A Prayer against Death, in the Age of Our Islands

June 2021

For women, for us who go barefoot out the front door to pick pommecythere from our own pregnant trees, may we not die. For women, for us who run in rubber slippers and headscarf to the corner shop for vienna sausage, crix and three plumes matches, may we not die. For women, for us whose high heels stick in the pavement grating on a lonely road in town on the walk back to the parkade, may we not die.

May we live to see our grandmothers’ teeth fall out and be replaced by gold. May we arrive to birthday parties with arms full of cake and ice cream and metallic discount-bag balloons. May we arrive to fetes in the very tiniest of pumpum shorts with our glittery purses packed full of pepper spray we don’t have to use. May we arrive to the churches alive, to the lover’s house alive, to the croisee by the clock tower alive, may it not matter so much where we’re going, holy or profane, except that we are allowed the right to get there breathing, unmolested, our lungs not riddled with knifemarks, our vaginas untorn.

May the convent or bush or deep south of our accents be inconsequential to our living or dying. May the contents of our bank accounts be inconsequential to our living or dying. Maybe it may also be that if we are killed, though this is a prayer against death, the first questions will not be how many men we took between our thighs or lips, how many children we had with how many men, how many men we liked were gunmen themselves. May our eulogies not be peppered with should have known betters, should have studied harders, should have taken more care with ourselves, should have apologized to the bullet for our insolence, the choking rope for our slack ways, the violence of our own underwear stuffed down our throats for being bad, naughty girls.

May we remember Ashanti Riley and uplift her name. May we remember Shannon Banfield and uplift her name. May we remember Latoya Hughes and uplift her name. May we remember Asami Nagakiya and uplift her name. May we remember Gabriella Du Barry and uplift her name. May we remember Andrea Bharatt and uplift her name.

If prayers depend on faith and repetition, the solidity of clasped hands, the offering of fresh flowers and incense and shrines, the again, again, again of words we believe in in the face of death, may life be our faith. May the joy of living be in our repetition. May safety be present in our clasped hands. May we offer flowers of hopefulness, incense of resolve, at our shrines overlooking newer, safer, softer days. May we be able to look into the faces of our sisters before they purple and mottle and say: Trust me with yourself. May it be that we can outstretch our hands and catch the hands of our sisters before someone extinguishes her life. May we become more and more of what we already are—powerful, collective, brave enough to fight and brave enough to weep hard—that we make murderers fear us. That we bring love to a table where only terror is being served and ask ourselves to eat ’til we are full. May we all wake up to pray again tomorrow.

Awomen. Awomen. Awomen.


Shivanee Ramlochan is a Trinidadian poet, critic, and book blogger. Her first book of poems, Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting (Peepal Tree, 2017), was a finalist for the 2018 People’s Choice T&T Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Forward Prize for Best First Collection. “The Red Thread Cycle,” from her debut collection, placed second in the 2014 Small Axe Literary Competition in poetry and was on audiovisual display at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. She was a 2019 John Ciardi Poetry Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a 2019 Millay Arts Poetry Fellow. Find Shivanee’s work online at www.novelniche.net, shivaneeramlochan.com, and @novelniche.


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