1 March, 2004Issue 3.2Creative WritingOriginal Poetry

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Shells for Sonia Sanchez

Christian Campbell

You ten, I six, and jujube
now in season. I monkey up

the tree’s weak bones and call
down to you, not Wilsonia, that
big-people name. I does call you
Nita. Only them small ocean eyes
that say how you know, I know,
my Mummy know that boy jujube

stain don’t come out. I’ll do most
anything for these plump little suns
and you, even with wasps telling
secret. Is breaktime still and your legs
look skinny under that plaid skirt. You is

give me quarters sometimes, to buy salty.
You’s always have your hair in one,
rake and scrape to the side, and if
that don’t mean womanish, I don’t know
what does. You’s the one that start everyone

saying, That’s my prerogative! You stink
to them teachers but not one child at Xavier’s
could test you at singing. I tell people
you’s my cousin, but you really the one

that I lend my recorder to longtime so you
wouldn’t get licks and you did never forget it.

One time you tell me Santa Claus
fake cause we don’t have no chimney
in Nassau and his skin too pink
for this kinda sun and I was sad because I

was hoping for one new bike so you let
me go first in handball. We always
have to pray every morning assembly
Our father who art in heaven
Harold be thy name
and I ask you

why Harold so mean to never show
me his art? And the grin how you
answer is keep me glad for days.
I most tall as you, you know, but you
could beat me and plenty boys running
any day, quick as a curly-tail lizard.

Sometimes, when I feel like it, I go up
to people in the schoolyard and point
and say, What you name? and you laugh
big as America.

The children don’t like me cause

I know my numbers and hard words too
and you say is cause they still is
pee the bed. The children say you
don’t have no Mummy and your mouth
too hot. That mouth. Like two piece

of pepper, it stay poke out, a thing
shape for cussing. All neck and pointer
finger, tripping on your tongue. My
Miss Biggety, with your little red self.
Yes you. You who is hum for the trees
always and play ringplay and pinch

the boys that get too fresh. If I did know
you was going with your Daddy to leave
me for true, I would of give you all
my shells and soldier crabs, and even my
new chain. I would of make you learn me
to run fast and sing, if I did know New York

was far-far like the moon.

Christian Campbell, of the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago, is a postgraduate at Balliol College, Oxford, and a Ph.D candidate at Duke University. His work has appeared in numerous publications.