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Caribbean Beat Magazine

Roger Robinson: A Portable Paradise | The Read

Delving with equal insight into pleasure and sorrow, Robinson argues that “earthly joy is, or ought to be, just within, but is often just beyond our reach.”

  • Roger Robinson. Photo courtesy Peepal Tree Press
  • A Portable Paradise

The second book of poems by Trinidad-born, UK-based Roger Robinson, A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press) tackles subjects as topical and painful as London’s Grenfell Tower fire and the scandalous deportation of Windrush-era West Indian migrants, and as timeless and tender as the author’s childhood memories. Delving with equal insight into pleasure and sorrow, Robinson argues that “earthly joy is, or ought to be, just within, but is often just beyond our reach.” A Portable Paradise is shortlisted for the 2019 T.S. Eliot Prize, to be announced in London on 12 January, 2020.

Shandilay Bush
After Louise Gluck

When the fevers will not end,
when the doctors with all their study
are silenced, when even your family,
close and extended, are lean with worry,
murmuring fervent prayers within earshot;

when you no longer have enough
energy to raise your body unaided
to sitting position; so weak that
you think that you may not make it past
this day; and you’ve made peace 
with the idea of death, because life
takes an effort that you can no longer summon;

but when you are drenched in sweat
and you can’t shake the shivers,
you ignore my bitter taste
as you sip, because by this time
all you want to do is live.

Before I was boiled as your cure
I’d absorbed everything:
nights of full moons, rainy seasons,
nutrients from decomposing dung beetles,
loamy soil, bird song, a list to end your suffering.
I will let you live if you want to live. 
I am already drowning your fever as you drink,
your life hanging by my leaves,
your body of fat, skin, blood and bone
all weaker now than my slender stalk.

Drink now, past the dregs to the grit,
and in your mind we are forever
bound; my bitter taste that you once
swore that you couldn’t stomach,
you will now sip, and the taste
will come to remind you
of life, of oh sweet sweet life.