Praise the women who rise early, squeeze up in buses
on winding country roads to set up stalls in the early light.
Praise the artistry of their display: round onions & tomatoes,
stalks of escallion & thyme, curvy mangoes & avocados,
rotund pumpkins & melons, bunches of bananas & guineps.
Praise the bounty of ripeness & almost turn, just need likkle
time in the cupboard wrapped in newspapers. Praise the colours:
red, yellow, orange, green, purple. Praise the taffeta leaves
of lettuce & cabbage. Praise the cane leaning over crates
like slim, swaggerific men. Praise the bags of oranges hanging
from the bamboo eaves, their citrus smell rising to meet the mist.
Praise my husband who goes to Papine Market to buy what he
needs for the vegetable rundown he will cook in the evening.
Praise the love ever swelling inside me as I watch him in the kitchen.
First, he pulls the meat out of the coconut, cuts it into small pieces,
blends it with water to make proper coconut milk. Praise his hands
on the knife, his sureness in chopping carrots, string beans, cauliflower,
broccoli & a big yellow squash. Praise the tears falling as he dices
the onions. May they wash away all saltiness from our lives.
Praise the sound of sizzling butter, praise the pot unafraid of fire,
praise the smell of seasonings moving like a chant through the house.
Praise the medley of vegetables, the ritual of pouring in the coconut milk,
praise the spatula that stirs, praise the simmering & Beres crooning
in the background, She Loves Me Now & hubby humming. Praise
his mouth opening for a taste check. Praise his eyes closing as if it is a kiss.
Praise the waiting while flavours burst open, vegetables soften, the sun sets,
my hunger pulses. Praise the wooden bench on our patio for holding us up
as we eat, two spoons dipping in & out of one brown, star-speckled calabash.
Tanya Shirley has published two poetry collections with Peepal Tree Press in the UK: ‘She Who Sleeps With Bones’ and ‘The Merchant of Feathers’. Her work has been featured on BBC World Service, BBC Front Row, Scottish Poetry Library, www.poetryarchive.org and translated into Spanish and Polish. She has conducted writing workshops and performed in the UK, Canada, the Caribbean, Venezuela, and the USA. She is the recipient of a Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica for her outstanding contribution in the field of Literature. @poettanyashirley