Barrel Children


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Product Description

poems by

Rayon Lennon

Poetry book, 108 pages, $15 cover price
ISBN: 978-1-59948-563-8

Release Date: March 15, 2016


About The Author

Rayon Lennon was born in Jamaica but came to live in New Haven County, Connecticut at 15. He has a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Southern Connecticut State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Social Work from Southern Connecticut State University. This is his first book of poems, but he is also working on a novel.


Rayon Lennon’s Barrel Children is a collection that sweeps readers up in its hurricane of imagery…revealing a history in which black lives have always mattered. In the Queen’s English, the speakers of these lyrical narratives bear witness to beauty and broken lives, to streets in Jamaica and New England where King’s dream has turned into a nightmare….There is healing by speaking and healing by listening, as we must when we open this book and discover a new poet’s powerful voice and vision.

—Dana Sonnenschein, Author of Bear Country, Natural Forms, and No Angels but These

Visual pictures in these complex narrative poems about Jamaica and New Haven, Connecticut, return to the reader like a boomerang. Lennon weaves human characteristics into a tapestry of landscape in the vein of Derek Walcott. His poems remind us, if we need a reminder, that we are “living in King’s nightmare.” What unites this dense and compelling collection is Lennon’s knowledge that what finally joins generations and different cultures is the human spirit.

–Vivian Shipley, Author of Perennials and The Poet

Barrel Children is a fervid collection of poesy that encapsulates the transmigration of Third World adolescence, from the corporate-hollowed hillsides of Jamaica, to the shores of a deferred dreamland in the annals of America. Through the didactic lens of narrative poetry, Lennon’s vivid snapshots of Caribbean culture delineate a postcolonial landscape ripe with beauty, poverty, spirituality and pride. The lexical design of Lennon’s craft earnestly personifies the narrators’ aspirations of ‘…trying to write a fiction greater than God.’

–Frederick-Douglass Knowles II, Author of BlackRoseCity


The Exile Flies Home to Trout Hall, Jamaica

I fly down and get off a country
bus to stand on the bridge, under
which I was baptized at nine, trying
to interpret the sunny language of the river
of voices in the air above the
water-hugged rocks and heat-ripened
breasts of girls who look up, hurling
stony insults my way. So I cross,
follow a yellow butterfly into the sunny heart
of town, where the colorful
wooden shop fronts are littered with the idle voices
of half-naked men, leering at school girls in baby
blue uniforms, while their wives labor in the surrounding
Ugli fields of Mr. Sharpe, the good Englishman,
who built and named this town of no trouts, Trout Hall,
who once a year deploys his planes
to spray his neighbors and green alligator-skinned
Uglies, hybrid child of the orange, grapefruit
and tangerine. Everybody knows his slogan: “The Affliction
is only skin deep, the beauty is in the eating.” Over
the cardboard church even the pigeons sound gospel
and I am moved by brooks as brooding
as the Bible; traffic flows the wrong way
and the English missionaries’ sun-blocking peach
Baptist church is still empty, except for the cows
chewing mouthfuls of shadowy grass and the cricketers crying, “Out”
as wheezing, rust-colored cars line up to cross the pocked face
of the palm-sheltered bridge. A divine
wind blows out the sun as I slip into a crowded
bar and down Red Stripes until I forget
who I am and announce to God that I am
trying to write a fiction greater than God,
a poetry to define our world.

Barrel Children

The barrels are blond with tattoos
of addresses in permanent markers
on their skins. I examine my father’s foreign
handwriting. Hieroglyphic, looping and drunken.
It reads, “From: …Connecticut, U.S.A. To: …Trout
Hall, Jamaica.” Sis, Bro, Mum and I
and the delivery men spirit the barrels up
the thirteen steps to our verandah on this skyless
day. Other Barrel Children in colorful outfits
have sprung up around the yard like sudden flowers
as Mum begins to uncork the barrel, complaining
how Customs snapped off the locks. The inside
of the barrel smells like a pageant contestant, mother
takes each item out slowly, school
books, church shoes, a TV (our first), a walkman,
touching each item as intimately as though
she were touching dad. The giant bags of rice
and flour sit on the bottom like anchors. Mother
puts the top back on the barrel and Sis and Bro
slump a little as a boy in the crowd behind
the hibiscus hedge screams how his father
sent him a bigger TV and alligator-skinned
church shoes. My sister reminds him
that he has never seen his angel
of a father and my brother reminds him that he
hasn’t received a barrel in years. And I,
I pray for the grace and guidance of the missing
sun while looking at the TV like a window
into my father’s world.

Red Night

(Orchard Street, New Haven, CT)

Red lights like a three-eyed monster
over traffic in the sooty dark, red everywhere
in memorials around keeling light
poles, desert wine bottles, flowers dried up
like love, teddy bears lounging like deadbeat
fathers watching TV as life huffs by, sneakers
hanging from live wires like men in Jim Crow. Red
cries. Who I am but black
and alive tonight? My Sentra is not quiet,
not quite blood red. Poverty shot
another brother. The news says
the victim was the suspect. I mean a black
man shot a black man shot a black man, probably
over coke, the drug not the drink. And you think
of death and look at the sky which is all
smiles because the moon is naked again
tonight, no clouds, no clothes, no way
to hide that we are hurting so we extinguish
ourselves and each other. These houses
live across from a cemetery, from death,
heaven or hell. And you think happiness,
so vague–what does it really mean
to part the Red Sea of oppression?
To drive and wear red, feeding on pain
and power as boys basketball in old snow by
sputtering streetlights. I bump up the music
to cheer up the hood. Kids shake as my car
crawls around a liquor store. The lyrics, poison,
the beat, the cure. Business is booming
for funeral homes too. Men swagger
with brown paper bags or yell
as they whisper to a strutting
black woman so beautiful you want to be
more than you are. She’s decked for the club
all heels. And legs and a red dress so tight it boils
your blood and overheats your senses.
You want to stop but you do not stop.
Her natural hair like something out
of your garden.

SKU: 978-1-59948-563-8 Category: Tag: