Mervyn Taylor, "A Mistake"

A Mistake

for 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.