Iguana / christian campbell

for A. T.
My friend from Guyana
was asked in Philadelphia
if she was from “Iguana.”
Iguana, which crawls and then
stills, which flicks its tongue at the sun.
In history we learned that Lucayans
ate iguana, that Caribs
(my grandmother’s people)
ate Lucayans (the people of Guanahani).
Guiana (the colonial way,
with an i, southern-most
of the Caribbean) is iguana; Inagua
(southern-most of The Bahamas,
northern-most of the Caribbean)
is iguana. Inagua, crossroads with Haiti,
Inagua of the salt and flamingos.
The Spanish called it Heneagua,
“water is to be found there,”
water, water everywhere.
Guyana (in the language of Arawaks,
Wai Ana, “Land of Many Waters”)
is iguana, veins running through land,
grooves between green scales.
My grandmother from Moruga,
(southern-most in Trinidad)
knew the names of things.
She rubbed iguana with bird pepper,
she cooked its sweet meat.
The earth is on the back
of an ageless iguana.
We are all from the Land of Iguana,
Hewanorra, Carib name for St. Lucia.
And all the iguanas scurry away from me.
And all the iguanas are dying.

Christian Campbell is a poet, scholar and culture worker of Bahamian and Trinidadian heritage.  He studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and received the PhD at Duke.  His debut collection, Running the Dusk (Peepal Tree Press), is forthcoming in 2010.  He is a professor at the University of Toronto.

One comment

  1. I like it a lot, Christian’s “Iguana”. Able to taste the poem, smell and savor its flavor. Leaves me wondering though how iguana taste. This poem to read is the next best thing – is right next door to eating iguana, seasoned and cooked by his grandmother. This poem is also a filter through which I taste iguana, take in what I might be reluctant to eat actually. Along with this meal I get to smell and to taste history and it is how history often has to be served to who found or find history lessons unpalatable. This is sweet, history and geography and poetry wrapped up in iguana meat.

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