Spice Islands

For my Grandmother and Derek Walcott

Voyages by sea
from two spice islands
lay claim to the hidden
song that is plucked by
momentum from my
hidden sinews.

There is no logic
or reason to this
intersection of
personal histories.

Why two men
with diverging histories
sailed from Jaffna
and became station masters.

Why their children married.

Why a man fled
a beheading from Java
to build a new home
in Malaya and why
for decades later
his descendants would lay claim
to blue blood.

But so many family histories
are constructed against
fantasies of nobility.

Two spice islands
and the footprints
of conquest and of class.

Lines evoke the small
daughter of a station master
who climbed onto a train to run away.
What histories would have been written
if she had not been stopped
at the next station, stopped from
entering medical school
to be married to a jovial medical assistant
with strong chin, short neck,
convivial laughter, and a determined
attitude like mine?

When I now look into eyes
that have not lost their focus
despite dementia
I see a three-year-old
who ran as fast as her stubby
legs could take her out of a kindergarten
where she had punched a boy,
where a teacher had been berated
by a small girl who felt the ring of freedom
in the pound of her tiny shoe-clad feet upon road-gravel.

The spice islands and the call
for escape never leaves us,
even as we tell tall tales.

Revised family histories
take the place of
boats, trains, and ships.


Nin Harris

Nin Harris is an author, poet, and tenured postcolonial Gothic scholar who exists in a perpetual state of unheimlich. Nin writes Gothic fiction, cyberpunk, nerdcore post-apocalyptic fiction, planetary romances, and various other forms of hyphenated weird fiction. Nin’s publishing credits include: Clarkesworld, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Lightspeed. Nin is currently finalising Watermyth, the first novel of the Cantata of the Fourfold Realms mythic clockpunk fantasy sequence.

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