Poem by David Mills

• August 2012

A Soaked Shadow

1.

I would check for Rob during that year of jasper overlaps
where seams were celery-colored strips from hip to cuff.
Between bells, in a high-school hallway glazed with teenage
hormones, this fly Lion of Judah let me embrace half my heritage
by perforating the shade of his Jamaicanness. All the West
Indian girls wanted to nibble him: as if, in his sheepskin coat,
his torso were a veggie patty tucked in coco bread. He
would lean against a window fingering a medallion
atop his mock neck. With my starved wallet, I could
only eye one of his admirers—doe-eyed Daphne, with skin
the color of freckled-bread pudding. Was checking for her
merely the pursuit of unavailability and its fleeting aromas?
Can’t say, because the next fall I was carted off to classes
with Wallingford’s upper crust, carted  from trying to speak
patois with Rob’s translucent cool.

2.

That next summer off Connor Blvd, I spotted Rob buffing
his mustard-colored British Walkers in front of our old school.
The year before, I would have eloped with a plate of curry goat to hover
near his gold medallion’s intaglio. But now as his hazel eyes—
perched on his tall cheekbones—darted the Boulevard,
Rob seemed more cub than Lion of Judah. He unzipped
a Glad Bag of green buds; dunked his Roman nose. In
-haled and closed his eyes as if he did not want me
to see how vision can be abducted by memory. Eyes
open, he held out Sinsemilla, tried to cajole me with its
vanilla bean, basil hint. Said he wanted to open a store
in the Valley. His deep, slow patois Upful. Righteous.
My wallet had put on some weight: so I loaned him three
hundred dollars.

3.

Once a towel has been soaked by your shadow, and you
introduce your elbows to the sands of Gun Boat Beach,
you’ll realize warmth is born of two sources: the heat
stepping on your breath and the heat hammering your back.
But rather than argue with either of those aches, I rolled
on my side and understood Rob had been a unique
beach where, for a year, I was burnished by the shade
of his Jamaicanness.

 

David Mills is the author of the small press bestseller The Dream Detective (2010). Two of his poems have recently appeared in Jubilation! (2012), an anthology edited by Kwame Dawes, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Jamaica’s independence.