ODE TO POET LAUREATE, PROF THE HON MERVYN MORRIS

BEARING WITNESS

for Mervyn Morris

 

You search the still water of memory:

examine the life caught in the seine.

 

The first day you saw him

he was standing in your class:

no, you were sitting in his

– the man, who conjured a pond

in your exams:

no, he conjured that pond long before

but, as you were to come to know:

poetry stands

travels far

burrows deeply –

 

so, the first day I saw him, I was in his class –

the man whose father died

and his mother cried, and her tears were his –

and my eyes opened wide.

 

His white beard would jab the corner

before his blue jeans, doctor’s shirt

and the stars in his eyes seized the room

pinned by his baritone

that dipped to bass, like a bucket

plunged deep into the continent of Mervyn

then surfacing, brimming with laughter.

 

And the class, on the edge

would draw near, as

he led us down the dark

red lanes of Martin Carter;

 

sat with us around

the Singer sewing machine

Goodison identified with her mother:

 

and we eavesdropped with him

as he eavesdropped with Senior

gardening in the tropics.

 

He’d use Bay Rum

to clean the Mikey Smith cassette head

so we’d see the Legba-walking

Orange-Street-fire-talking man

dem kill wid a stone on Stony Hill.

 

An’ him plug that radio stuck inna Jean

Binta Breeze head into fi wi

 

and walk wi on de street wid Oku

Linton, Muta, wid him patty pan.

 

And the class on the edge

would draw nearer, as he drew

nearer to Miss Lou

and we peered into the pool

of Caribbean poetry.

 

And it was Mervyn Morris who inflicted

the love pangs of John Donne

W.B Yeats upon us.

 

He brought life

pouring out from the depths of souls

to his class, that is not

and was never contained on the Mona Campus.

 

He was already Poet Laureate.

 

His progeny? Many.

 

And I, manuscript in hand

like the generations of others

negotiate the wet summer

the grass growing lush –

the paths to Mervyn Morris –

tennis-ball poem bouncer

Rhodes Scholar

wry

quicksilver

star-eye

Don Drummond fan

generous

magic-poem-man

fathomless –

the pond.

 

So, how do you bear witness?

You search the water

examine the life in the seine

recommit every detail

then slip them back in

then, roll your world back up to a scroll

unfold it

breathe, begin.

 

Ann-Margaret Lim