Jacqueline Bishop: 3 Poems and Madras Women


Strange, plant like shapes give rise
to an image of the Garden of Ediacara,

 an echo of the Garden of Eden –
the dawn of obvious life.

 Fossils suggest a succession of species
over differing depths, the richness

 and abundance being very similar to the
deepening sea-beds.

 Whilst they may look unfamiliar
the variety and distribution suggest

 that they lived their lives to the same rhythms
that drives modern communities of animals.



It starts somewhere in the whispered darkness –
a slender dark figure with fingers crossed walking around

in contemplative circles – the eternal sounds of water, a river;
and somewhere, even farther off in the distance:

the call to communion; the call to prayer.
Then someone is charged with collecting the legends,

old wives tales, myths and scandalous stories
and to work at them, one cracked and worn hand,

one generation after another; to make of these a national saga;
to say to the people gathered one day shivering with cold

around a sacred spot in the mountains –
this moment is your founding, your exegesis,

the place out of nowhere that you came from –
and that old hunchback stroking his beard and set apart

from the others, he is your founding father.



As if in a display of masculine power, as if
he was a child that still needed my attention,

my cat came running into the house —
something with feathers in his mouth.

Round and round the room we went,
trying to get him to let go —

this prize he was not sure he now wanted;
this prey he had so terribly wounded.

She was bleeding profusely,
still she found the strength to scratch me —

to use her beak to jab me.
When I got her in my cat’s cage

she spent all her time looking out.

For weeks now I have been reading books
about nature, about biodiversity, individual responsibility:

At first the bird becomes a metaphor,
before she becomes a mother,

out scavenging to feed her young.
All night long the bird held on to the door of the cage:

claws like hooks, refusing
to let go. She did not eat the fruits I gave; did not

touch the water.
In the morning I found her, wings flapping

weakly. What my cat had done to her.
After a while I turned away from what I knew

would happen; turned away
from the accusation in her glassy dark eyes.


Jacqueline Bishop is an award-winning photographer, painter and writer born and raised in Jamaica, who now lives and works in New York City. The Gymnast and Other Positions (Peepal Tree Press), winner of the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Nonfiction, is a hybrid mix of short stories, essays and interviews that explores the author’s creative career as a novelist, poet, critic, and visual artist.


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