Georgio Russell

Four Poems


By the Bimini Docks

Another ten-seat ferry
carries newcomers northbound

to these shanty towns,
gliding through the idyll

across a bridge of lunging waves.
I muse on those foreigners

on board, whether or not
our noon waters seem clearer

to them than the creole hubbub
of this harbour.

Wide-hat women step off
their rocking ride and mount
the dock, one suitcase apiece.

Teams of taxi-men greet them
in brackish English.

Above us, a single-engine sputters
descent, raking the sky
toward a southern runway.

Half my body leans over
the port-side parapet and, here,

awaiting the simple ferry to clear,
I count a small cay cluster,
solo barracuda easing

below the summer’s glint on sea.
And something in me

rejoices, a small thing surging
while I sight a Regatta’s worth

of fishing skiffs, idling under
the gull chorale–such ease,

of course, suggesting all is well,
and nothing needs urging after.



From the back porch,
I can almost taste the sea’s tang,

almost reach out and touch
the peach remains of daylight, the sky

changing behind birds who wail
and turn, too, above the new tide.

My father moves a barber tool
through my summer

afro, grooming me for school.
I sit like his pissed-off prince,

kissing teeth and twisting on a throne
of old milk crates,

my small shirt dimming with dandruff
and tufts of boyhood hair.

I grimace at this loss, grieve
for the growth I boasted whole season about.

His hard hand holds my craning neck
in place, as though to say Keep steady

and suffer all that must be taken
for you to learn.

Nightfall swims toward us, palling
the salt water.

Seagulls scream their sympathy
over waves that lap like pages.

My father continues to shape my head
in spite of my complaints.


Walking Home

The afternoon school bell flings you
to freedom. You wait at the front gate

for your mother, your khakis creased
from the roughness at recess, a knapsack

turtled tight to the flat of your back.
She meets you by the gate to walk 

this weekday over, her armpits damp
already, the sun you share shimmering 

against the asphalt, the shadow of her
body keeping you cool. 

One thing you learn, walking home
a decade long, is how subtly life shifts,

how in increments the world shrinks
or goes missing–the Cherokee in the

driveway, a hillside Deli, the loud dog
you side-eyed last year dying

like one neighbour who breathed the sea.
The grades page over, classmate faces

change, new potholes pock
the road around the old, loaded holes,

your polished shoes a counting clock
on this easy odyssey, your steps downsizing

the bones of houses, the once-lofty fruit
trees lining this holy route to home,

your mother having escorted you
and the sun so long, before she too is small

then gone, never letting go of your hand,
never slowing to rest until you

reached the yard, entered shade.



Some months after she drowned,
a parody of the baptism
promised to her father, he met with me
each morning in Tiff’s Cafe, Toronto,
missing work at times to attend,
our new bond being his way
to commemorate, though, fearful,
we seldom spoke of our common
loss, of life before I watched a river
knot my name in his daughter’s throat.

On a morning comprising, as ever, eggs
and steam that danced
from black-pooled mugs, he slid
a Camel pack across the table,
soaked eyes asking me, the boyfriend, how
something sinful as cigarettes reached
her coat pocket. I swore of course
that the cancer was mine, assuring him
she died the same saint he raised,
remained the same saint he buried
in catholic rite, lips never wreathing
once round a bottle nor a bong or a boy.
I figure he drove back to the city
a little more content, believing
his daughter’s lungs less black, halo
scoured clean of a vice that must
have layered his grief on discovery. Later,
my home-bound bus rode past a mill
polluting the rouged air above roads remote
from the skyline. In the smoke stacks I saw
her neck sculpted, the soot and the rust dark
as those hickeys she concealed for Sunday mass.


Georgio Russell is a Bahamian writer and an alumnus of the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. He is a past winner of the Ian Randle Publisher’s prize, the Peepal Tree Press Prize, and the Mervyn Morris Prize for poetry. Russell was also a featured poet for the British Council’s project, “Unwritten Poems: Exploring Caribbean Engagement in WW1.” His poems have been published in Yolk Literary Magazine and PREE magazine, among others. He currently lives in Brampton, Ontario, where he teaches English for Educate Academy.

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