Just Like That

By Tanya Shirley

She got up and died; scraped the chewed bones
to the side, remnants of the stew she stayed up late
making on Holy Thursday so that not a pot would be
put on fire come Good Friday morning.

She centred the fork before lifting her plate high
in the air and in one motion stood, bent over and
collected his plate — her breasts dangling low
before his eyes.

Then she navigated the sharp edge of table,
swooshed her hips just once and died.
Her hips did not complete their sway
before she fell full-bodied to the floor.

He, stunned into action, would later remember
that he wanted so badly to skip breakfast and
partake of her flesh, but she, thinking of her mother
reciting verses in the back pew, thought it was sin
enough that she was not in God’s house;
she could not worship at his mouth.

And so, without the last rites of flesh on flesh,
hip against bone, tongue along lip,
they parted ways.


She walked into church that Good Friday morning
with death on her mind;
sang each hymn louder than even the choir
and off-beat bird propped in Sunday manner
against the tree by the window
(each week he forgot pursuits of nectar and women
to sit on the highest branch, nose pointed down as if
he knew the colour of each sin and sinner).

She threw the notes out and up as if
Jesus could have been saved by her voice,
his open wounds sutured by her bellow.
She had to get death out of her throat.

This was the first Easter she felt
each whip, each nail, each jeer.

When they came to get her — three of her brothers,
eyes on the ground, grown men looking like boys —
a note rolled back down her tongue.

She saw her child flying higher and higher,
the clouds parting; saw her greet Jesus
on this Good Friday morning.


The Caribbean Review of Books, February 2009

Tanya Shirley is a Jamaican poet and lecturer at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. Her first colection of poems, She Who Sleeps with Bones, will be published in May 2009.