Poems from Gilberte O'Sullivan



Outside Woman

She came to him open-mouthed

like the caves of Gasparee

black gums dripping stalactite

breathing tendrils of herb

Cursing a streak of blue

devils on his progeny.


Unrepentant, she leapt the fire pass

feeling no pain, her steps

calloused since the day

an enemy broomed her feet

so she wouldn’t marry.


Some curses are stern as seraphim.

No fresh souls will visit her house

No urge of calming-milk

will river from her breasts

None will teach her heart mercy

She will avenge them all,

A sickle swings from her womb.


But beware her grief

At night she cries brass beads

If she chokes on one, strike her back

Failing that, poison the gut worms

She may even give you thanks.

Belly laugh with her until she is well

Watch her seethe and rise again.




Nora of the Fairies

We lived near the asylum--

madhouse as it’s keener known

with snide affection.


My mother built a swimming pool

to perish the rainy season toads

sprayed pyrethroid for the red ticks

tended mealy bug to save the red

hibiscus exalting our driveway.


One morning an outpatient ascended our hill.

She drifted up our approach with its cheeky shrubs,

and through the glass door, her crown of hair an Aztec sun

fizzling out, her body dainty light from abstemious fare

or crack cocaine, a Barbie doll, or a cutlass in her grasp,

there was too much stark glare to tell the difference.


Her name was Nora from the Ibsen play, I later learned.

Nora of honour and light. Nora, possibly from the Gaelic.

“This is my house. Get out my fucking house,”

she shrieked in banshee. She must have learned

it from the fairies that soared with her name.


In our land we have no words for fairies

Our mystic women are fireballs or flayers

of their own skin. But never fairies.


At rush-hour downtown, it’s said Nora swings and slams untended cars,

“Lock your doors, lock your fucking doors. Your children will fall out!”

Up to now, no one can say if she died or went some other way.


Thirty years on, at the neighbour’s window, I forget to ask

if they heard Nora’s enchanted screams that day.

I glance my mother’s pool crowned by an archway

not of her design, lined black, unscrubbed

with rainy season tears.


My neighbor of lucid goodwill studies the galvanize

crimp upwards to squatters hill. He says this ward deserves

its dignity; he will convert government stand-pipes

into showers, soaking away all iniquity.

Monday in August and the road is unpeopled

No community to hear his glistening reverie.

What makes them go mad mummy? Is it the drugs, is it the pain?

The school next door is named for a child saint.

The school is disappearing in the gossamer rain.




Going Slightly Bad

I’m going slightly bad


At forty-six, sourness

emanates from my pores

summoning the lechers.


I am bloodsistren to mosquito

that left a legacy ache in the ankles,

restraining my gait.


Legs quaking through asanas

I sweat like a mare

once a dressage filly.


I sleep and dream diazepam

heave awake after coffee

retching the milk.


At dusk, I swallow

wine draughts, driving

sulfites through my temples.


By morning, I am a madder than mad

receptor blocking scientist

blending solvents: bicarbonate, acetaminophen.


Late afternoon, leave me

couched in midday sun

preaching penitence--

never again.




About Gilberte O'Sullivan

Gilberte is a poet and writer currently living on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. She has published work in Moko Magazine, pastsimple.org, Small Axe, and other journals. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Florida International University and is an MFA candidate at The University of the West Indies.


Gilberte has also workshopped her poetry and fiction with award-winning Caribbean writers Earl Lovelace, Monique Roffey, and several others. Among other subjects, Gilberte's poetry aims its lens on women, aging, mothers, fathers, the natural environment and its corruption, pain of lost love, rage, sadness, and perceptions and impressions of ugliness and beauty.


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