, important, significant. Listen to a song: ‘pree dis.’ Look at a prospective lover: ‘pree dat.’ Hear this story: ‘pree wah me a seh.’ And when Jamaicans encounter an amazing new online literary magazine: ‘my dawg, yuh affi pree di ting deh’ (OK, that last one nuh set yet, but it will!)

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Reggae’s Voice: The Accent of Difference

ANNIE PAUL and MIKIE BENNETT

In February 2018 the new Netflix-BBC TV series Collateral debuted, its tense opening scenes unfolding to the throbbing beat of dancehall. No gyal can tell me ’bout my mudda, raps Stefflon Don in impeccable Patwa. She’s a grime artiste, ‘grime’ being the unequivocal outside child of dancehall in the UK.[1]

The following month, The New Yorker ran an online article on dancehall’s global avatars, ‘HoodCelebrityy and Dancehall’s New, Global Faces’, and later that month Jamaicans were transfixed by viral images of Beyoncé and Jay-Z riding a yeng yeng, or motorbike, through Trenchtown.[2] The couple were reportedly shooting a music video in Kingston. At this moment – when Jamaican music has established its global reach – it’s hard to imagine a time when Jamaican singers were obliged to sound anything but Jamaican.

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