Pong, ping ping, pang
That is me:
O Canada played on a steel pan!
An interpretation I feel was a composition of my Grandfather
as I rode past Lapeyrouse
on a maxi taxi
on my way to Maracas Bay
passing though town and
just enjoying the ride
taking in the bits of conversation and the busy action of Port of Spain in mid-morning
just drifting with the sway and hard vibrations of the bus
as it dipped and banged along potholes
and swerved along the city streets

And when we passed the cemetery, I thought of Papa
who I looked forward to seeing every time we went “back home”
but saw everyday in the face of my father
who summed up Trinidad to me
and who I wished I could hang with all the time
just relax on the verandah and lime
who laughed and told me I was a real Canadian!
and explained about sugar cane and planting bananas
and working on the trains
my grandfather who carried himself straight straight
with the dignity of a king
who loved the land, not just the nation, trappings of flag and anthem
who felt at home in his neighbourhood and did not like to travel
rarely coming North to Canada: once when I was a baby
which I recall through the photo of he and my Dad fishing
my Dad, with a rod and reel, and Papa with a bamboo pole
and me, in the arms of my father, in between the two of them
but I cannot think of my grandfather separate from Trinidad
though I know he was very proud of his son
and the life he had made for himself in his northern migration

And so, it was not so much of a surprise, though kind of dream-like
when the bus stopped at a light and I looked up to see the grave sites
and I wondered to myself where he was there
and how I would like to place some flowers there
only I could just not picture him there
and that is when the notes drifted into reach of my ears
and I picked out the song on the steel pan

pong, ping ping, pang

A boy all alone by the fence running along Lapeyrouse
with a pan round the neck, playing for anyone who wanted to hear
and this young musician’s notes settled themselves
into the form of a familiar melody
more familiar, as warmed in the curves of the pan
a solo that spoke to me of sea breeze and roti
of soccer in the savannah, and me and my uncle
collecting crabs from his traps in the bush in Manzanilla
of stinging nettles, and sweet july mangoes
of catching lizards, and condensed milk on snow cones
and not wanting to go home, cuz I felt home
and I thought, well, that is me:
O Canada played on a steel pan!

And I could see my grandfather having a good laugh
and I missed him, remembering him
and felt a little more at peace with myself
in the blessing of his presence
in that roadside rendition of
O Canada played on a steel pan

(c) nth digri, 2013



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