A Lamentation

• February 2022

You take my cousin, Covid. He was a market man. He had stop selling to safeguard his wife and daughters, but you too boldface. You buss down he front door and drag him out of he bed. You too nasty, Covid. I hope somebody cuff you in yuh stink face, Covid. Who is you to lash people so? He still had children to mind. He still had lime to lime and money to make, Covid.

We used to live next to each other, Covid. I remember when he send me to buy cigarettes for him. I was a little boy but I strut up the three steps into Tanty parlour like a hardback man, knocking on the counter and calling for Du Maurier like I smoking years now. And if you see how I speed back up the road to his house, Covid. My mother was shelling pigeon peas by the kitchen window, and she bawl me out for running errand in that noonday sun, but I take that bouff with my chest puff out whole time because I buy cigarette for my big cousin, Terry.

You know what bacchanal is, Covid? Bacchanal was that night Terry and his brother, Devon, flip the all-fours table under their mother house and cuss and quarrel and brawl over small money. I see the whole fracas from my yard. I see when Terry’s Polo jersey rip and when Devon get shove against the wall and knock he head kootooks. I see when their sisters open the front door and fling their rubber slippers at them because they had grip on each other and was grunting like hog. That was the night I learn how clumsy White Oak does make you and how much kicks watching fight does be.

Covid, is Terry who tell me about the douen living in the bush behind our house, the little ones who he say does steal our pommerac. Is Terry who run up and pelt we with abeer one Phagwa. Is Terry who teach me how to bowl a yorker. You did know all that, Covid? You ain’t see that is a good good man you strike down? You ain’t see is plenty living he still had to do? I should jook out yuh two eye since you so blind, Covid.

And you have the stones to tell we to say our goodbyes through a computer screen? Maybe nobody tell you, Covid, but we does take mourning serious. Is Terry mother self who teach me how to mourn, you know. I was eight. Leptospirosis, that other bully, took her husband while he was still young, and at the funeral, I listened to her screech, “Baas, why you leave me?” I heard her stretch her words into something ugly, and I learnt that mourning is an earful of pain. It is a difficult question, a search for release.

Terry know about all that, if you don’t, Covid. He done went to plenty wake, not just his daddy’s. I watched him sit down with Deo three nights in a row, playing card, after Deo’s big sister had drink Gramoxone. They called for sandwich and coffee and rum and more coffee long into the night. You know about them rites, Covid? You know what it is to plait liveliness into the nights of mourning, what it is to make death a whole village scene because it is too much to bear alone? You know what it is to watch a pyre ablaze at Mosquito Creek and try to find a little peace in tradition? You too ignorant, Covid, and cruel.

Covid, you did know that Devon died a little less than a decade after his father? He was driving home drunk when he hit a light pole and was thrown through the windscreen. Their mother began dying soon after. A series of strokes made her suffer. You understand what I saying, Covid? That family knows loss better than you know yourself. You didn’t have to be so wotless and force another death on them. I would have tell you all this if you had given me a chance, but you grab him up so quick.

Study how mourning gone digital. Study how we had to open Facebook to see a video recording with the casket and a masked pundit doing his best and two medical attendants in PPE surrounding the lonely three loved ones permitted to be there. Study how the bereaved had to hold each other quietly instead of having us all there to fret and bawl with them. You see your wreckage, Covid? I remember when our house had the only phone line in the village, Covid. Andra come knocking one day, saying she had to call her auntie in Tunapuna to let her know that Mamoo dead. She picked up the phone, her face steely, but how her might dropped once she dialed. She didn’t say two words before she crumpled to the floor, the receiver clutched to her chest, and as I watched my mother lift her and hug her as if they were blood, I was educated into the sombre intimacies you have suspended, Covid.  

Covid, we tired tell you to get out of we face. Get out of we yard. But you too harden. You too callous. You want to mash up the whole country, if we give you a chance. I want to talk brave, Covid, and say that time will return our shared wailing and ease up this ache, but big talk is small consolation, Covid.  

 

Kris Singh, originally from Mendez, Trinidad, is a faculty member in the English Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia. His scholarly and creative attention spans the legacy of indentureship, the relationships among writers of the Caribbean diaspora, and the ways social media and popular culture shape each other.