I wrote this poem based off John Agard’s Half-Caste but it’s inspired from the many trips to my grandparents’ house. They (mom’s parents) are from Grenada in the West Indies.
As a child, I lived with my parents but I grew up at my grandparents’ which also means I grew up around the West Indian culture. They passed on that culture to their children: my mom, Auntie Luisa and Uncle Dean.
Both my grandparents are still alive. However, amongst the family, it’s known colloquially as “Grandma’s” despite Granddad living there too.
I grew up at Grandma’s House.
Explain what you mean
when you say
“growing up at Grandma’s House”.
You mean finding that meandering
mix of goat meat and rice & peas
in a Flora butter container?
Or is it the washing machine
that sounds like a Boeing 747
leaving the tarmac?
Or having a specific cabinet
of glasses that aren’t
meant to be used? Just admired,
and a grandmother who buys all
things supersize. In XXL, standing
tall like that high-rise Heinz ketchup.
It’s saltfish fritters as I bite
down, and the Scotch Bonnet
burns away my will to live –
It’s Sparrow’s dodgy lyrics and
Bob Marley’s polemic poetry, and
being shown NWA at thirteen
and the red, gold and green
blemishes of history: Marcus,
Malcolm and Morant Bay, those
stories – the gritty ghettos of
Trenchtown given life by Bob
on flawless twelve-inch vinyl.
At Grandma’s House,
it’s the fun and the glum, and
the echoes of steel drums,
and watching West Indian
men slapping dominoes
like swatting mosquitoes.
It’s stories of my uncle getting the
belt for being naughty (in the 80s)
Now, they’d call that abuse as
Great-Grandma Toile would
loose a slipper from her hand
like a tomahawk cocktail
hitting little Luisa right in the arse.
Lu was all smiles, always sporting
new fashions and hairstyles.
It’s watching The Olds turn into
Socrates and Plato after White
Wray and Morgan have been opened
and after a few more, it wouldn’t be
long before politics and history are on
the table, along with mac ‘n’ cheese and
oxtail, and cow foot and the sweet smell of
crisp ‘n’ dry and Granddad Sarge spiritedly
cussing the Caribbean cricket team and
Uncle Dean saying what’s your game?
Like when I nearly destroyed the fireplace
Somebody call somebody to help us!
Grandma’s face was priceless, like lived
photographs. Memories that live again.
every time you see that one picture
and that’s what Grandma’s House is.
– a house in black and white, and a
garden in digital and Technicolor.