Three Poems by Mervyn Taylor

BOMB 46 Winter 1994
046 Winter 1994
​Karen Kilimnik 01

Karen Kilimnik, The Magic Flute Back Stage, 1992, installation view (detail). Courtesy 303 Gallery.

for Suchitha

Close to sleep, I’m
coming up the Tamiami Trail,
listening to Rudder
on the radio.

He’ll soon have a song about
this alligator killed on the road,
the cars flattening
its sullen jaws.

It’s a different kind of hot
here, still and unprotected.
You can hear the people
wish for things.

In the backseat, my daughter’s
graduate cap is
off her head. Up the road,
across two borders, is Tennessee.

I see her, in my old calypso shirt,
entering that famed black college.
Knowing Rudder, he’ll probably
sing about that too.



Each year, after I land,
after putting my suitcase
in the trunk of my uncle’s car,
after we take off
through the cane, I feel
the quiet I’m disturbing, that
in every dark house
there is someone waking,
asking where have you been.

When we swing up Lady Young,
where lovers no longer look out
at the dark sea and the blinking
lights of tankers, I hear
a brief music, a beat
the youths now prefer. The hibiscus
hedges hide them walking
beside the road, and I often
mistake a goat for a man.

Over the Savannah, the moon
seems suprised, as if I’ve
entered the country by
a back door, and the hullabaloo
up in St. Ann’s ceases, as
the madhouse dance is ended.
I always come too late for it.
I can never remember
if it’s first quarter,
or last.

Down the lane the dogs
bark and the neighbors snore.
My ears deaf from the descent,
I look up into the breadfruit tree
called ‘dead man’ for its height.
I hear the grunt of the ones
turning over, though it takes
a good three days to understand
what they are saying.


for Fatisha

I went to the wedding, late as usual,
I walked with my gift in my hand.
I talked to a man who was leaving
who was the leader of the band.

He said, you just getting here?
He took me to one side,
you should have heard us jam,
he said, you shoulda seen the bride.

I shoulda seen the way she held
her head, and tossed the bouquet too,
and her garter when the groom reached
for it, true, the clarinet man whispered, true.

I walked into the hall
confetti and ribbon all around,
I imagined I heard the guests talking
and the rustle of a bridesmaid’s gown.

I heard the speechmaker
wish them long life, joy on the way.
Then I heard the tinkle of glasses
and someone say, play, maestro, play.

I looked for someone to dance with,
there was a girl from the catering crew.
She said you’re late, there’s no music
but come on, I’ll dance with you.

So I danced the dance of latecomers,
guessing the name of the song.
She held her tray in one hand and
I la-la’ed, as she hummed along.

They made a beautiful couple, she said,
she was a lovely bride.
Her dress was peau de soir and lace
and her hair was combed to the side.

You’re lovely too, I thanked her,
and she smiled, her eyes wide.
She shook her head, you think I’m pretty,
you should’ve seen the bride.

So I helped her pick up things
and stopped lamenting being late.
I should have seen the bride, I know
but who knows about fate?

Mervyn Taylor is a poet who lives and works in New York City.

Originally published in

BOMB 46, Winter 1994

Featuring interviews with Haruki Murakami, Ileana Douglas, Dan Graham, Mike Leigh, Campbell McGrath, Dona Nelson, Tran Anh Hung, Julius Hemphill, Stephen Wright, Robert Schenkkan, and Lawrence Gipe.

Read the issue
046 Winter 1994