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Thursday, 7 July 2011

Farley Hill, Barbados

We climb past Bajan Sunday drivers
picnicking among the flower garden
ruins of a slave plantation.
Pine trees skirt the brow of Farley Hill
their needles reminiscent of a colder land
a colder people.
Below us the earth drops
                        and then gently rolls to the sea.

The homesick plantation owners chose well.
It does look like Scotland.
Focus on the sea
ignore the rippling motions
which only wind through sugar cane makes.
Transport from this beautiful island
of sugar and bleeding flowers
to the primmer beauty of a Scottish highland
where virginal heather only hints at blooming.

There is a force too strong here to ignore.
If you looked to the sea to hide your thoughts
you would slowly have been swallowed  . . .
Those endless swells have travelled
six thousand unbroken miles from Africa.
They have not seen land until they reached your shores
and their force was not broken on your beaches
but only coming home.

Chris Faiers

I visited the island of Barbados from Boxing Day 1979 to New Year's Day 1980, staying in a hostel for island travelers. I was treated like a long lost family member by the incredibly friendly Bajans. All the workers in the National Life Insurance Company kitchen, where I worked as head cook, were from "the islands", and their stories of island life encouraged me to visit.

Barbados, my sister/fellow workers and the beautiful Bajans inspired me to write a sequence. Three of these poems were published in a special lyric issue of Grain magazine in August of 1982,  guest edited by Paul Bidwell. I received the then princely sum of $25 per poem, but more importantly, I finally felt confirmed as a legitimate Canadian poet.

In 1983 Wayne Ray, publisher of HMS Press, produced my chapbook Island Women. This sequence was also included in my 1986 collection, Foot Through the Ceiling, published by Aya (now Mercury Press - thanks, Bev and Don Daurio).

Having a blog gives me the opportunity to reflect over my life as a poet, and to post online those poems which have stood the test of time. My current publisher, Tai Grove of HMS Press, has encouraged me to begin sifting and sorting poems for an eventual selected works. I'm sure Farley Hill, Barbados will be included.

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