FIRST PLACE – XAN XI

Contest, Crystal Wilkinson Creative Writing Prize hosted by NLR and Pluck!

Xan Xi was chosen as one of this year’s first place winners for the Crystal Wilkinson Creative Writing Prize.



Mango Season
I was eleven —
a thatch of coarse hair
had already sprung from my crotch
and little bumps poked
through the thin fabric
of my peter-pan blouse
my mother said
I didn’t need a bra
                  you too forward girl.
she did buy me
a lady speed stick
to temper the angry stench
under my arms
my buttocks had rounded
into two soft dilly fruit
my hips spread
away from me
by moonlight I’d read
my mother’s Harlequin novels
heat swelling in my belly
like the steam that rises
from the earth
on summer evenings
                  this child force ripe, mind.

she caught me one night
spread eagled with myself
‘The Baron’s Pregnant Bride’
 cast to one side
— angry welts bulged
thick and waterlogged
like worms
after April storms
the electric cord
dangled from her hand
                    Jesus saviour, pilot me.

              * I was twelve
                 when my father
                 slammed my head
                 into the bathroom wall
                              this little bitch is fucking.
                 a condom
                 filled with thick slime
                 floated in the downstairs toilet
                 my blood-stained panties
                 were stuffed in the garbage bin
                       
                 I was thirteen
                 the thirty-something-man-next-door
                 smelled like dried tobacco
                 hard hands gripped my neck —
                                                       now swallow it.
                     * I was fourteen
                        when I crawled out
                        the front-room window
                        to see a boy I loved
                        he made me feel good
                        not like a little whoring wretch
                        or like the stupid girl who’d gotten herself raped
                        and chopped up into little bits and left to rot like stinking meat on Spikenard road
                        I felt safe with him
 
                                              but his cousin was there
                                                                                God say share.
                        but I was fourteen I was in love this was my boyfriend who kissed me on the lips I was no whore  
                        I ran
                        the cold night air
                        sliced through my lungs
                        my heart strained against my chest
                        he caught me pinned my arms ripped my shirt
                        grabbed my face popped the pink buttons on my pants
                        I clawed his face bit his hand drew blood and thought about the stupid girl
                       
                        found dead last mango season.    
 



I born a Gaulin Woman

“I came down on a lightning bolt/ nine months in my mama belly/ when I was born/ the midwife scream and shout/I had fire and brimstone comin’ outta my mouth.” Tony Mckay

I come from heavy bottom women
who stand up and pound fufu
in the hot sun.
I come from big face fighter people
on my mother side,
revolution people
Dutty Bookman kind
who call down fire
from the sky—

Carlota seed
who slice man head
clean off
with big machete,
dig graves
with their fingernails
to put down dead babies.
I born of bush, rum, and goat blood.

I come from hard heel women
who grind unholy men
to dust and
sprinkle ashes
under the bedroom windows
of their enemies
— Evelyn chirren who salt their thighs
before laying down wit’ man,
walk with frayed, yellowing bits of bible verse
tucked in their bosoms,
hang black bottles
from the branches of the Casuarina tree

listening for sperrit.
I come out of Albear and Rosina house
on Palm Avenue in the Grove
(not the white Grove, the black Grove).
The one with the hog plum, sour cherry
twelve hens,
one yard cock.   

I am Viola Sands stock
who get chop up and burn at supper time
in Sandy Point Eleuthera.
But the man who did it,
he’en no kin to me, thank God.
Viola call down thirteen generations of tormentation for his ass.

I born where pink sand lay like sheen over dry bones. 
  
I born in deep night
in the last settlement
at the end of Queen’s Highway
where Miss Sweetie still does shape shift
into black-eye cat to
terrorize Sister Dinah
“that renk bitch
since she did teef
her good-good husband
almost forever ago.

I born where the okra fingers never tough.



A Play in Four Acts

I.                   Natural Birth
Lights flicker in a small room in the west wing labour ward, Princess Margaret Hospital. The walls are muddy green; old floor tiles are chipped.

Nurse, please,
it hot, lord the pain hot
help me.


A cleaning attendant in pink scrubs peers into the room as she passes.
                                   You should’a think ‘bout dis
                                    when you had your front
                                    tear open
                                    for man.

                                    Long, bony fingers dig—
 
Stop, stop,
why are you doing that,
please don’t hurt me.
                                     
                                      Shut up.       


II.                Blindness
Moonlight filters through a dusty window onto the nurses’ station at general intake, South Beach Clinic. Patient files are arranged haphazardly, there is a strong smell of bleach and Lysol spray.

Please, please
help me.
There is blood
in my baby’s eye
.

An old woman seated in the cracked blue chair down the hall cranes her neck to hear.
                                      Miss, calm down.
                                      Take a number
                                       and sit.
                          
But there is blood
in my baby’s eye,,
what do I do,
I need to see the
doctor now,
please ma’am

                                   Sit.

 
 
III.             Amniocentesis
Gusts of cold air blow from rusty vents in a clinic procedure room, Nassau. Thirty intern doctors crowd into the little space. Their coats are very clean. A tall, stringy intern with a sharp nose and flared nostrils is asking questions. The motor in the ultrasound machine whirrs.

It’s an X-linked
genetic disease.
F-E-V-R.
Familial exudative
Vitreo-Retinopathy.
The mutation
is on the F-4 gene sequence.


The head doctor pauses to listen as he draws a long, thick needle from its plastic packaging. The wiry intern’s face is flushed.
                                    So how come
                                    you know
                                   all of this?
                            
Because I can read.
                                  Oh.

IV.             Caesarean Section
Huge silver lamps hang from the ceilings of a surgical theatre in Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami. A crinkled paper sheet is stretched above the gurney. The nurses wear white crocs. A clock on the wall ticks loudly.

Oh God, please
I don’t want to die.
I want to live.
Please


A surgeon with broad hands says shit, shit, stop the bleeding, get more fucking blood. The nurses’ shoes squeak across the waxed floors as they scurry away.
                             /\_/\_/\___/\______ 
A clenched fist slackens.   
God?
                           ___________________________________________/\      



Big Pussy Queen Elizabeth

Cousin Jonny gone off again Titta, look.


I pull frayed curtains aside
peer through the cracked panes
of the kitchen window.

My sister Stella
one son
is barefoot
in the government road.

Red dust billows
as he spins
on blistered heels—
sweat beads his back.

His eyes swivel
in their sockets
his gaunt face
contorts into a grisly façade.

Bushcrack! Titta! Cousin Jonny
fly up on Mr. Benebee front porch


I glad Stella
not alive
to see her boy
come to ruin.

One big knuckled fist grips
Mr. Benebee’s white veranda post;
the other clenches
an invisible knife

that he drives
deep into the cedar-wood.
FUCK-YOU-BIG-PUSSY-QUEEN ELIZABETH
yeahyoustinkingbitchwithyadeepcunny.

Blood glistens
at the corner of his mouth
as he struggles with his victim.

The police have come.

I avert my eyes
as my sister Stella
one good boy
is swallowed up
in the belly of the beast. 


Xan Xi is a Bahamian interdisciplinary artist, writer, educator and activist.

Her poetry has been featured in several publications over the years, including “A Sudden and Violent Change” in 2009, curated by Sonia Farmer, Nicolette Bethel’s online publication Tongues of the Ocean, the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas’ 2019 national exhibit, and Nottingham C.A.N.’s “I Come From” Anthology in 2021.  She was also the winner of the inaugural Tiffany Austin Poetry Competition facilitated by the Blue Flamingo Literary Festival in 2019. 

She describes herself as a radical optimist. 

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