I’ve got to have Zion-ah,
                I’ve got to have Zion-ah
                For the rain is falling”
                                —Bob Marley

Marley was rocking on the transport’s stereo
and the beauty was humming the choruses quietly.
I could see where the lights on the planes of her cheek
streaked and defined them, if this were a portrait
you’d leave the highlights for last, these lights
silkened her black skin, I’d have put in an earring,
something simple, in good gold, for contrast, but she
wore no jewelry. I imagined a powerful and sweet
odor coming from her, as from a still panther,
and the head was nothing else but heraldic.
When she looked at me, then away from me politely
because any staring at strangers is impolite,
it was like a statue, like a black Delacroix’s
“Liberty Leading The People,” the gently bulging
whites of her eyes, the carved ebony mouth,
the heft of the torso solid, but a woman’s,
but gradually all of that was going in the dusk,
except the line of her profile, and the highlit cheek,
and I thought, O Beauty, you are the light of the world!

It was not the only time I would think of the phrase
in the sixteen seater transport, that hummed between
Gros Ilet and the Market with its grit of charcoal
and the reek of vegetables after Saturday’s sales,
and the degenerate rumshops, outside whose bright doors
you saw drunken women, the saddest of all things,
winding up their week, unwinding up their week.

The Market as it closed on this Saturday night
or rather in the light that was poised to be lit
on the one hand, and on the next to go out,
as I remembered a childhood of wandering gas-lanterns
hung on poles at street-corners, and the old roar
of vendors and traffic, when the lamplighter
hooked the lantern on his pole and moved on,
and the children turned their faces towards it
with eyes white as their nighties, the Market
itself was closed in its involved darkness
and the shadows quarrelled for bread in the shops,
or quarrelled for the formal custom of quarrelling
in the electric rumshops. I remember the shadows.