Geoffrey Philp


(For Felix Morriseau-Leroy)

“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it…and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Revelation 20:13)

The river, clotted with tar
of freighters bound for tropical
sunsets, circles the city down pine
avenues, splintered as the lens honey-
mooning tourists capture our peninsula.
Coast guard cutters lower their flags
under the arms of the MacArthur Cause-
way, stuck upright like the fists
of the admiral’s statue below the gilded
dome of the Freedom Tower, burrowing
through clouds suspended against the blue
like puffs from a crack pipe
while quayside bars offer Cuba Libre,
the revolution’s song of tomorrow that begs
for daily bread; horizons blotted by skysc-
rapers, and Miami Beach loses itself in a flash
of pastel neon. Eighth Street, heading south,
remakes herself into Calle Ocho,
each street crackles with dialects
variegated as the garish crotons
lining the boulevard with billboards
of Seminole bingo, lottery fever,
a trail of broken promises through
the Everglades. Yet only these are allowed
to enter dead counties of America; dog
tagged, names manacled to their arms,
bright as bangles from Benin, tucked
tightly in freighters, ringed with rust,
along the Gold Coast’s meridian;
secure in their hold, oranges, cocoa,
coffee, baseballs; the seeded remains
of an empire’s gold sinks between Jeremie
and Port-au-Prince. For the Gulf weighted
down with so many prayers, whispered
over the sea’s sermon, cannot contain
our faith, the poinsettia’s rage December’s
sun startles into petals of blood as the capitol
calcifies into stone, into coral; our hope,
the tremor of Bois Caiman that swallows
the statue of the Indian outside the palace;
our charity, fathers, mothers, sisters, comrades,
kernels strewn across Golfe de Gonave,
husks we count as beads on the neck-
lace of Erzulie Doba, mere stones in the palm
of Papa Legba, married to our island
in the kingdom of Ginen

From Florida Bound (Peepal Tree, 1995)


Geoffrey Philp, an author from Jamaica, has written three children’s books, Marcus and the Amazons (Mabrak Books, 2011), Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories (Mabrak Books, 2012), and The Christmas Dutch Pot Baby (Mabrak Books, 2012); two collections of short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien (Peepal Tree,1997) and Who’s Your Daddy? (Peepal Tree, 2009); a novel, Benjamin, My Son (Peepal Tree, 2003); and five poetry collections, Exodus and Other Poems (University of the Virgin Islands Press, 1990), Florida Bound (Peepal Tree, 1995), Hurricane Center (Peepal Tree, 1998), Xango Music (Peepal Tree, 2001), and Dub Wise (Peepal Tree, 2010). His work is represented in nearly every anthology of Caribbean literature, and he is one of the few writers whose work has been published in the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories and the Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. He is currently working on a novel, Garvey’s Ghost, and a collection of poems, “The Orishas of Ives Dairy.”