Poems by Gretna Wilkinson



Gretna Wilkinson


by Daniela Gioseffi


Often this guest spot has been reserved for well known poets far advanced in their careers, but this issue brings to VIA’s pages an up-and-coming woman of Afro-Guyanese descent who is just blossoming into a poet of renown.

Born and raised in Guyana, South America, Gretna Wilkinson is a superb performance poet who has charmed many audiences with her wit. Her career in poetry is burgeoning as she is fast be­coming known as a lively and entertaining reader of witty dra­matic monologues. Wilkinson’s poetry speaks to issues of human suffering, political and social justice, children’s problems, and love, as well as various aspects of Guyanese culture. She gives several performances each year, has published in various literary magazines, and works as a professor in the English Department at County College of Morris in New Jersey. As a Guyanese African American, she specializes in African American Literature and wrote her dissertation on the works of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Gretna Wil­kinson’s book, Shhh, I’m Thinking [Peachtree Press, Montclair: NJ], charms with its insights derived from daily life.

Her poetry is accessible and sometimes deceptively simple in its clarity. Often, she will take on the identity of a child to make the listener or reader see the world through the eyes of innocence. Her group of poems known as “The Raymond Series” is beguiling in just that way. Raymond’s sibling is a child who knows “the emperor has no clothes” and is out to make the world aware of it — constantly pointing out the absurdities of the adult world with a wide-eyed ingenuousness, beguiling us with insights that often prove quite profound. Yet, Wilkinson, herself, is womanly and strong, and her poetry is often concerned with the same family values that Italian-American culture espouses. Wilkinson takes on many varied persona and points of view, often with humor or wit, and sometimes with passion or the power to see the human truth lurking behind the curtain of social demeanor. Some of her poems are particularly inspiring to women and share understanding with a divorced, working mother’s plight.

  I     I am pleased to offer a small, original sampling of Gretna Wil­kinson’s work to VIA’s readers.

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Poems by Gretna Wilkinson




                  Sitting on the floor

                  in the cold empty bedroom

                  listening to the crackling sounds

                  of an always-breaking heart

                  Tired with the monotony

                  I crawl

                  along the bare floor

                  on hands and knees

                  like a helpless abandoned infant.

                  The long crawl ends at the bedroom door.

                  I grab the knob with one hand

                  holding on to my pieces with the other

                  pulling myself up

                  one inch at a time

                  Sixty three inches later

                  opening the door

                  I stumble upon this other woman

                  inside of me


                  Ten feet tall

                  Going Somewhere

                  I introduce myself

                  to the rest of my life.





                  See Dick

                  See Jane


                  See Dick and Jane

                  deplete their potential


                  See Dick deny

                  the late heart-breaking news

                  that he has aquired a spot

                  which balks at all attempts

                  to muzzle it.

                  See Dick’s eyes

                  and Jane’s eyes

                  glaze over

                  as they play together

                  before they approach the time

                  — any moment now —

                  when Jane will encounter

                  Dick’s genuine unprotected article


                  See Dick’s spot

                  spread into Jane


                  See its truth

                  shatter her dreams.






                  New Land

                  new rules for the nuclear family

                  But how to figure out

                  that not every name with nuclear

                  might destruct?

                  How to figure that out

                  plus high rise taxes

                  juvenile druggies

                  and daylight savings time?

                  How to understand

                  why here

                  old greys are sent off to silently disappear

                  with some of the children’s time

                  forever dulling the shade of all their


                  How to keep from pining

                  for the good days in the old country

                  when even unwanted greys

                  are carried to term

                  and respected

                  Like high standing historic landmarks

                  pointing the way to entire libraries

                  and irreplaceable storehouses

                  of counsel?

                  Here, when an old grey leaves

                  no warning chimes toll

                  so the children and theirs

                  never get to find out

                  how much they are deprived

                  Someone should warn the present

                  that the future may clarify itself

                  if the system sees

                  that old greys always come

                  with an expiration date.



                     — from the Raymond Series:





                   don’t expect me

                   to believe that story

                   about how

                   they took Jesus down

                   from the cross

                   and buried him

                   and he pulled a Houdini

                   from inside his casket

                   and people don’t search for him anymore.


                   I see Jesus on the cross

                   every Sunday morning

                   hanging his head

                   looking sad and lonesome

                   high up there on the wall behind the preacher


                   So I keep saying

                   jump Jesus

                   during the sermon


                   He’s been on that old yucky cross

                   too long


                   You should look up sometimes


                   you’ll see him


                   you know what?

                   I said that new prayer

                   in Sunday school

                   like you told me


                   Holy Mary

                   Mother of Pearl


                   I don’t think

                   Sister Theresa liked it

                   she said she will tell

                   Mom and Dad



                   am I in trouble again?


                   Who is Pearl?





                       Week after week I come

                       to my best friendly rock

                       at the edge of this water

                       pound dirt out of clothes

                       and frustrations out of me


                       This rock holds up

                       under the weight of my worries

                       without judgement or echo


                       There’s no sound more beautiful

                       than the river rushing by

                       minding its own business



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