Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The poetry of Keshorn Walcott


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Oh goooood! This place is something else, yes. The ridiculous resides in the same house as the sublime—one day quarrelling, the next day loving.

Today a missed baton is a metaphor for everything that's wrong in this damned country; tomorrow a Canadian toenail on a white line brings a final glory. For over two years we cuss about missteps here and missteps there; overnight we thank all our gods for Jared Connaughton's.

One day the 50th anniversary of Independence is a non-starter. We asking vex vex, "Is what we have to celebrate so? Crime and corruption? Desperation and disillusionment?" Everything bad about us and country, like Therese and Jack, up front and centre, in our faces. We looking jokey jokey, to ourselves and outside there. Everywhere we turn is something else to steups about, until we tired cussing and steupsing, too tired to even shake we head, in resignation we saying, "Leff dem alone. One day, one day congotay! All ah dem time go come."

I here thinking is who they will get to come out for their bigtime Independence celebration? Like they will have to bus in their hardcore supporters because you and me not going nowhere to wave flag and jump up like hypocrites, brimming with national pride we not feeling.

And it getting worse by the day, yes. On the same day the boy have to throw and the boys have to run, well look at rain! Distress gushing down de rivers. Lord, put a hand. I lying down here with cold and fever on this Saturday, low already that George didn't make it, the women's quartet didn't make it, Jehue didn't make it, the Torpedo stalled, Njisane try hard but couldn't yet, grateful for their efforts and Lalonde's, but we know we consoling weself with "They still do good. They do good."

The javelin competition is not like a track event; the winner is not so obvious. Plus, London cold and windy. Fifteen Celsius, they saying on the TV, and the boy in short sleeves. Even if he have an outside chance to medal, that wind pushing too hard. The one day in four years that the boy have to throw a javelin, that thing that I have never seen in real, London have to be so cold and windy, man? Fate really against we this rounds.

So I there, head congested, trying hard to work out metres and centimetres when my brain still on feet and inches, and I saying to myself, "It looking like... Ent? No. How far was that man's again?" Myself replying "You know you cyar add; yuh wrong!" So I squinting to text the query, "Hear nah, is gold we getting dey?"

Just so, quiet quiet, and elegant too like the other Walcott's "Rampanalgas", when he throw that spear through the air, it was the flight of the vernacular. And when he hurled, never mind others fell in heaps, clumsy and maladroit, this poet throw and snap back svelte so, like the man whom the waves can never wash overboard. The muse of history awoke, rubbed yampie out her eyes, and noted: world's youngest ever javelin gold medallist, first westerner to win the Olympics javelin throw in 60 years, second gold medal in our nation's history.

We do nothing in halves here, Keith used to say, so maybe he would have known we weren't done yet. The very last track event of London 2012, and Connaughton's stylishVolt discernible on the line; our boys getting bronze too papa!

Just so, tricolour flags start to wave.

It used to sound ignorant—God is a Trini, my rass. That Saturday it sounded like Nobel verse. God knows we were begging for a lift out of banality, the morass into which we have been walking for decades. In the fading hours of the world games, I too stood feverish for the Phillip Sheppard and London Philharmonic Orchestra's arrangement of our national anthem. Perhaps it was the moment, but it sounded like the most epic, rousing version I ever did hear. I thanked all the gods for allowing me to live in this time, to experience a moment of true patriotism, the kind that is not dutiful, not enforced, the kind that we volunteer, just us, with no one watching, just us and that TV.

Ask yourself, when last have we felt joy in this place? When last has there been reason? I cannot remember, and this alone justifies everything we could give to this young man, this representative of a generation that we have maligned, stereotyped, all but written off.

His is a generation whose goodness and wholesomeness we have not acknowledged, which is why even as he stands proud before us, we continue to beat the same rhythm about young people. They must emulate him, we say, and of course he is a new, valiant role model, but surely we can also acknowledge that a generation we have surrendered to criminal stereotypes has come good and lifted us on its shoulders.

Most days this country is a wall against which we bruise ourselves trying to fashion it into less of a wall. Most days this country is a gale sweeping away our best ideals. The two Walcotts remind us that Trinidad is also a rock that takes blows on its back and is more rock. Maybe this is a place we just have to let be, yes, and it will find its own way in its own sweet time.