Devour words like they are your last meal,
words that are iron, steel. Choose them well.
Let them feed your brain, strengthen your backbone.

Eat words that become a fortress,
so the enemy does not disarm you
run contradictions around you like ropes.

Be full of clear sentences.
Be versed in the deception of flatterers.
Be filled with knowledge that
makes you the ready chess master,
anticipator of wars.

Become the god of words
so you can
lift potent proclamations
on your tongue and
throw them like javelins
that do not miss their mark.

Be ready to walk the media mind-field.
Be ready for the war of words
in a world of alternative realities,
and deconstructed histories,
where lies become truth,
and truth becomes lies.

© Althea Romeo-Mark. 2017
* Nyam-Antigua English Creol meaning “eat.”

Alternate Universes

I. Dinner

She rises early in the morning
to meditate before the driver
takes her to PiYo*

The maid rouses the children,
bathes and serves them breakfast.
A teacher gives French lessons via Skype
while the nanny stands by
to clarify IT complications.

In the afternoon,
an on-demand-chef
shows up at the front door
to transform emailed menus
into sumptuous, vegetarian meals.

There must be choices.
God forbid there are complaints.
There is a zucchini-and-leek pie,
a cauliflower and cheese casserole,
hamburger-shaped tofu-turkey
and a side-dish of vegetarian samosas.

Leftovers are dumped
or smuggled away
by the maid whose soul wails
at the sight of wasted food.

PiYo is a total-body fitness system designed to whip you into shape from head to toe. It combines the practices of Pilates and yoga to help you build strength, lose weight, increase flexibility and have a great time doing it. PiYo was created by Chalene Johnson, the founder of the Turbo Kick system.

II. Dinner

The mother rises at daybreak
to chop wood in the thicket
to tote to her yard.
Branches are bundled on her head.
Hand-hauled twigs
map zig-zag tracks
in the deep dust.

By early afternoon,
the washing is hung,
sun-dried and folded.
Children, home from the school-hut,
peel yams and eddoes*
drizzle them with lime juice.
Mother balls cornmeal
and flour dumplings in her hands.

The caught country chicken*,
scalded and plucked,
boils in a Maggi-cube soup.
Provisions* and dumplings
are dropped into the pot,
plop, plop, plop.

Nobody complains
that the chicken claws are scrawny.
Nobody complains
about the toughness of thighs.

*Eddoe or Eddo is a tropical vegetable closely related to taro(dasheen, which is primarily used for its thickened stems. It has smaller corms/stems than taro, and in all but there is an acrid taste that requires careful cooking. The young leaves can also be cooked and eaten, but (unlike taro) they have a somewhat acrid taste
*Country chicken—free-range chicken
*Provisions- used in the British Caribbean to mean vegetables
*Lime juice is sprinkled over certain vegetables (green bananas, yam) to prevent discoloring.

© Althea Romeo-Mark 2017


Photo Album and Archive: Two Tales

I. Photo Album

A journey back to a past
abandoned twenty-six years ago
has turned up gems,
that cannot be weighed
in dollars or gold.

Photographs rescued from war and pillage,
have survived many dry and rainy seasons—
the photos of family and extended families,
and a life once lived. Many are no longer around
to witness what they once owned.

II. Archive

At the local archive
that has also survived the war,
the nation’s history sits in boxes
in an abandoned factory.

Those who wish to learn of their past
are discouraged by its guardians
who suck their teeth in annoyance,
complain about the heat
and demand a bribe to search their history
and share precious knowledge.

Do they know they are guarding history
going back centuries? Do they think because
it cannot be weighed in gold, this treasure
must remain untouched and unloved
like an unwanted child?

© Althea Romeo-Mark 2017