Happy is he who, like Ulysses, has made a beautiful journey
- Joachim du Bellay
Evening sizzles in its bowl of quietness A coach picked him up midway along his journey His headset is on and he’s listening to rocksteady all the way; the music forms a pith as voluptuous as a womb that would cling to him the highways darken, heading into night Where was it that his heart first opened? His past leans against him and he is a boy sitting at the edge of a serpentine road watching as the red sun ushers in a balmy night the world was a working man that naturally took his rest. Under these skies he constantly journeys Note after note his year orchestrates pages of manuscript on numerous paths as he crisscrosses highways without respite The skies in Oxford and Paris ferry a string of seasons His past leans against him, crowds him The hunger of his ancestors mingle with his own hundreds of voices burn within him Like Ulysses he travels the world to find his way home He calls up the tongues within him; perhaps he will finally learn to speak for himself to cast his little box of hurts into the Seine, or turn it into a cathedral like Notre Dame perhaps he will learn to speak the way he would like to in his language, to say my mother and father forsook me and strangers took me up to say I am a man who doesn’t know where he’s from His past leans against him He’s 10 years old In the heat-swept afternoons in Porus Jamaica the sawmill seems to suggest orotund sounds when the shavings curl from the woodworking tool They bring vowels to him, sounds come without him understanding how He perceives something of a new language inside him that demands to come out and who has placed it there That he does not know. Is it the hunger of the silent dead grumbling? He cannot resign himself To look for his father In every port, on every coast in every casement of bone The poverty of fatherlessness is an elation he embraces He has zero knowledge of the point at which he came to be and this is empowering. A song, a moment of music arising from the depths of a soul a song that won’t be quiet that’s what he is He is happy to make this journey to France The hills go along within him he is extracted from space and time It’s this feeling of extraction, of liberation of going between countries so much that he doesn’t know which one he’s leaving anymore But he holds on to this weightlessness He holds on to the rocksteady he holds on to the red sun wondering what he’ll find here as dusk fills his body and the red sun vanishes into memory’s night as he steps out of the coach and stands on the corner of a street Leaving is voluptuous, like silk Happy is he who, like Ulysses, has made a beautiful journey.
Jason Allen is a Jamaican poet who lives in Leeds, United Kingdom. He is a 2016 Callaloo Fellow and his work has appeared in sx salon and is forthcoming in Callaloo. Jason is also a Leverhulme Research Fellow in the Centre for World Literatures at the University of Leeds.