I Am Here


I am here mamma. I am here. When your ship docks in the Harbour after that abomination they called the ’middle passage‘ and you are released from the leg irons to stumble ashore terrified, decimated, emaciated, I am here to welcome you no matter the centuries that separate us. I am here. To take you to my home, no matter its simplicity, its near collapse, it’s full of love. For you. I am here, no matter your many daughters between us that don’t won’t can’t claim you, I claim you. I bring you to my own worn mattress, put cool clean fresh sheets for you to lay on. Wash your broken feet, your matted hair, put the finest softest clothes I can find on your tired body. Prop you up with the best of the flattened pillows, bring you cool water and help you sip sip til your dry lips get plump and moist again. I am here. To bring you little meals of the best I have in the house even if that’s only Vienna sausages. Feed you slowly til your tummy expands to normal size again. I am here to hold you while you cry for all you’ve lost, to look and look and look into your eyes until you can see yourself in me, see we survived it mamma, you survived in me and I will tell your story, no matter the screaming denial of your many daughters that stand between you and me. I will tell your story loudly, quietly, brutally, gently, endlessly. I am here mamma. Me. Never mind them in between us. Look at me. I am here.

Breaking the Silences


Random thought . . . I hope in 2018 feminism will have a little pride and at least pretend to be about the protection and empowerment of disenfranchised females, EVEN WHEN the aggressors are ALSO FEMALE. Hopefully feminist activism –  especially local activism – will be unbridled by the saleswomen of misogynistic values and traditions. May every remaining forced silence be broken in 2018! Traditions which aren’t conducive to the physical and psychological well-being of ALL citizens have no right being enforced, either formally or informally, on a national level. Let’s be honest: in 2017 there was national failure when it came to embracing and mending the broken. There was wholesale resistance to the introduction of consequence as a deterrent to future actions. People who had been mute their entire lives about the atrocities they witnessed, suddenly found a voice as they screamed procedural instructions at the victims of brazen and depraved crimes while they hobnobbed with the criminals in plain sight. If 2018 doesn’t bring visibly drastic changes, then 2018 should bring a rain of bullets. Sometimes fire needs to gaze into the eyes of fire to understand itself.

Tanya Stephens is a Jamaican singer and songwriter [who insists on wasting her writing on Facebook — editor].

Swallowing Patwa


[This brief account was collated, with his permission, from a series of tweets by the author. Stories are being told, just not in the usual media.]

I had an embarrassing experience in the summer of 2007 while volunteering at an orphanage in St Mary. I met a Peace Corps volunteer who asked for help with her Patwa homework. I told her no problem mon. I know this language. I can help.

Wen shikom wid dibuk – mi no andastan waa gwaan wid wemi asi pani piej dem. The Peace Corps uses a system of writing that nobody ever taught me. This is when I learned there is a conspiracy to deny Jamaican children literacy in our home language despite the existence of extensive coursework that is already in circulation.

Botsiya. Dis nomek nosens. Aalef mi neva did plan fiyuuzi, mi didago wahn finuo boutit. Imajin farina akoma Jomieka koma stodi fi reed ahn ryt fimi langwij bifuomeeee – ina St Miereeee? Mi telaarse eniweshi get debukde fram mi ago wahn wan.

Mi anesli kanfyuuz wen unu luk pahn patwa anse dis anono langwij. Minuo fi a fakse a kyaahn wemi taak unu a labalaba bout. Nofa unu who belittle patwa and patwa speakers are ashamed to admit that unu do nat know di language. Wen unu did a pikni unu get beetn for speaking it aloud in addition to thinking it. Admit it. Let us do some healing together.

It is no accident that reggae and dancehall coexist alongside each other as our favorite genres. Both of them tell a true Jamaican story but from apparently divergent perspectives. I love dancehall because it is the most extensive archive of contemporary Patwa poetry that we have. One day the entire sound library will be transcribed and it will be beautiful. The themes might be disturbing but they correspond to actual episodes in real life. Like night and day, Jamaica is a bright and a dark place.

Our relationship with Patwa and English is another example of the psychic extremes that we live between. These languages are opposites on the creole continuum but Jamaican poetry and music is a bridge between them. We rock serenely to anglicized roots reggae and, just as eagerly, we skinout to the urgent reminder that edtap batifat jiggle jiggle neva stap.

We are a hybrid people. This is a wonderful thing. If anybody questions your intellect because of your fluency in a language that they do not speak, you should question their intellect. Nomek nobadi mekyo feelse chuu dem nonuo weyaase, se a mos faat yaa chat. Mek dem gwaan. Ano notn. Di wolawi kyaahn ilitaret a galang so. After all these years of swallowing Patwa as soon as it reaches your throat: vamitiyop, pitiyout, letigo.

Fat Joy


As I dressed myself for work today, I couldn’t get Hunger, Roxane Gay’s searingly personal memoir of her body, out of my mind. Since growing fat, I’ve made so many negotiations with myself, and no, not all of them have been about ‘losing it’. I’ve tried, so hard, not to lose myself. By which I mean, me, in spite of fat. Me, because of fat. Me, a being capable of cruelty and innovation and all (in)human caprice, with fat as a reality, no more or less profound than my long eyelashes, my big nose, my hairy forearms. To even address this, my fat, feels wrong. It is, after all, the conversation I’m told I should never have in public. It’s a shaming I’m meant to only have with myself. Perhaps I will always be having it. I would, one day, like to know what it means to speak into the mirror of me without shame. Hunger helped. Helps, now.

Yes, I feel many things other than fat shame. Fat defiance, for one. Fat rage. Fat weariness. That’s different from being tired of being fat. I’m tired at having to defend myself from the censure of people who other me for my fatness, who side-eye and scorn my existence. Openly.

There are people who’ve lost hundreds of pounds, and yet feel their ‘ghost fat’ riding them like an inconvenient, untameable horse. People who are never certain exactly how much space their bodies take up in public, whether they have the bravery to squeeze into that seat, ascend that flight of stairs, fold themselves up in biddable crumples in bank queues or Subway lines. People who are afraid to eat in food courts because they’re fat. People who’re afraid to be pregnant because they’re fat. People who hoard their wedding photos in private folders, because fat. People who simply don’t show up, because fat.

No, this is not the only fat narrative. I’m an expert in no one else’s journey with fatness except my own. I can tell you, frankly and without fear, that there is fat joy, as much as that’s an affront to many people. There is fat, copious, generous, glowing self-acceptance. There is fat dancing. Fat flexing! Fat gyrations of greatness. Like everything else, it costs. Like everything else, the exact measure of what it takes to make yourself happy while fat, is an imprecise, wobbly science. It all comes down to what you see when you behold yourself in the mirror, what parts of you say, ’Today, you’re worthy of a little fat love.’

Shivanee Ramlochan’s first book of poems, Everyone Knows I am A Haunting, was published in 2017 by Peepal Tree Press.