Poem by John Robert Lee

October 2020

from Belmont Portfolio


Prologue: Belmont window, Saturday

"view through window at house across street"

some girl you never spoke with
some girl who walked on the other side of your road
some girl you looked out for from your blue window
lived in a house like this
behind hedges of croton and hibiscus
behind a wall with a gate and a mailbox on it
behind bay windows and a red verandah—
maybe she was as shy as you
maybe she watched you between her curtains
maybe she wrote your initials on page 67 of her green maths book—

when you met her in New York years later
with your schoolmate her husband
you could not get past island gossip
and the vacuous opinions
to ask about her house
and the sacred memories you had scrawled on its cream façade.


vii. leaving

"window with stained glass panes and curtain"

leaving a place of passing infatuations
marking in your diary
a cartographer’s route of various sentimentalities
tentative journeys across newly familiar streets, like
Queen’s Park East onto Jerningham Ave
left onto Archer St, right onto Erthig Rd
left again onto Pelham St, crossing Meyler to find the B&B
corner of Pelham and Reid Lane. Ok—
ok, the beautiful front door of colored glass
ok, the light-brown curtain tied like a shirt around a waist
ok, the quiet stone garden
camaraderie around the kitchen table
the view from a blue window
yellow hydrant and red mailbox,
ok the galvanized fences, the once-fine houses
the surprising steeple of Margaret of Antioch, Anglican
and ok the crowds in the Grand Market and deafening noise
art galleries, plays, readings, concerts. Ok—
leaving, letting go of ambiguous embraces,
picking up the suitcase of the little you have
pulling up pegs of the tent sojourner, again
to go back where you started,
after the “marvelous journey” to some Ithaka,
until the next departure, next terminal
until . . . . ok, leave that there—
so you bury in the pilgrim ground
behind the beautiful door of rainbow glass
and its diaphanous curtain tie like a shirt around a hip,
in the quiet, stone garden of fragrant herbs,
impossible infatuations
vague nostalgias
plotlines of shifty memory,
and board the narrow tube of the airport bus.


Photographs © John Robert Lee 2020


John Robert Lee is a St. Lucian writer. He is the author of elemental (2008), Collected Poems, 1975–2015 (2017), and Pierrot (2020), all published by Peepal Tree Press. His new long poem, Belmont Portfolio, from which these excerpts are taken, is dedicated to Earl Lovelace.