Barrel Children (a poem)

Barrel Children

The barrels are blond with tattoos

of addresses in permanent markers

on their skins. I examine my father's foreign

handwriting. Hieroglyphic, looping and drunken.

It reads, "From: ...Connecticut, U.S.A. To: …Trout

Hall, Jamaica." Sis, bro, Mum and I

and the delivery men spirit the barrels up

the thirteen steps to our verandah on this skyless

day. Other Barrel Children in colorful outfits

have sprung up around the yard like sudden flowers

as Mum begins to uncork the barrel, complaining

how custom snapped off the locks. The inside

of the barrel smells like a pageant contestant, mother

takes each item out slowly, school

books, church shoes, a TV (our first), a walkman,

touching each item as intimately as though

she were touching dad. The giant bags of rice

and flour sit on the bottom like anchors. Mother

puts the top back on the barrel and Sis and bro

slump a little as a boy in the crowd behind

the hibiscus hedge screams how his father

sent him a bigger TV and alligator-skinned

church shoes. My sister reminds him

that he has never seen his angel

of a father and my brother reminds him that he

hasn't received a barrel in years. And I,

I pray for the grace and guidance of the missing

sun while looking at the TV like a window

into my father's world.


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