The Interior

[Clarendon, Jamaica]
 
[“We are driving to the interior.”—Elizabeth Bishop, “Arrival at Santos”]

The mountains loom 
Large like questions 
About poverty. Wages
Low. Crime, high, 
Our driver narrates. 
The roads wear 
Potholes like war 
Wounds. They narrow
And wiggle into 
A world of trees. 
Unfinished
Cement homes
Dot the unruly 
Greenery. Dancehall
Music medicates
A square. A Rasta 
Hawks canes 
And peeled 
Oranges before 
A crumbling
Colorful stall. 
Star-apples purple 
In the sun’s 
Eye. Men make 
A villa from scratch 
By whipping up
Cement from
Gravel. They shovel
It into buckets
And pitch them up
To each other.
They work
Faster than
Machines until
Their arms become
Steel, until their
Masculinity is free
Of “femininity.” The sky’s 
The limit with a bush
Of clouds. The sea’s 
Voice is missing,
But a gentle wind
Strums the canes.
Bush women
Flower the roads.
Sunrise farmers 
Drink away bar shops
At noon. The hills line
The background
Like a choir. Bauxite 
Men pinch a break from
Squeezing profit
From the land
To menace 
The squares,
Clogging bars,
Streets with idle
Moaning trucks. Graves 
Stamp the land. Taxis
Overtake taxis 
Like NASCAR. A washed 
Away bridge is still 
Missing. Toddlers cross 
A raging river on rocks.
The bauxite companies
Wound the hills 
And leave them 
To bleed out. Uniformed
Students skip
Home from schools.
Poverty is flower-framed,
Expatriate mansions 
Overshadowing zinc
Huts. “Could this be 
Love?” Bob Marley 
Wails. We stop to snack
In Brown’s Town,
A red-earth town on a peak
Dipping into the market
Heart of a valley. I knock
My head on a too-low
Bathroom door frame. 
And for a minute I forget
I’m finding myself
Here in the bitter
Beauty of sun-powered
Women with braided
Hair, rainbow
Buildings, markets 
Of knock off clothes
And shoes; yams, 
Oranges, June
Plums, conscious music
Spreading peace over
The triggering smell 
Of smoking jerk
Grills. Cave Valley
Is baptized in floods
Every few weeks, the rivers
Are resting now. James
Hill is like a long massage 
With a sad ending: 
The restless shop
clerk pulling a minimum
wage of 6200 Jamaican
Dollars or 62 U.S. per
Week. The weather-
Beaten houses
In my childhood
Hometown have lost
Their colors. My retired,
Yellow third-grade 
Teacher observes 
That I used to be 
Browner. The grass
Cannot be tamed
By the patient
Goats and slothful 
Cows whose expanding 
Sad eyes tell us
Our masters will be
Our killers. 
The scarred bridge
Is now bandaged,
The pool below 
Too shallow to plunge 
In. The gully rambles 
Through the taxi-filled
Square. Music, God,
Football and track
Medicate the country.
A drizzle brightens
The rainbow churches.
Homeless Mongrels
Mill around
Like the unemployed. 
The post office is
Dead and buried 
In reeds. The All Age
School is now a primary
School with flushing
Toilets next to ancient
Fragrant outhouses. 
The teachers cannot
Strike students anymore
The way Miss Dee 
Whipped the senses
From bro when he was
On the cusp of grasping
How colonialism is
Resurrected in the stick 
Of a freed 20th Century 
Godly lady who strikes 
Self-esteem from
Her pupil. The pigs 
In the prison pig 
Pen don’t scream
Anymore. The pigeons 
Don’t wing back 
To their guard-like
Owners. The Ugli
Trees are now 
Cane fields. Wasps
Know who to sting,
The child giving back
Innocence after hearing 
About a poor man chopped
To hell by community
Men for stealing 
Livestock. The Minho 
River is still
A bully when it rains,
Washing away lives. 
The great house 
Of the white English
Family is still standing,
Workers worrying around
Like fire ants. Banana trees 
Everywhere bent in prayer.

Photo Credit: Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke via Pixabay License. Image courtesy of pizabay.com.

About the author

Rayon Lennon was born in rural Jamaica; he moved to New Haven County, CT, when he was 13. He currently resides in New Haven. He holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Southern Connecticut State University. He holds a master’s degree in Social Work and works as a Psychotherapist. His work has been published widely in various literary magazines, including, The Main Street RagStepAway MagazineFolio, The Connecticut River Review, The African American ReviewNoctua ReviewIndianapolis ReviewThe Connecticut ReviewCallaloo, and Rattle. His poems have won numerous poetry awards, including the 2017 Rattle Poetry Prize contest for his poem “Heard”; his poems have been nominated for the Best of the Net anthology and the Pushcart Prize. He won the Folio Poetry Contest for three consecutive years--2007, 2008, and 2009. He won the Noctua Review Poetry Contest in 2014 and 2015. He also won Rattle’s Poets Respond contest in 2015 and 2019. His first book of poems, Barrel Children, was released in March 2016, by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Barrel Children was a finalist for the 2017 Connecticut Book Award for best poetry book. Rayon is working on a new book of poems. 




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