Poems by Donna Aza Weir-Soley

July 2014

Let the Dead Stay Buried

I sense you about to move before you do and pull you deeper.
Words rain from your lips, running together like worship:

You, Georgia boy, rocking against my rolling waves,
must never know the dark sea depths,
must never see the waters receding, the dry ocean bed,
the nocturnal table rising from the ocean floor,
demons sitting aloft eating some unholy sacrifice,
or is it ancestors feeding an ancient spirit thing?

Why should I tell you      who have never been womanislandblack?
You, beautiful blackman, not yet tired of my taste in your mouth
why should I tell you:
I am the daughter of generations of hurt island women,
harnessing terrible seeds inside my womb.
There is deadly history hidden in my depths, hungry ghosts
seeking vengeance for past wrongs.

A rag-tag carnival of cane-cutters parade on our bedroom wall
with bloody, shredded backs, severed tongues and shattered hearts.
Dark women bending, washing rape babies away with bush medicine,
and the last time I told my history (looking for a little tenderness)
it was met by more of the same.

There are Tsunamis that I hold at bay          for my sake and for ours.

Yet, when you tell me, with that strangely troubling smile,
“My three-times-great-grandmother was the massa’s wench,”
I think you may know more than I give you credit for.

But it is early dawn yet, no need for you to experience
the nocturnal sea’s churning nor feel Mami Wata’s tail
brushing against your thighs in slumber,
only my smooth round bottom beneath your roaming hand.
What need have you to know more than your eyes can see?

I am who you see and more, a natural black woman
with tight curls and ample curves.
What does it matter whose spirit lives in me? Those I have called
and those I have not.
I will be your island woman, Uncomplicated. Your Caribbean queen.
The woman you wait up nights for with a glass of sweet red,
feeding me light salads and seafood because it is late
and you scold, half-joking: Baby, you need to come early.
Never mind, I know you Jamaicans need your ten jobs!

(A generational joke we share, seeking common ground, however flimsy.)

And I, who in this green of love, am never too full to eat all you can cook up,
swallow yuh until yuh dry             womansweat                marveling.
I sit full saddle, knees spent, laughing down into your face.

I will be the one you waited for, a new sea change.
Bringing fresh fish and nourishing algae, soft undulating waves
and a light spray of seawater to wash off past misfortunes.
Why bother the unknown creatures on the ocean floor?


Spirit Walking in My Bones

The first time my feet touched the state of Georgia,
spirit walked so strong in my bones
I sat down in the red clay soil and wept
—for nothing I could put a finger on.

The symphony of cicadas singing night and day
in the woods behind my sister’s house
rehearsed my awesome pathos
alternating between sweet melancholy and joy.

Perhaps I had walked into someone’s memory:
Burning blood and lynch mobs,
Black and brown bodies bent double in fields of cotton.
Ancestors: running, soul-tired and musky,
hunger lurking in mouth corners whitened with fear.

While in the columned white house the sound of music and laughter,
Good food and bad wine, vulgar displays of wealth
—young Kissy in a corner rocking—
Big mama scrubbing the maiden-head stains from the missus’s bedspread.

Perhaps I was crying because Georgia’s coquettish beauty
—remained unmarred by history.
The play of light and shadows on majestic oaks and cedars
dressed in hanging veils of moss like ghostly brides bedecked in lace
for a wedding night that never came.

I thought it was Georgia—her terrible beauty—making me weep without cause.
Perhaps it was you I felt strolling towards me ’cross the long unhappy years.


Originally from Jamaica, Donna Aza Weir-Soley is currently an associate professor of English, African and African diaspora studies, and women's studies at Florida International University. A Mellon and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, she is the author of a poetry collection, First Rain (2006), and a scholarly text, Eroticism, Spirituality, and Resistance in Black Women's Writings (2009), and is the coeditor (with Opal Palmer Adisa) of Caribbean Erotic (2010), an anthology of poetry, fiction, and essays that includes the work of sixty-two writers from the English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and French-speaking Caribbean.