Nigel Assam


From my grandfather on,
my family was supposed to be
buried in Lapeyrouse Cemetery
across from Queen Victoria Square
in Trinidad. Back there,
there’s no family mausoleum.

I remember his grave,
shoots of grass from between stones,
the corners of the cross blunted,
and the too narrow street
wide enough only for a brougham
passing at his feet,
at sunset, the chipped curb
paled to a dull tropical concrete grey.
After only ten years, the sea-salted air
was already eroding his name’s inscription
and birth date, so illegible
light flattened the stone’s face.
Only ten years!

No one has died since he died
in nineteen seventy-four,
except his mother.
Half of his children are here in America,
my father among them.
My father hasn’t discussed where
his and my mother’s burial should be,
or his brothers’,
or any new family plot,
or whether they’d be flown back
to be buried in Trinidad.
Cost will make that decision.
My father hasn’t even made his will yet!
Doubtless, his two sisters
and their families, and his two brothers
and their families, and his mother, who all stayed
back, will be buried
back there in Lapeyrouse
alongside my grandfather.
For his children, it’s different:
our lives were lived more here
in America and less there.
My sister has her own family
and certainly will be buried
beside her husband
in Florida, where his father died;
he’s already purchased plots
and even hopes to move to Florida,
soon! I have neither wife nor child.
I’ve played with the idea
of cremation and having my ashes
thrown into the Atlantic that beaches
both countries.

My grandfather’s grave, I recall,
looked too small.
It lies in a rehabbed cemetery,
a block up from which still is
the Electric Ice Factory
and, next to that, Trinidad & Tobago Electricity
Commission, with its black-rimmed
steel towers that had in bold
black letters T&TEC;
they’ve been repainted POWERGEN.


Nigel Assam received his M.A. from Boston University’s Creative Writing Program and has been working in publishing ever since. He is currently studying for an M.S. in Marketing. Having spent his childhood in Trinidad, he is not as widely published as he’d like to be. 



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