Mervyn Taylor

He Couldn’t Swim; The Year Before The Virus; Small Wars: Mervyn Taylor

He Couldn’t Swim

   for Joshua Alexander

I dive down to the bottom, looking for
a drowned boy whose eyes flash
whenever clouds move past the sun,

a thirteen-year old with braids, who was
never missed, his granny believing the boy
was in his room, sleeping, whose ghost

had already slipped out, answering his
friends’ whistle, the rest of the island
caught in the grip of the pandemic.

I dive, come up, go down again,
hoping someone would hear me shout,
I see something,

like seaweed,
like sargasso,
like his wild braids waving!

The Year before the Virus

On vacation in Guayaquil last year, you 
wrote about having lunch in the square, 
the iguanas coming down from trees,

how you fed them bits of melon. You
regret not having bought one of those
fancy fedoras the women wore. Now,

a year later, you’re hearing the news, of 
people finding the bodies of loved ones 
in the street, one man coming upon

his brother face down in a drain. You
imagine one of the dead could be the
woman you purchased a treat from, or

one of the people who passed, laughing,
while you tried to pronounce its name.

Small Wars

                                  for Keith

After this battle with Covid19,
we must fight smaller wars:

walk with the cancer patient
to chemo appointments, go

to the dialysis room where we
witness the weekly transfer

of blood. Come with hearts
broken when we ask black

men who shoot each other,
Do you not see ghosts

swinging from trees? And
when our friend goes out

on these city streets in his
bathrobe, we are the ones

to bring him home, amid
the protests and profiling,

who must stay among
the imaginary guests in his

room, till morning, and he
feels free to breathe again.

Mervyn Taylor, a Trinidad-born poet and longtime Brooklyn resident, has taught at Bronx Community College, The New School and in the New York City public school system. He is the author of seven books of poetry, including The Waving Gallery (2014), and most recently, Country of Warm Snow (2020), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation that was listed for the Bocas Lit Prize. Taylor recently published a chapbook of poems titled News of the Living: Corona Poems. Currently, he serves as co-editor on the advisory board of Slapering Hol Press.