There is a bass-line that pulsates along the faults of this island, from the Blue Mountains to Santa Cruz, from Plantain Garden to Rio Minho; then travelling the coast, troubling the waters. They say each year the blue-green sea rises higher, pulled by the music of the people. Bass riddim moves underground and the sea lurches, dragging flotsam, broken shells, and ground hipbones. “Walk on the sand with reverence, hear?” These are the words I say to Anjahla. For the bones of our kin are in the waters – the grainy debris of slave cargo – fierce babymothers who jumped off the ships and into the ocean. They swallowed seawater but stayed strong inside.
“Are you a fierce babymother?” Anjahla asks. “Yes,” I say. “I am fierce.”
“Mama,” she says. And I like the way her lips make “m.” “When I tell this story to my children, I am going to give it another ending. I am going to send the mothers a rescue ship to take them home.”
“And what you will call your ship, Anjahla?”
She smiles and looks off in the distance. The horizon at Hellshire is hazy green, like the bit of seaweed caught in her hair. We are conscious of the warm sand under our feet. Egrets step deliberately.
The year we walked Hellshire, Anjahla was six, so I am jumping way ahead. Before that, there was Bob and Riva Man; and my mama and papa; and Winifred and Hector; and the Guinea woman, Murlina; and yes, the fierce babymothers; but even before them, there was the big silk cotton at Half Way Tree, and later, the young boy hanged from it for singing freedom. They say he died with a word at the tip of his tongue; and even three hundred years later, is restless to remember it. He is the reason – centuries after his dancing feet, and a clock tower erected in place of the tree – that the hands of the clock always told the wrong time. The dead can be agitated by unfinished business that way. And they say, too, that Bob has unfinished spirit things here; our underground bass is the riddim he’ll ride on his return. Did Taino sister see that far? For there is something still –