You know how souls track each other.
In Trinidad, we say, my blood take him. I’ve always felt this to be vampiric, an unhinging of the jaw to signal familiarity, a patina-piercing, a rich, ruby drinking. Come closer, we say by our blood. I know you. I would know you anywhere, even in a foreign land.
Ana Portnoy Brimmer‘s “Portrait of a Diasporican Friend” teems with comfortable, sensual familiarity. The poem peals, “see him in the distance like / his father and climbing for mangoes and / Santurce brawls and jincho Seattle and hope so fragile like / spanish in old boxes”. This sweet, hot undulation of personality transcends a glib approximation of height, or weight. What colour are his eyes? Boricua. What do you hear, when he opens his mouth? Boricua. How about the weight of his palm on the dancing chameleon of your spine? Boricua, también.
Brimmer’s poema blushes with lifeblood in the cheeks, picks up its skirts and clatters onto tables, raises its fists in the alleyways. You could say it’s all for love, but love is only the curtain, billowing to let recognition sliding in like the thief you will give everything to, because he knows all your secret names. Of such musicality is the poem composed, that you will feel it in your bones, activating your pulse, sugaring your waistline, lifting your gaze to the box-windows where a thousand small flags of your patria fly.
Can a man be an island? “Portrait of a Diasporican Friend” doesn’t present an answer to this, but it takes the blood of familiarity, and rhythms it into la clave. Listen to the stroke-count. Simmer in the syncopation. Take the hand of the man next to you, that hand of plantains and congas and flags. Plant yourself in Puerto Rico.
This is the twentieth 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’.