Poem of the Week: Wherever I Go… by Jennifer Rahim | Poetry

Everywhere I go …

there will be an island,
and an ocean will be
which sounds to me.

We are at the end
a name that is not ours,
although we are leaving to find

what’s left
and who holds us,
more than we know,

like a small beach
to the ear of the great sea

and a trillion reflux
are never without return.

This flow is the stay,
although we are leaving.

An oyster takes a single grain
and stores it in the muscle of his heart

like a memory of lovers;
she never lets us go …

This week’s poem is taken from the latest collection by Trinidadian writer Jennifer Rahim, recently released in the UK. Wherever I Go… seems to demonstrate the creation of one of those sacred spaces mentioned in the title of the book, Sanctuaries of Invention.

“The journey heals the imagination,” writes Rahim in a longer poem, Homing Now to Stardust, part of which is a loving epistle to a globetrotting nephew, “but the house is where we anoint the ritual.” . While Rahim’s own pleasure of traveling is clear in the new collection’s many exuberant descriptive poems, Wherever I Go… seems to say that the home country is more resilient, a portable sanctuary that travelers must form from their own. own images and symbols.

The motif of the poem’s stanza may itself be symbolic. While the title begins the poem and evokes a first phase of imagined journey to unknown destinations, the three-line structure of the first stanzas suggests confinement. It can also refer to the name, Trinidad – Spanish for “Trinity”. (The full name imposed on the island by Christopher Columbus was “La Isla de la Trinidad”, replacing the original arawak word Iëre, “Land of hummingbirds”).

Thus, for the first three stanzas, the lineation suggests an island surrounded by the sea. This ocean, says the poet in a memorable way, will always be “what rings me”. The variety of meanings of “ring” include encirclement and perhaps the physical ring used to track a bird’s migratory flight. The ending rhymes, too, affirm the meaning of confinement in these tercets.

The thought of the poem will shift and the structure of the tercet will transform into couplets, the pairs of lines treading steadily and cautiously into a larger world, when the powers of the imagination are most needed. Before that happens, however, there is a central recognition of alienation through “a name that is not ours.”

Again, some lines from Homing Now to Stardust highlight the colonial contexts of Wherever I Go… / No name they gave us / could contain the vastness of the islands. To find what has been obliterated, it takes a difficult personal observation: “although we go to look for // what remains / and which holds us, / more than we know, // like a small beach / by the ear of the great sea. “

The voice of the “little beach” is heard by the “big sea” as if the sea were a kind of generously maternal or paternal spirit. The exchange is favored by the imagery of “ebbs” and “returns” and the “flow” that is “the stay, / even if we are leaving”. The poet spoke for herself in the first stanza, but from the second stanza to the end of the poem, she speaks for her people in their collective migratory movements.

In the alluring metaphor of the oyster and the single grain of sand, we find the earlier idea of ​​an enclosure, with a protective symbolic entity, the oyster in its shell, much smaller than the “great sea” and even the “Little beach.” The poem imagines a new ancient world in miniature. At first it seems that the “single grain” may symbolize the country, the oyster being the person whose memory lovingly recreates and encloses his presence, and, implicitly, turns her into a pearl. But the idea is more original than that: it is, I think, the island that is represented by the oyster. Warmly, safely, she (now a female) “stores “every islander” in the muscle of his heart // like a memory of lovers. ”The last line echoes and revises the main verb,“ to go, ”in the title, and also ends with an ellipse. It tells us that although movement and change are inevitable, fundamentally “she never leaves us to leave… “

A writer of fiction and criticism as well as poetry, Rahim won the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for Chronicles of the curfew: a fiction. One of his acclaimed previous collections, Approaching Sabbaths, is examined here, in an essay that includes an interesting brief introduction to the English-speaking poets of Trinidad and Tobago.

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