He stood on Prince George Wharf
I walked apart from the crowd,
yet he knew I was a tourist.
He pointed at me.
“You,” he said. “Come here.”
I heard the whisper of chimes
and Bahamian sea in his voice.
“You never ate a mango, young mama?”
My tongue grew heavy in his presence.
I shook my head. His lips parted
to a gap-toothed smile.
“Such a shame,” he laughed.
“You can do many things with a mango.”
The sun threw a slanted gleam
over his salt-and-pepper beard.
He lifted a knife from his cart
then joined the blade to a mango.
Its flesh hissed as it shaped itself
to the knife’s rhythm,
its juices snaking
down the man’s arm.
When he finished, the mango slice lay
atop the knife, both bodies
glistening. He lifted the fruit
with his dark brown fingers
to my mouth.
“Eat,” he coaxed.
“You be a mango virgin no more.”
The fruit slipped over my lips. I swallowed,
sweetness bathing my tongue and teeth.
I reached into my purse to pay.
“No charge, m’lady. When you learn the mango’s secrets,
you come back to see me.” He winked.
I walked away.
The sidewalks changed to clouds,
the human throngs to forests.
I brought the mango to my mouth
and sucked it softly.
I felt like the first woman
tasting God’s tongue.
•••An earlier version of this poem appeared in the Spring-Summer 2001 edition of Calabash: A Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters.
•••Shayla Hawkins lives in Detroit, Michigan and won The Caribbean Writer’s 2008 Canute A. Brodhurst Prize in Short Fiction. She has published poetry, interviews, book reviews and essays in, among other publications, Windsor Review, Carolina Quarterly, Yemassee, Poets & Writers Magazine, and The Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers.