gray hair wrapped to protect embroidered white sheets,
she lies smoothed out, freshly powdered,
swaddled in a flower-patterned spread.
She's focused on the green wall ahead as she speaks to him.
Angry, mumbled curses hit and stick to fresh paint on her side.
On his side,
newspapers drag black streaks on rumpled sheets.
He pauses to hurl laughter,
head thrown back, wide open mouth,
sound pierces dull yellow wall.
She sighs and turns away,
pulling lilies up to her chin.
She closes her eyes,
but she'll lie awake for hours
cursing mosquitoes and old men
whose piss-stained pants hang unwashed
misplaced on the clothesline for all the neighbors to see.
She'll let them swing and flap empty there
until his next trip in them.
At the end of her mutterings,
he stops the rustle of paper
and smiles with drunken memory
of full, firm calves,
caressed by soft satin--
calves now matron and prim in heavy bed spreads.
Between them stands my lemon-sun-lime inheritance
of marriage and love
and of solitary intimacies contained indoors.
I am now the age she had been in that bed
as I stand before you in this room
bare, except for excitement, swirling.
Through the miles of dust and company
of my own vivid, wild greens and laughing yellows
of chilled, mellow grays
of early evenings and late nights drinking wine
of sleeplessness and worry
of deep sleep and forgetfulness,
I shed the layers I didn't want
to bring with me to you.
I kept only the layers we will need--
a hat-tricked, fate-fury-graced,
from a woman grown wise:
The first layer is thread,
strong enough to bind blood and kin;
The second layer is white cotton for breezy Caribbean nights;
The third layer
(and the first you'll see)
is the hand-written version of these letters.
Charmaine Valere is a Guyanese-American writer whose non-fiction writing has been published in The Caribbean Review of Books, Caribbean Beat Magazine, and Sx Salon Journal. She has taught writing and literature courses at several colleges in New Jersey, and she maintains a blog, Signifyinguyana, where she writes on Caribbean literature, with a special focus on the works of Caribbean women writers.