A Mistakefor Robert Hass
I realized as he walked away I had misspelled the name of the poet as he did mine. He had undertaken the job as caretaker of his country's eloquence, in charge of its rhythms, its superstitions in the year of the most stars pitched, most children abused, the highest incidence of hurricanes, till the alphabet spun like a wheel, the hardest hit being the Caribbean where he went measuring the leap of flying fish as they lodged like straws in tree trunks. It was the year when Haiti's fire went out and the ash of the cane smudged the face of an island as far away as Trinidad, the pitch hardening on nights never so cold before. I dreamt I was floating in the Gowanus where Brooklyn runs out to sea. This northern California sea-writer cursing the sadness of the anemone saw the mistaken 'a' in his name as I spotted the 'i' in mine. We had played a kind of hangman they still play in the Americas, early in the morning, as soon as the sun comes up over the wreckage.Mervyn Taylor is a Trinidad-born poet who now divides his time between his native island and Brooklyn, New York. He is author of two collections of poetry, An Island of His Own (1992) and The Goat (1999), both from Junction Press. This poem was published in Sulfur 44 (Spring 1999), the "Anglophone Poetry & Poetics Outside the US and UK issue," guest-edited by Jenny Penberthy and Marjorie Perloff.