Issue 2 : Spring 2011

About Author:

  • Marion Bethel

    Bethel Marion was born and lives in Nassau, The Bahamas. She read law at Cambridge University, Cambridge, England and has worked as an attorney since 1986. Her writing includes poetry, short stories and essays have been widely published. Ms....


We Were Terrestrial Once, Maybe

the sand felt sandy & loose

until bone & muscle grew heavy

sight short breath shorter

small waves now lap at my mouth & against my slit

out of my mind I am with the smell like fresh seaweed

of our glide our glide deep & slow our belly-to-belly glide

south to the Tongue of the Ocean off the Andros shore

where I lost you dizzy with sonic ringing

bang & buzz & boom deep in my ear

calling me to shore

if in this merciful light-headedness

my heart is a cork playful light with laughter

afloat out there with you leading you oceanward

understand my love there is nothing here

just sand & shore (maybe our earlier home)

& the crushing weight of flesh without water

the too blue sky a mirage of sea just above me

I no longer feel the sun burn my skin

the deep deep where we flukeflapped

& flipperflopped in love

we breached for each other & dipped

& dragged our flukes like drunken oars

off the Nantucket shore while the tourists gasped

that deep is so so far away many muscular tail flaps away

& an oh so slow deep swim in easy drag & glide with you

in pitch cold & utter blackness

your whale breath in my lungs

thankyou for the guard of honour our humpback podmates

you bring to steer me back to you outlandish my love

I would if I could just roll over roll to you roll

all over you & suck another barnacle & another

from your throat eat squid from your tongue

I hear your whalesong above the rest

& you my love you still point your nose to the shore

you would I know this if you could drag

& drag some more the last bits of my imploded flesh

back back back to the deep



Follow the curve of breast bone

the unexpected lightness in take-off,

silent twists and turns

under your hands.


Spread your fingers

up and across the shoulder blades

round & round the ribcage.

The glide and the effortless dive

are in the hollowness

of thigh bones

and the soaring too.


Gently let me know

that you know

landing takes much more

than feathers

and the flap of wings.




Bury me, my bones,

& the balance of my flesh

in Ebenezer

with my mother & sisters’ bones.

(You know, my Marcus had no grave.)


It is my brittle body

of 93 years

that you leave there,

the bones of a woman

who has lived her life

and died her death

in the time of fullness.


These bones once stood

& layed at five feet seven.

hip bones that expanded,

shifted, unlocked

supple in their sockets

through seven labours

and more.


Bones that swayed, rocked and swung

to Ray Charles’ Hit the Road Jack

and Nat’s Ramblin’ Rose,

Marcus loved that song too,

and oooohh I just can’t forget

Billie’s What a Little Moonlight Can do.


So you be brave now

on this final walk with my body on Friday.

I was once woman

who also starched and bleached

your father’s white shirts

with boiled argo starch

while we listened to broadcasts

of Jackie Robinson running us

home to glory.


This is me now stripped to the bone.

hips your father touched – gone!

breasts your gums cut- gone!

You see my bareness

and how bones join together

to shape the symmetry of living.

And when the skeleton returned

I was not afraid.


Don’t cry for me long.

He said: Weep not for me

but for yourselves & your children.

I now understand what that means

from this place freed of my body.


And I bequeath to you

my entire spiritual estate.

Yes, you had a mother who could pray

even in my feebled brain

I still prayed.

I would gladly bear your cross

but it is your journey.

Mine is done.


And so give me my final walk on Friday.

It is a good day to be buried.

Let my full-bodied grandsons carry me.

Let my granddaughters walk with me

in a beauty of their own making.

So with your arms around each other

walk away from the darkened grave.

Take my spirit with you.


Leave my body there and walk away, I say,

with your children.

I am with you.

I live on in the prayer, the chant,

the meditation and the dance.


He said: Let the dead bury the dead.

And I, your everlasting mother,

go on into eternity.

In my last choking breath

I still groaned

Thy will be done!



You say, I would rather have been

a classical pianist.


You hold down those jazz and blues keys

until the dogs stop snapping

and the hoses run dry.


I need to know your laughter

is as deep as your blues.


I cannot imagine the 70s

without your drum roll voice

singing of a new world coming,

ushering the good news out of church

into the clubs.


You have no mercy

reliving Mississippi Goddam

before our eyes.


I want to rock you,

hush that prophetic voice to rest.


Nina, your voice is still now,

still the balm in Gilead.





the day Zellie & me held a matchstick

to her house made of concrete

we just wanted to play with fire

(not our pink-cheeked dolls again),

to roast weenies with B’Devil himself,

see how he lived for ourselves.


to compare his house to other places of fire

like the oven in the gingerbread house,

the coal fire of Haitians in our pine barrens,

the burning bush at Horeb

and most of all that eternal belly flame

licking at the base of my neck.


I swallowed it all as a girl

that everlasting fire of hell

& jumped rope daily like a prayer

feeding the flames

not knowing yet my power

to take what I need from the gods


believing in the trinity as we did

Zellie & me invite the three pigs & bears

for her & me; & the oriental kings

for her baby brother & christ’s sake;

& Shadrack Meschack & Abendigo

for everyone’s sake


Cinderella say, No not me girl,

been sweeping ashes all day.

just hate places of fire.

so Zellie & me is just we two girls

at the great fire of our lifetime.

we lock Goldilocks in the dollhouse.


he was ready as always grinning

in period costume, B’Devil that is.

come off real easy like a paper doll

from a top the Red Devil match box

in hooded red overalls with pointed ears

a pitchfork at ease & cloven shoes.


when we strike up the matches

sparks & sulfur took us higher

but wasn’t no dance-around-the fire.

flames with fire colours of blue yellow & red

just smoldering black smoke

a small stratus cloud covered our faces.

that day we disappointed B’Devil

who was ready to jump in the ring

& show us his backside motion.

the three brothers was hopping high

to show how they could walk through fire

& the pigs were pleased to be spared a roast.

that xmas following the great ball of fire

we did not light our imaginary fireplace

where I lived in a clapboard house,

prize wood for the devil of a fire.

santa didn’t come down our chimney that night.

I played games of fire & brimstone with my dragon dolls.



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