My Father’s Home

by Lovena Nawoor

My father tells me
of his home –
in a land far, far away.
I imagine it,
like stepping into a painting
posing for a postcard.
He tells me his memories
vast as the deep green sea
are not captured
by a mere photo.
Moments as precious
as gold
cannot be described by his few words.

I didn’t grow up here, but grew in
to my skin, here.
Tanned by the golden star in the sky,
it now fits comfortably against my bones
without starting a war,
whispering the same words –
welcome home.

My father tells me
the first time they met me,
even as a baby,
his aunts could see their mother
in my face.
A beautiful and fair woman
and I’m honoured to carry
such rich history
in the same smile I got from him.

When the locals say my name,
it sounds foreign in their mouth.
they roll the word around their tongue,
hold it for longer in their mouth.
I find I like it better that way.
It sounds familiar.
It calls to me,
like a lifeline
from a lifetime ago.
I respond with a part of me
that seems apart from me.
A piece of me
that I didn’t mind,
that I long believed
for peace of mind,
belonged to someone else.

My father reminisces,
remembering his grandparents taught him how to pray
reminding me to do the same.
And as we pass by the lane
that has our surname
carved into its walls –
he breaks out of his reverie
and I wonder why,
if this is his memory
it feels so familiar?
Why does it feel
like waking up from a dream
I’ve had before?

My mother’s grandmother lived two years short of a century.
And I know
it would take me a millennium
to have as much colour in my life
as they did theirs.
Their lives seem more vibrant,
richer than my imagination can grasp.
Am I imagining it?
Or were they happier?
Or happiest here?

My father met my mother right here.
And in creole, I don’t know the translation
For those three little words.
But if I did
it would sound like the way he remembers her smile,
the first time she saw him
seeking shade under a banana tree.
It would look like
the way he remembers
her making chapatti
over an open fire,
asking if he wanted more.

The mosquitos kiss my skin in the dark.
I see the evidence of their embrace
all over my arms,
when the light comes
I know it is
something that will remind me of them
all day.

My father teaches me to dance sega.
The music enchants.
A siren song in our ears,
like sailors,
everyone crashes into each other.
We are charmed,
puppets on a string
being pulled closer, together, as one –
until our knots untie
loose –
we lose ourselves.
Hips sway to the rotation of Earth.
Hands grab fistfuls of cloud
and bring it down to touch the sand
beneath our toes.
Even when the music ends,
we are dancing.

The mountain
in the heart of a village
is the heart of the village
– has a name
I can’t pronounce, in words, yet.
Has a story,
a cruel fate,
if it is to be believed –
“Pra en chi git courage”
they say as I embark.
Its crescendo is shaped like an ugly face,
an odd shape –
jutting into the sky
like it doesn’t belong there
like it hurts the clouds.
Because its face is so prideful,
and I can still feel its eyes,
watching me as I descend
down its rocky body.

My father spreads his arms out wide,
embracing the tranquil waters.
As the day draws to a close,
the golden light bathes
everyone with a rosy glow.
Twain calls it paradise,
my father calls it home.
Fish whirl by our feet,
forming ripples that feel like waterfalls.
But we’re too busy
looking out across the horizon
to notice.
Watch the fading sunlight
break and scatter
across the shapes in the sea.
Open and welcoming,

When the dark calls
– no doubt, it will come –
the sun will bleed across the sky
tearing red streaks into the clouds
like it’s been shot.
It sinks into the sea,
I sync with the sea,
gasping for air,
and it is only when I break through
and surface,
break through the surface,
I realise,
my father taught me
to breathe underwater.