Althea Romeo-Mark

Three poems

Life’s Catwalk

We walk the long walk.
The world looks on,
judge and jury of style,
our stride, our demeanor.

How well do we carry ourselves
in the skin-tight clothing nature gave us?
Our outfits neither Gucci nor Prada,
are dictated by climate and culture,
are indispensable, not disposable.

We are clad in white, brown, black,
and shades in between.
Distinctive marks are highlighted or hidden.
A mole on chin or cheek, a sign of beauty.
Unsightly, a blotched body lacking melanin,
or draped in a white coat of Albinism.

Some colors are never in season
in blinded corners of the world.

We live, love, give life
sustain our path with will and wit
in sickness and health
in sanity and madness.

Our pigmentations and frames
designated by DNA,
we walk this long walk
in the eyes of the world.



Catch of the Day

They stand before us
like potential buyers
of freshly caught fish.

Defenders of their shores,
their eyes seek out their version of our story.
Will they pull our eyelids apart, check our teeth?

Our worthiness is tested with peppering questions.
Salty threats thrown at our wounds.

The masks we wear hide fragile emotions,
brittle under hammering words.

They might have walked in our shoes.
Their stories locked away
in memory’s dungeon,
they have chosen not to see
the repetition of history.

The catch of the day at borders,
which asylum will we get?
Political or mental?
Will we be cast back into the sea
of uncertainty?



They Do Not Break

(for my Caribbean people devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, 2017)

They had rummaged
through scattered belongings,
picked up rain-soaked photo albums
blown off shelves,
and bits of a shattered chest of drawers
that held Grandma’s diabetes
and pressure medication
and memories—baby teeth in a matchbox,
locks of hair and a photo in a plastic sack
from the first barbershop haircut
that showed the man
the boy would become.

Roofless houses
stand like skeletons,
their crowns ripped off
by vengeful winds.

Scattered in the road—zinc sheets,
branches, leaves, shoes,
a shredding rattan chair….

A neighbor’s belongings
lie in the alley
behind an abandoned house.

A grey sky threatens another downpour.
Can’t it see they are drained
after Irmaria’s* battering?

They will gather mind and body,
dig deep into marrow
to stay tiredness in its march,
so they do not break,
so others do not have to
pick up their pieces, too.


* Irmaria: name given to the two hurricanes which hit the Leeward Caribbean islands one behind the other in 2017.


Born in Antigua, West Indies, Althea Romeo-Mark is an educator and writer who grew up in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. She has lived and taught in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, USA, Liberia, England, and in Switzerland since 1991. Her poems have been published internationally.


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