Geoffrey Philp
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A Prayer for My Children 

When you find yourself in a faraway land
surrounded by men, animals that mutter strange
sounds, do not be afraid: neither you, your parents,

nor your ancestors have ever been alone.
So trust the earth to bear you up, follow
the wind as it leads you through valleys

clustered with trees heavy with fruit –
some that seem familiar enough to eat,
but you still aren’t sure they are the same

as the ones you left on the other side
of the river that you’ve now forgotten.
Eat. Feast on the bounty. Feed the fire

that burns away the knot in your stomach,
sets ablaze the horizon, all that your eyes
can see – that has been promised

to you since your cry pierced the morning air:
your parents bathed you with kisses,
baptized you with caresses,

swaddled you in care before you uttered
your first words to the moon, sun, stars,
wobbled your first steps into unknowing –

all the while rising into your inheritance.
And if you awaken under the branches of a cotton
tree, cradled in its roots, draw a circle around

yourself and all those whom you love,
cross yourself three times before you step
over the threshold. Welcome the ancestors,

all the kindly spirits who have followed you,
your parents across many seas, oceans,
and deserts; entertain them with strong drink

and soft food: rice, yams, bananas, the ever
present rum to bless the hands that have lifted
you up, and sanctified the place you now call home.

From Dub Wise (Peepal Tree, 2010)

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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.”