When I was 8, 9 and 11 years old, I lived in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, with my parents who worked as architects there.
Memories of the place become fuzzy, I had basically erased it from my identity. And then… an odd thing, but that small island was thrown back into my mind with the arrival of hurricane Irma; the eye of that monster hurricane passed over Barbuda, Anguilla, St Martin & Sint Maarten, the USVirgin Islands and, the most salient to m subjective experience, the British Virgin Islands.
I was in Singapore at the time, had just broken up with my boyfriend, etc. what a mess. How can one confront questions of identity, of fading childhood memory, when every string which would have connected me to the place was essentially non-existant. The knowledge of my having lived in Tortola existed in my memory alone, and that.. barely. How much credibility could I give to thow idealised, shiny, child memories?
Well, I tried to write about the hurricane a lot. Here is one of the poems:
What to say of the image?
The image of eels lifeless on Saba Rock
torn flesh, rotting smell, flies.
Under wind necessarily less strong than
the one which brought them there
From the safe haven of imprisonment
Into churned, inescapable waters
into hard hard land of stones and grass
and palm trees that are now just
big sticks with roots.
What a childpersongirladult would do to lean over
the intact tank of imprisonment again and see
Angry eyes and Angry teeth
Then she would wonder if they’d get eaten
but they’ve been there nine years so no.
They remain, perpetually angry in looks
While island life goes on in a peaceful
pattern of un-change except for when a tiny girl turned to me in Rite-Way and smiled so big to say:
“Obama’s been elected!”
Nine years later, Saba rock still looked the same,
Children still dressed up around Peg Legs on Halloween
Eels still swirled in relative free-will
One night later, they didn’t.