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Image: Hibiscus, posted at Flickr by Brian Evans under a Creative Commons License.

If only by incanting, we might stay longer here.

Where is here? When it comes to Andre Bagoo’s poems, I’ve learned to bring a storm lantern of wonder and still, ecstatically, expect to get lost. This is one of the first poems I ever read from Bagoo, whose second collection, BURN, was longlisted for the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. It remains a talisman. I incant it to myself, eyes closed, as an invocation of mystery, of family trees, of the deep well of the unknowing.

In “The Night Grew Dark Around Us”, hibiscuses, daughters, mothers, authors, are all related. Not entangled: there is no abstraction here. The bloodlines are clear. Unfurl for yourself a map of ancestry, but instead of names, inscribe flora. In reading this poem, nothing will seem more natural, and the poet does not struggle to convince you. You will find yourself convinced, through the conduit of language, as unvarnished and resonant a mechanism for meaning as is unbroken bread to the starving.

Incantatory poems function like prayers. That is because they are. Notice that the first word of the poem is ‘let’: it is a permission to prayer, much as a priest says, “Let us bow our heads.” Let us stand for the final hymn. Let us now perform aarti. Let us proclaim the mystery of faith. The faith here, the ultimate gamble of the poem, resounds in love.

“His love has no end.”
“His love has no end.”
“His love has no end.”
“His love had no end.”
“His love has no end.”

Do we repeat most earnestly and penitently that which we know to be true, or that which we have always known was/is/will be true? Let us come to this poem expecting to be shriven of complacency. Let us, amen.

Read “The Night Grew Dark Around Us” here.
Andre Bagoo’s third book of poems, Pitch Lakewas published by Peepal Tree Press in 2017.

Puncheon and VetiverThis is the second installment of Puncheon and Vetiver, a Caribbean Poetry Codex created to address vacancies of attention, focus and close reading for/of work written by living Caribbean poets, resident in the region and diaspora. During April, which is recognized as ‘National’ Poetry Month, each installment will dialogue with a single Caribbean poem, available to read online. NaPoWriMo encourages the writing of a poem for each day of April. In answering, parallel discourse, Puncheon and Vetiver seeks to honour the verse we Caribbean people make, to herald its visibility, to read our poems, and read them, and say ‘more’.

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