Jane Bonnyman 69
after Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson
His voice calls from the dark.
Father? Where’s father?
Another poultice hot with blood
and another the colour of hibiscus flowers.
Drink water. Eat dinner.
Breadfruit. Plantain. Pig.
But I can’t come to the table.
I’m ankle deep in mud,
clinging to the last strong plant.
Listen: a swamphen’s screech.
Why do you give me poison?
Leaves chewed into juice
dropped into my eyes, my mouth.
Spit like a cat. Pffitts! Pffitts!
Sweep all the tiny bottles from the cabinet.
They say the dead live in the bush.
There he is. My little one, crouched by the giant fern.
Shh. Mama’s here. Mama’s here. Mama’s he…
Don’t touch me!
Yesterday the yellow fowls ate their eggs. Was that real?
Bring me ash and cayenne pepper.
I have to leave before the tree frog starts. What a cry!
Some nights I could kill him.
Let me go! I must see grass and sky.
Oh, give me a cloudless morning to breathe in!
Do you know how much I hate you?
Jane Bonnyman was a Clydebuilt 7 mentee. Her first pamphlet, entitled An Ember from the Fire: Poems on the Life of Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2016. She is currently working on an extended project, based on the life of Mrs Stevenson.