Best you cover your head

All ah we got we own set ah little drama
Some drink ah rum, some seek a saviour
Some run down fun, some never quench thirst for power
And some seek love in the most desperate hour
Stand firm and don’t let self-doubt devour
Yuh got to be the dread at your controls in this iwah
Cah sit and hope for a break in the rain or is we tuh ketch again

—Rain, Kin Sound System

The rain falls. Doing her thing. Getting on with the business  of being in season. The sky is almost as deep grey these mornings as it is deep blue in a cloudless dawn. You smile into your pillow because the sweetness of sleep with a rain lullaby is like no other. Rain on the galvanize that you miss when you are in far-away places that do not know the joys of this kind of percussion. It is a soundtrack that slows your racing thoughts, silences the voices of unhad conversations, unachieved goals, unresolved disagreements. The rain gives dreams a gentle soundtrack. Somewhere else someone is not so happy that it is raining. So you give thanks for rain on the outside of the galvanize and not inside, dripping slow and steady onto your bed, onto your sleeping child, onto your damp clothes.

Rain is not joyous for everyone on these islands. Rain is headache. Rain is flood. Rain could mean successful crops or failed crops. Rain is hours of waiting for public transport that takes its sweet time to come. But in this dawn moment you smile into the cool side of your pillow and arch your feet into the warm corners of your blanket.  Enjoy the benevolent sound before you have to wake up and face the reality of this music and all the good and bad things the rain brings. Rain to wash your dishevelled soul. Rain to mingle with your tears. Rain to bring zaboca. And rain to bring cool evenings. The rain brings flies. Of all descriptions. Fat flies that dance their diseased dance on your mangoes. And mosquitoes that sing off-key for spite in your ears. And rain flies to dance to their deaths in your fever grass tea.

Rain brings mixed emotions and the delightful confusion of love you feel for a place that is a most sometime-ish lover. The rain washes away Sasha’s sins. And you who have not sinned are righteously indignant. Not understanding that in this time of any number could play, of mysteries and signs and amazing wonders, Sasha’s sins can be washed as easily as Uncle Jack’s. The rain doesn’t judge the crimes of those she falls on. The rain doh business with who is washed away or who is left standing.
The rain brings a reshuffled Cabinet. And tears of happiness and sadness for Aunty Verna. Wishing that this is an opportunity for children to get the protection they need. Fearing it is an opportunity for politicians to destroy the dreams of another community worker trying to do good for the people.

But Shango sends lightning bolts of warning and Osun washes Aunty Verna in her tears. SEA results come with the rain. And the rain mingles with tears. For children who are taught from young that the only way to succeed is to work hard and work long so that you can go and work for someone else and realise their dreams. For children who are good at passing exams but not necessarily at thinking for themselves. For children who get relegated to the schools where they are taught to believe they are stupid. For parents who are not sure if they can find the money to put their children through school because they fear for what will become of their children at the hands of schools that breed the brightest idlers whose skills that may not come in a book become the skills that lead them to the dark side of the force.

The rain falls and we run for shelter in MovieTowne. While up the road Woodbrook floods. Because who cares about the mangrove when there’s such a desperate need to be entertained out of the mind-numbing boringness of our island lives. And when you’re finished watching the movie you can have your own high-speed chase and your own near-death moment of stardom. We’re all ready for lights, camera, action on the most popular reality show every night that is called the news, although it really should be called the Haven’t we seen and heard this all before? And if you want to live in a crime-free place, I mean you could just move to Switzerland. But the rain doesn’t fall on galvanized roofs in Switzerland.

The rain falls like our tears for Norris Deonarine. Whose departure is still too much to consider. Whose departure remains unmarked by a so-called caring government. The rain falls and the prices of fruits and vegetables begin the high and low dance. And talk of food crisis and climate crisis and land crisis from other parts of the world are lost in the din of rain. The rain falls. Doing her thing. Oblivious to her impact on us. Or our impact on her. Thunder is rolling in the distance. Thunders is rolling like a literary device and you try to decide whether you will wake up and face the rain and whatever good and bad it brings.  Or stay here a little longer enjoying the sound of it. The way those dreams may never become real and the possibilities of all the beauty and the horror that is just outside waiting to consume you with equal intensity.

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Rain down on Me.

The rain comes like a pleasant surprise on a Thursday night. And you forget the crushing heat of the day. The feeling that you would melt into a puddle of sweat and be evaporated, leaving behind a pile of hair and salt as the only reminders of your existence. When it gets that hot even the hummingbirds forget which way is up. Reason abandons you and all you want to do is think cool thoughts and then you turn on the radio and Papa Patos is saying something to make your brains sizzle.Your plants protest, the fever grass leaves turn into spears protesting that the morning’s offerings were insufficient to survive the day. The ground is dry again. The sun relentless. The ineptitude of politicians unchecked. The emptiness of your bank account consistent. But then the clouds gather because the universe takes pity on your helplessness. A breeze passes to cool your hot brains. The rain comes like a sigh of relief. Making you want to drop everything you are doing and retire to bed where, under the galvanize it sounds like the best possible symphony. Thunder rumbles and you resurrect the smells of my grandmother’s kitchen—chocolate tea with an oily film at the top of your favourite cream chipped enamel cup. The smell of cheese as it melts between a piece of bake.  It’s the simple things you conjure in the magic of night rain.

In the rain listen to a little Lata Mangeshkar, understanding what she sings only from the sheer pain in her voice. It is a love song no doubt, they are always love songs.  Love for God and man and the trees and all the other things that live in your ecosystem. Imagine your plants revelling in the wet earth. In the rain your can hear things growing and you are glad to be here and part of it. Things that set root and push out of the ground. Mangoes and manicous share the joy of the rain. And in the morning after the rain the night before, the pumpkin leaves are bigger and the peppers redder and the pigeon peas a little taller. Mint and tomatoes push purposefully upwards. And if you were a better farmer, you would plant people too. You would sow good politicians and men who love their children and their women. You would plant a crop of humans who would take root in the soil and nourish it. Hold on to it. Give to it and take from it in an endless cycle.

In the rain and the rumbling of thunder that vibrates your bed and the wood of your floor and your old windows and the beautifully rusting galvanize you are glad to live in the tropics. Glad that most of the time it is pleasant enough for you to wander about without having the fix your mind to be in confrontation with nature.  When it rains here, you can dance in it, catch rainflies, squish your toes and hope that some parasite doesn’t take up residence in your nails. The rain continues all night into the morning. Keeping you rooted there. You don’t have to get up to wet your plants. You don’t have a job to be reporting too. It is dark and warm like a womb must have been. You are glad for the extra time. When it rains here people stay home to hug up their loved ones, to find the warmth and love they thought they had lost, to dream dreams that sometimes are missed in the quest to beat the traffic, be productive citizens, join the rat race.

The rain slows us down to remind us of the things that perhaps are more important. The unnoticed things. Things growing and dying and living in our ecosystems that we might not notice in the hum of our electric lights in the concreteness of our jungles. And you hope the rain can wash away the thick film of stink that settles over everything here. You hope that the rain can wash away all the blood, all the disappointment, all the confusion and frustration. You hope that the rains will keep this gentle tempo and not rise into a rushing roaring torrent to punish us for our many many sins. You hope that this rain only brings good things. That this rainy season stays wet but not drowning. Delightfully moist but not too soggy so that the roots of your growing things drown from the excess. Drown before they bear fruit.  Are destroyed by the very thing that gives them life. The rains are tears that bring joy. A necessary sadness to bring new life and make you love the sunlight and the greenness of the hills some more.

Lost in the Floods

You may say that I’m swimming against the tide
You may say that it’s just my sense of pride
But I still believe that no one can match our natural energy
Even though we seem to be running on empty
I still believe that we’re the land of plenty
I can still hear it in the sweet lilting way that we talk

Beloved, David Rudder

Red, black and white buntings flap in the rain. Red, black and white dresses in shop windows. Red blood spilt on black asphalt. White rain falls on my rusty galvanise roof and I wonder late into the night about people on the other side of the island whose houses are swimming.

It’s the week before Independence and the streets are hot with people bawling at the price of school books, even as sportswear outlets encourage parents to buy brand name shoes so that their children will feel good about themselves and therefore be more willing to learn.

The rain comes with as much vengeance as the heat, a sudden dread greyness descending on the city, sending shoppers, posers and commuters scampering.

In the shadow of red, white and black buntings, as Papa Patos flies around, trying to convince others to get together, hear people talking independence talk.

They are watching the fruit of their litterings bring floods to lap at their feet clad in too-expensive brand name shoes.

If the white people was still in charge, hear a woman say. If the white people was still in charge we wouldn’t have these problems. Say what you want about them, the white people know how to run a country. They put everything in place for us to run the country and what we come and do with it?

If the white people was still in charge we would of know our place in the world and it wouldn’t have floods to stop us from reaching home.

Even as New Orleans braced for another battering three years after Ms Katrina swept through to reveal that even white people in charge could run their countries inefficiently and with a startling lack of concern for poor people. Our leaders have learned well.

Red, black and white buntings flap in the rain and a pirate blasts songs about Laventille sung in a Jamaican construction. There’s a sound clash going on, between the pirates and the water rushing like Port-of-Spain is a big river.

Women in nice shoes shelter from the rain, talking loud above the din about who saw whose photos on Facebook, the most stylish mode of macoing for the upwardly mobile Trini. They talk their Independence talk about what fetes are on this weekend. What red dress they will buy to show how independent they are. They don’t need no man to buy nails for them. They are independent. They are free to shake their assets, free to spend their minimum wages, free to wear good hair made in China.

The rain eases up and people move on, returning to the regular Port-of-Spain beat. The more things change the more they stay the same. Square-jawed soldiers, big-armed with big arms, walking around, keeping the peace.

Endless jam session on the streets. The highway floods again and the Works and Transport Minister thinks it’s bizarre. He thinks it’s a man-made problem, blaming it on irresponsible citizens who denude hillsides and not at all on an irresponsible government deregulating the quarrying industry and rabid concretisation by big and small business.

Red, black and white buntings flap in the breeze like flags in a fete, and on Thursday night like the red, white and blue flags in a stadium in Denver where all eyes are on a wondrous sight.

And the man in the stadium in Denver speaks with eloquence and fire and spirit and a whole set of things that you wish you could get in more politicians.

The thing that stands out the most is when he says we can’t meet 21st century challenges with 20th century bureaucracy.

It’s the truest truth ever expressed about Trinidad’s failure to truly experience independence in these here times, even though it’s not about us.

Bunting flaps to the rhythm of our shortcomings, un-lived dreams and broken promises of fathers in dark glasses who leave us only words. Words that 46 years later ring hollow. Somebody else’s dream from somebody else’s time.

Surely we are more than red, black and white bunting. More than parades and fetes and changing the names of awards.

We are more than we can imagine in this Independence time. Bizarrely, all that is worth holding on to keeps being washed away in floods.