‘Ideas of Home’ by Lorna Goodison

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EVENT: On Friday 6 March, Lorna Goodison will be at the shop with Linton Kwesi Johnson for an evening of reading and discussion. Book tickets here.

Lorna Goodison has published twelve volumes of poetry and won numerous awards, including the Queen’s Prize for Poetry in 2019, as well as serving as Poet Laureate of Jamaica. Her Collected Poems were published by Carcanet in 2017. Over the next week, we’ll be posting a selection of her work – you can read the first, ‘Ideas of Home’, below.



Winter has landed; my boot bucks on a stone
surrounded by snow; I swear, I murmur
Oracabessa. ‘The rock’ is what I call home,
all islanders do, and I’m in blessed Ann Arbor,
mainland, where I found safe harbour under
green sea of trees now becalmed, frosted.
Ideas of Oracabessa propel me forward
down the straits of Packard, past the Jewel
Heart centre where a wild beat poet is ash
urned behind red doors. I stop and pay
respect due him. Then I’m urgent, in need
of touchdown upon ground of my being.
On haste to enter into the land of spices
discoverer within sight of gold fields.


Ideas of home propel me up Parliament
Street; straight past the Jet Fuel café where
machines froth and foam fair-trade coffee
and writers and artists sit in window seats
to divine from flat glass screens, do I dare
go in, sit with them, and drink peach tea?

A girl poet hails a youth with a rhombus
of a red bicycle riding over one shoulder:
‘Ah, I see, you are carrying your steed.’
An actor of a certain age recognised
from real movies (not straight to DVD)
is fed this line by an older man:
‘This street is really changing.’
The actor registers sadness to hear this.

I have little knowledge of this city’s changes.
But this is what I have come to believe: this
Toronto street today seems like an El Greco
painting, a humming heavenly highway,
alive with every type of human being
out and about their business, and in late fall
light they appear transported; holyrolled,
at peace, as if they’ve had their fill of Ontario
corn, and bushels, bushels of ink blue berries.

‘Ideas of Home’ is taken from Lorna Goodison’s Collected Poems, and is reproduced here with kind permission of Carcanet Press.