I Ask My Grandmother What Trinidad Was Like In 1960

By Megan Arlett

Paradise with a thousand stings, she replies.
Deep blue and blazing sky. Incessant cicadas,
scuttle of bug and roach. Fleas, mosquitos,
the threat of scorpions. Men leaning on doorposts,
crowding the bar. Smoking, drinking,
laughing descendants of slaves. Fire coral burns,
reef-edge barracudas. Truly lovely.
Matriarchal, she says, women with eight children
by many different men. The men would leave
as the spirit took them. I want
to know all the forces one can call spirit.
Tall, swaying fronds of the sugar cane fields.
Distant roar heralding a downpour. Snapping turtles.
Nearby shanty town, she says,
streets full of rubbish, rats in the gutter.
I admired the colonial-style homes, she says.
Colonial, I say.
Separate servant quarters and grounds
filled with samaan trees, the balconies overflowing
with hot-colored orchids and the locusts drawn close
by the palatial lights, colorful and clawing,
their hooks sunk deep into the bare skin of a sweating back.

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