You leave the house in its stillness

thinking it is near dawn.

The long walk through the dark

you try to recite prayers

but forget the words, remember

only the kneeling,

the feeling of your knees growing numb.

Silver branches of trees

stir the wind, the moon

with her sallow face looks on.

If you had grown up

to become another young girl,

you are sure duppy

would not have found a way in.

In another place

you would have known

the magic phrase.

Before going to bed

would have scattered rice

onto the tile floor, watching

the iridescent husk spill

from your hands.

( editor's note: the Jamaican word duppy is akin to the English words ghost or spirit. )

Miss Sally's Wisdom

Chiniman say yu put purse pon ground,

yu nevah have no money.

When yu was not born yet and yu mother

was only a lickle picknie herself,

I did clean people house to mek ends meet.

And when I walk down the street

and some woman standup pon her verandah,

chatting whole heap a rubbish,

I just gwyan bout mi business same way.

I never so much as miss a step

when I hear her bellow, cooyah, but look

what that woman come to, nuh?

Now to see you like so--

looking like yu lost yu last friend.

Believe me, I understand. I know

what it is to want and not have,

to dream and next ting

yu turn round an, schwoops,

yu life done pass arredi

before yu even tink yu start.

So listen good to yu old granny:

Clutch yu purse pon yu lap, or tight-tight

up against yu chest. But remember,

wanty wanty no getty getty.

( editor's note : the following is the 10th section of a longer poem titled, "Now the Guitar Begins. ")

10. Coda

So it has come to this:

You have become symbol

of all I cannot name.

Once, I imagined you

a bird, a heron wading through saltwater

marshes, mangroves rooted in sand.

A flush of fish in another dream,

your colours brighter than the possibility

of all reefs.

Or a house on stilts,

out in the shallows of the sea,

whittled by salt, wind, and rain.

The truth I hate to admit

even now is this: I was a child

and you, a man, unreachable

from where I stood

gazing up at your face,

a night with few stars.

I did not know you,

then nor now, anymore

it seems than you knew yourself.

Left with the worst of possible choices--

forgive me--

I made you up.

Shara McCallum
Song Of Thieves
University of Pittsburgh Press

Copyright * 2003 All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Shara McCallum is the winner of the 1998 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. Born in Jamaica, she currently lives and works in Memphis. The poems above are taken from her new collection, Songs of Thieves, and are reprinted here with permission from the University of Pittsburgh Press


"Song of Thieves delves into issues of racial identity and politics, the immigrant experience, and the search for home and family histories. In this follow-up to her award-winning debut collection, The Water Between Us (Pittsburgh, 1999), Shara McCallum artfully draws from the language and imagery of her Caribbean background to play a haunting and soulful tune. "

--University of Pittsburgh Press

If you would like to submit a poem of any length, style, or level of experimentation to be considered for Diptera, please send your poem/s, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to Diptera, Attn: Lesha Hurliman, 460 Tennessee Street, Suite 200, Memphis, TN 38103. Electronic submissions should be sent to lhurliman@memphisflyer.com. Please include a short bio. Submissions are not limited to Memphis residents.

Diptera is not an online literary journal but something more like a bulletin board, and therefore the author retains all rights to the poetry published on Diptera. The poems published on this site can be submitted to any journal without our notification, and we do accept poems that have been previously published as long as we are given a means of obtaining permission to post them.

Dip"te*ra - An extensive order of insects having only two functional wings and two balancers, as the house fly, mosquito, etc. They have a suctorial proboscis, often including two pairs of sharp organs (mandibles and maxill[ae]) with which they pierce the skin of animals. They undergo a complete metamorphosis, their larv[ae] (called maggots) being usually with



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