There, at the bend of the river There, at the bend of the river, I almost turned. I almost became the b r o k e n bough that floats, almost became a bride in the l a c y wake almost borrowed the choir of incessant birds almost forsook dry land for amniotic waters almost didn’t board the taxi that led to the plane that led to the city of deceit and promise that would neverthe less enrich me with its tales and offer me lovers to distract me. I almost would not have borne these children who make their mark like r a i n like SonG b birds & o bees w s like batons passing the trail messages on their fingers like d u s t. There, at the bend of the river, words would not have a l i g h t e d like a passenger on these still trembling chords of my throat.
On watching a lemon sail the sea 1 and I’m singing ‘You are my sunshine’ thinking of my childhood across the sea of incubation go Honey go you self-contained cargo ship you with your sealed citrus juices and pitted panacea of seeds braving the collision of tankers and illicit submarines .they called me scurvy. the lemonade my mother made was iced and sprinkled with Demerara (of course) and I’m wondering, did they grow you there, o lemon mine you for your juices a lemon plantation, not to be confused with a plantain plantation even a banana just don’t mention sugar stack you in the gloom like hereto mentioned bananas green and curtailed in their growing or even those force-ripe mangoes with girls’ names nobody knows here and who leave their sweetness behind bare-assed on the beaches come to the marketplace comatose. I do not remember lemons, but limes. M I E L S. Piled high in their abundance. Limes. Acid green pyramids on market pavements holding their secrets beneath their reptilian skins. And there is my aunt, her arms thin as bamboo gathering the fallen from the yard, sweeping their dried leaves into the remembrance of herself whilst the black maid slips slivers of lemon into a split -bellied fish whose eyes glaze up at the sun. ‘Gauguin, you can come in now; remember Martinique ...? hue the native in all her harnessed beauty the slack –jawed fish, browning blood the textured landscape in shades of pawpaw and indigo.’ But, liming is what my lemon is doing now, (in the West Indian sense), hey ho over the waves at Aberporth, there he blows. 2 I set you free to take to the sea again on a high tide, with breakers rushing the beach like warriors. They pummel the sand, scythe a four foot chasm into the mouth of a lonely river beat the rocks’ submerged heads batter the cliffs again and again and again. The sea, beyond its charge, was waiting - a winter morning sea, a Twelfth Night sea tumultuous and moody waiting. A strange gift, you a large, perfect lemon fresh and sharp as the sun-bright wind-cut winter’s day. But I unsure of your heritage refused you. 3 Dear Voyager, I cupped you in my palm desire urging my possession how easy it would be – a lemon drizzle cake a Martini iced, an accompaniment to plaice or sole – and here I am playing with words the resonance of belonging, of immortality – but the devil played tricks with my mind an injection of poison perhaps, a needle prick into your pristine, nobbled skin – but we are running ahead here thinking of cargo – you may simply have fallen from a Tesco carrier bag whose owner, fearing a lonesome home-coming went walking on these very sands contemplating - life. But there you were anyway, settled on the sand like a crab then comfortable in the palm of my hand. 4 Finders are not necessarily keepers. Some will do well to remember that. Vixens circling misunderstood husbands in bars. Frag ments from the fallen. Oh but, how strong is the desire to hold close, keep tight smother your darling, your little nut-baby in soft gloves, hard love, the kind that makes you want to bite, bite! Rip flesh and bone. Swallow. I could have accepted your sacrifice that gift of yourself, thank the universe for its’ benevolence. But the universe is not benevolent. Stars are exploding missiles in a panther-black night. Saturn doesn’t give two fucks. It’s chaos out there. But I guess you didn’t have time for star-gazing in your ocean-going lumbering over the hey-ho waves. And if I had sunk my vampiric teeth into the you of you, you would be no more than a bitter taste, a withering lump of citrus on my kitchen table. Far better to remember you the obsidian walnut weight of you and these questions you have gifted me and that last sight of you rolling away on the tide.
On speaking of the individuation of things That waves are not separate from the sea or the sea from the shore or the shells crushed under your naked feet or their fossilised brothers cemented into the cliffs or this passage between my palm and your return to waters heavy in their journeying with the plastic of our generation and the wanting whatever is in or out of season. That the lemon too is a bastard child, an indeterminate childling of citron, its mother-father sacredly revered, and closeted in its perfection from Yemen to Israel, from synagogue to supermarket from EU label to post-Brexit. Segment by segment they are seeking to reclaim the discovery of self. Cross the black waters now and you will meet yourself returning with all those others braving the oceans. Jonah will be there, and King Nebuchardnezzar requesting the interpretation of his dream and Daniel will still be explaining the city of clay to anyone who will listen.
Maggie Harris is a Guyanese writer living in the UK. She has twice won The Guyana Prize for Literature and was Regional Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story prize 2014, with Sending for Chantal.