Thu. Jul 7th, 2022

‘The first humans were created from corn.’ – Popul Vuh, The ancient stories of Quiché

Mothers will understand this: The first ones I sent into the
world did alright, turned out to be human. But this lot!

Okay, perhaps I spoil them. Bearing them now not solitary
and naked like the first but many together, gift-wrapped

in silky down and swaddling clothes of papery layer.
I’ve overdone it, perhaps, in the way of security and

comfort. For can I get them to leave? Even when
mature they continue to cling for dear life to me and –

worse – to each other. Unwrapped, without the light of day,
they know they are useless but are still so shy, they are

prepared to die – together. To live, they must be forcibly
undressed and separated. That’s where my human children

come in. Skilled at brutality, they will happily rip these
children from me, strip off their clothing, pull them apart.

Because I know it’s for their own good, I watch as each little
one pops out like a pearl. Ivory. Golden. Milky.

Not all will stay that way. Some will be dried, popped,
parched, ground to be drunk or eaten. But I smile even as I

am myself cut down as spent and useless, for I know
enough of my progeny will be saved to be planted and

nurtured. Become, in their turn, mothers proudly displaying
their clinging children in their green array. The little ones

still attached to their mother, still clinging to one another;
undercover, in the dark. Scared of the single life. Yet

dying for exposure. To grow up. To ripen the germ
of Sun Father.

From ‘Hurricane Watch: New and Collected Poems’ (Carcanet, £ 25). Olive Senior is Poet Laureate of Jamaica, and her verse often engages with the island’s natural world, wildlife and history. ‘Hurricane Watch’ incorporates her first four collections of poetry, as well as new and uncollected work.

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