Recognising Unsung Guyanese & Caribbean Literary Talent

This excerpt was featured by Harold Bascom, Guyanese author of 101 WORDS THAT TELL YOU’RE GUYANESE’

millie pirhaHarold also illustrated Mammy sitting on her pirha.

(The intent of this new column is to showcase the writing of unrecognized and unsung writers in Guyana and the Caribbean. Today, I feature an excerpt (chapter 7) from the novel, ‘FORCE RIPE’, by Ms. CINDY MCKENZIE, from the island of Grenada. Please enjoy.


By Cindy McKenzie

Mammy sit down on the pirha (very low stool), naked as she was born, with the bath pan in front her, between she legs. And she legs open wide wide, as if she catching fly! The only thing covering Mammy naked self is she hair. She look just like a mermaid, with she hair spread out on she back and all down to she bamsie.

On Saturdays, Mammy does bathe outside in the yard. Me and Rally does put water in the bath pan and leave it out in the sun to warm up. And when the sun move, we have to move the pan round the yard to catch the sun.
“Beti come an scrub Mammy back for her nuh”, Mammy call from behind the house.
“Ah comin Mammy,” I say. I downstairs again in Auntie Liz books. And even though Mammy always making me shame, I still running and do everything she say.
“Come, Beti. Take the corn stick and scrub Mammy back.”
Mammy gather up she hair and put it over one shoulder. She hair fall over she flat taytay (breasts). Mammy taytay so flat, they look like two ripe zabouca (avocado pear) that fall down from a tall tree and flatten on the ground. And she bamsie flat flat too, as if she does sit down too much.
The concrete feel wet and warm under me bare feet. I gather up the front of me dress and stick it between me legs, so it wouldn’t get wet. And I start to scrub Mammy back with the old corn stick.
Mammy legs and she arms tough and dry like the skin on a fowl foot, but she back and she bamsie look soft and smooth, like baby skin.
“Scrub it hard nuh,” Mammy say.
So I scrub harder.
“Yes, harder. Go up some more. Yes, scrub it right dey. Scrub it hard. Scrub it hard.”
And me hand tired! But I scrub and scrub. I scrub Mammy back with all me little strength, but she still want me to scrub it harder, as if she can’t feel.
“It good now?”’ I ask Mammy, because me hand tired and the hot concrete starting to burn me feet.
“Soap it up for me now,” Mammy say, and she rub the Carbolic soap on she panty and give me to soap she back. And I don’t know why Mammy doesn’t use a rag because I don’t like to touch she panty at all.
I rub she back until it full of pink froth. Then when I bend down to rinse out me hands in the bath pan, me eyes fall between Mammy legs. I pull back me head quick quick, before Mammy say I rude. One time when I was rubbing Papa back, I see he little squinge-up willie too, but it didn’t have no straight grey hair like Mammy.
When Mammy finish bathing, she wipe up sheself with the dress she just take out. The same dirty dress she have on whole week. Even though she have a whole set of new towels in the trunk. Then she put on the dress and go inside.
I in the back of the house emptying out the soapy water from the pan and watching it run down between the fence, pass the cocoa trees and down to the pear tree.
Rover start barking. Rover come from a worker on the estate where Papa is the Overseer. Rover look like a real wolf dog. He have grey fur. He ears black, and he have black patches on he belly and he legs. The day Papa bring Rover home he say, “Rally boy, look what Papa bring for you.” And Papa grinning at Rally.
And I know Papa say that, because he know how much Rally like animals.
“Miss Milleeey. Ah passin.” Porridge call from the road.
I empty the water real quick, turn down the bath pan and dash up in front the yard.
Rover barking and running up the bank of the yard. He know Porridge so he not growling. He just barking to let us know somebody in the yard.
“What you have today?” Mammy ask him. She just come out from she room and she have on she Saturday dress. It not as old as the ones she does wear to go in the mountain. But she don’t have on shoes. Mammy does never wear shoes when she home. She don’t have on she glasses either and she looking real nice, with she wet hair hanging down round she face.
“Man ah have everyting today!” Porridge say, coming down the bank, with he grip on he head.
Porridge does pass round on Saturdays selling all kinds of nice things. And he does stop by every house – by Miss Jean down the road, even though she don’t have to buy nothing because she children in America; by Auntie Jeanette veranda, to show her the new church shoes because she like to dress up real nice when she going to church; and then he stop by Miss Kay before he reach by us.
“Come down, come down,” Mammy tell him.
She sit down on the bench in the kitchen combing she wet hair. She put coconut oil in it and she combing it from the back to the front, so all she hair fall down over she face. Then she comb it to the side, over she left shoulder.
Papa by he table with a big grin on he face, waiting for Porridge.
Porridge take he time coming down the steps. He holding on to he old grip with one hand and the side of the house with the other hand. He does carry he grip on he head without holding it, just like how Mammy does carry she bucket of nutmegs. And he always have on he khaki shirt-jack inside he khaki pants, pants waist tie up with a piece of string and pants legs roll up, as if he going and cross a river. He old brown shoes look too big for him and he brown hat look like something rat bite up.
I does smell Porridge even before he reach by the kitchen; just like I does smell Mr Fin before he even reach the veranda. Porridge smell as if he clothes come out under a mattress, with old bedding.
I plant meself on the step. I restless, as if me bamsie full of jigger. I can’t wait for Porridge to open up the grip, to see all them nice things he does have. Rally behind the kitchen interfering with the chickens and making the mother hen vex.
Porridge put the grip down on the kitchen floor and he sit down in front the door. He take out he hat, put it on the floor and scratch he head – it bald like Papa head, with some grey hair sticking out on the top.
“Papa, how tings man?” Porridge ask.
“Well ah dey holding on boy,” Papa say, smiling.
“Well what else you go do? You have to hold on yes Pa. You have to hold on.”
Mammy ask Porridge if he want some juice.
“Well… yea mammy! Dat sun real hot today!” Porridge say. “It go cool me down a likkle bit.”
“Beti, come an take some juice for Porridge,” Mammy say.
I have to pass over Porridge foot to go inside the kitchen.
“How you do darlin? You good?” Porridge ask, as if he just see me. He grinning like Papa. And he looking real funny because he face wrinkle up like a force ripe mango skin. And he don’t have no teeth. And Rally say he sure a rammer pass on Porridge nose, buss he nose flat.
I pour out some juice in a white enamel cup and little bits of dirtiness float up on top. Mammy does sweeten the juice with brown sugar and she doesn’t even strain it. She does just skim out the lime seeds with a spoon. One time I even see her taking out the seeds with she fingers.
“Dat’s a nice gurl,” Porridge say when I give him the cup. He gulp down the juice, gluck gluck gluck, in one go, he throat moving up and down like a snake.
“Ahhhhh! Ah feel better now. Tank you eh doodoo.” Porridge give me the empty cup.
“You want some food?” Mammy ask him.
“Well yes man, if you have,” he say.
And I know he done eat by people down the road already, because ‘Never Refuse’ is he next name.
Mammy raise up sheself from the bench, as if she raising something real heavy.
“Oh bon jé oh! Dat knee go kill me oui mama!” She hold on to she knee.
“Aa. You knee givin trouble too? Mine does play it want to knock me down sometimes. But ah not givin up for it at all. Put saffron on it. Dat’s what does give me a ease up oui!” Porridge tell Mammy. And when she give him the plate, if you see grin! “But Miss, Millie you is a good lady you know.”
And I there waiting for him to open the grip but he eating slow, slow. And I wondering how Porridge go eat the dumpling, but he cut them up as if he gum is teeth!
“Well girl, let me pinch you a likkle gossip nuh,” Porridge say. And he start telling Mammy about he neighbour, who daughter come out from England. And how the woman work so hard under the cocoa to send she daughter in England. Now she come back and build a big, big mansion, while she mother still living in a little shack all the way behind God back! Then he tell Mammy about how Miss Mary daughter pass aswell, because she getting married to “a school teacher oui!” And Mammy put in she two pence, saying how the teacher go “lif up she head from the mud.” But Porridge say he hope she don’t forget the mud she come out from. Then they talk about that good-for-nothing boy up the road, who don’t want to work at all. “All de boy good for is to take he mother two pence when she sell she nutmeg. And de boy doesn’t even help de woman to pick up de damn nutmeg you know! Ah Lord!”
And me jigger jooking bad. I itching for Porridge to open the grip. The last time, when Porridge pass, he had some red water boots in he grip. I wished Mammy buy them for me but she only buy something for Rally.
“Dat back and neck nice boy. Where you get nice meat so?” Porridge ask when he finish eating and scrape the bowl clean.
“By Mr Belton shop. He have some nice one this morning,” Mammy tell him.
I don’t like the stew chicken because Mammy cook it with all the fat and the skin, and all the oil floating on top of the gravy.
Then at last, Porridge open up the grip. And me eyes pop out me head. Porridge old grip just like a real treasure chest that you does see in pictures. He have all kinds of things in it and he know where to put he hand on everything.
“You have more in dose nice black panties today?” Mammy ask. And I know Mammy have one amount of new panties in the trunk in she room. Some of them still in the packet. So I don’t know what Mammy asking Porridge if he have panties for. And she does never throw away those old raggy ones.
“How you mean if ah have panty. Ah have everyting inside here! Just say wat you want.”
And he start to take out things from the grip: sheets, tablecloth, dungaree trousers, shirts, shoes, then he pull out a plastic bag full with panties. And I wondering how all that thing fit inside that little grip.
“Ah have black, blue, red. Any colour you want. Just say.”
“Give me two in the big black ones.”
“Ah have razor blades for Papa too. And ah have some nice water boots for the likkle one too,” he say. “Come doodoo. Come and try it on.”
He move some more things, then he pull out the water boots. And me little heart start to dance up. I jump down from the sofa. Me eyes stick on the water boots.
“Dey nice eh. You like dem?” Porridge ask me.
“Mm hmm,” I say. He grinning and I grinning more.
The water boots bright red, like them hibiscus flowers. And they shining.
“Try dem on nuh doodoo,” Porridge say.
I watch Mammy. She not looking at me. She finish plaiting she hair and she two long plaits lie down on she chest like an Apache Indian. Mammy watching Porridge but she not saying nothing.
I take the boots and sit down to try them on. The plastic feel smooth like glass and it smelling strong, like new balloons. I push me left foot in. Mammy say you must always try on the left side first because the left foot bigger than the right. I wiggle me foot in it. Stamp stamp, for me foot to go down. It fit me real nice. I put on the other side and I stand up for Porridge to see. Mammy watching but she still don’t say anything yet.
“They nice eh? And it look like dey make dem jus for you, doodoo,” Porridge say. “Walk round in the yard and see how dey feelin nuh.”
So I step over Porridge and walk up and down the steps. Me eyes stick on the boots. And I grinning like a Cheshire cat. I imagine skipping down to the garden with Papa in me new boots; playing the potholes in the road when rain fall; walking in mud and all kinds of things in me water boots.
“You Mammy go buy them for you man,” Porridge say.
“Fah who?” Mammy ask. “Fah that Peeya!”
I sit back down. Me heart stop dancing too.
Papa sitting there like a little lamb, watching Porridge and scratching he legs. Grup, grup, grup. I wish that Papa could buy them for me but he never have money. Any money Papa get from working in the mountain, he have to give Mammy.
Rally come in the kitchen when Porridge packing back the things. Mammy send him for she purse to pay for the panties and the green top he ask her for. I put down the water boots and I go downstairs with something jooking me chest.

That evening when I open the door to go and get the oil to rub Papa head, the sun shine on something red and shiny by Papa table. Me heart start to prance up and down.
That evening, I don’t even go outside and play. I oil Papa head until it get shiny like the water boots. And when he say scratch he back, I scratch it until he tell me that enough. Me hands never even get tired.
“You coming wid Papa to see de calf tomorrow?” Papa ask. “You should see little Carrie, man. She frisky and she strong for so! You go put on you new boots eh.”
Whole night I praying for tomorrow to hurry up.


Please click on the following link to be taken to Ms. Cindy McKenzie’s novel, ‘FORCE RIPE’ on amazon:

Feeding the soul

20130529-120622I wake up this morning, achy and tired as if I never slept a wink and my body is failing me. But the sun is out and breeze blowing- a nice, steady, cooling kind of breeze, the kind that could lure you into a nice Sunday snooze. No weed whacking today! Great! I hear the neighbour’s cock crowing up the road and the goats calling from the thick bush that is quickly turning into a jungle.

I psych myself up and start doing that tidying up I have been procrastinating about for weeks now. I put on some music on the telly – Stingray music on channel 501. So I cleaning, tidying and cant help doing that thing I so love..dancing. Man those tracks were playing just for me. Some oldies, Madonna, George Michael a bit of Rihanna, Megan Trainor’s Like I’m Gonna Lose You– featuring John Legend,   and a few new ones I am really liking – Sara Bareilles She used to be mine-, Anna Nalick’s Breathe –, to One Direction’s Perfect – .

And I realize that lately I have been so caught up in dealing with the things life keeps throwing at me, and how I have been feeding a lot of other things, but neglecting to feed one real important part of me – my soul. Because ...

“Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true”

“She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine”

Excerpts from “She used to be mine” lyrics-

So this morning I mix up a recipe. A remedy. I let it be. Create my space. Add some music, the right mood, spirit. Pour in some singing, stir in a lot of dancing, dancing, dancing. And Yes, there’s lots of stuff to do- organizing, accounting, planning, promoting, planting etc. But they can wait. Mm, procrastinating again? Nah! Today I am cooking me up some soul food! I been doing that since I knew how…

Excerpt from Force Ripe –

The radio playing real low. A Jackson Five song come on. I wish I could put up the volume loud, because I real like them Jackson Five songs. I singing in the broomstick. Not so loud, because even though Claire gone to work, I don’t want Auntie Ethel to hear me. And I dancing round the room, while I dusting down: the chairs, the TV and then the black shiny record player, the tables and then the window ledges.

I real like to sing and dance. And now I hearing all these nice songs I never hear before. When I used to be with me father, I used to only hear reggae. And I like them reggae too. But these songs and them does make me forget. I does forget about school. I does forget about all them ugly names them children does call me. They does make the work easy and sometimes I does even forget Claire home, until I hear, “Turn off dat damn radio and do you work!”

And while I am dusting, I open the Simple Blogging manuscript. I started reading it a while ago, planning, hoping to implement feed-your-soulsome of the advice, and TIME MANAGEMENT , in big, black, bold letters just jump out and slap me right in me face! But I just shut it and replace it on the bottom shelf of my desk. And I carry on with me dancing, singing… breathing. Just being me and I am loving that I can do that, right now, right here, Just me. And I feeling blessed. Because this ting I am doing right here, right now, is feeding my soul. Perfect Time management if you ask me. Why be normal when you could be happy. It’s on my “To Read list”. Feeding the soul.

In the Kitchen…and between those pages

Cupcake Force Ripe

Cupcake Force Ripe

The other day she was in the kitchen blending up she sour sop ice cream and thinking about the woman is today, home maker, mother, wife, sister, aunty and all the other roles a woman fits into, and memories just start rolling around, settling in she head. And she mind just rolled back to the experiences in her life and how they have contributed towards forming that woman. Times when she longed for her mother, wished her father was part of her life. Times when her life seemed to be filled with hardship and pain, from both physical and emotional abuse.

And yesterday she in the kitchen again, not her kitchen- not the one with the wine bottles she converted to candle holders -before she started with her Rustic Selections – lined up over the sink and wine glasses in the cupboard, waiting to be caressed by some medium red and them hands that not afraid of any kind of work, and more space than she know what to do with. It’s a smaller kitchen, hardly any cupboard space–so wares on one side and groceries on the other, no table to put a plate on or chair to rest she bamsie on, not even a dish drainer so is towel on the counter to collect the water and containers stacked on top of the fridge. And she could still whip up Sunday lunch, with what she has and call that George! Once she susses out how the cooker works, she good to go.

And she thinking that it’s because of those experiences she is now able to function and adapt to any situation life throws her into. And she thinking that it is because she’s  lived through every one of the forty nine chapters of Force Ripe, that she is able to find a place and make her space anywhere and survive. It is those experiences which have armed her with the survival skills which she never remembers to include on her CV:- how to improvise, multi-task, problem solve- and she’s not talking about algebra, but real life critical thinking. It is between those pages with Lee, that she’s learned to make the best peas soup, coconut drops, sweet potato pudding, bakes, and refuse to let any amount of that life saving white powder, poor people’s staple, called flour, frighten her, because when she watch them nice golden loaves it could turn into, when mixed with some yeast, a little lard and water, she heart does swell up like them loaves. And not to mention her belly! But she thinking how it’s because of  those times that she is now able to function under any circumstances. And it all started between those pages- the forming of this person, the woman she is today. This survivor.

Excerpt from Chapter 26 – Force Ripe

I gather up the wood. I leave out some to make the fire to cook me breadnuts and I pack the rest neat neat under the shelf by the fireside. I scrape up all the ashes from the fireside and toss it out in the garden. I used to watch I-Trad well good when he lighting the fire. Dry leaf first. Then some coconut fibre over it. And brambles on top it. Then I pack the wood on top of it and I make sure I leave space for the fire to breathe. I-Trad say if the fire can’t breathe, it won’t light. The fibre spark up as soon as I rest the match on it. It blaze-up and then it out. I put some more fibre and I light it again. The wood a little wet and the wind not blowing inside so I kneel down on the floor and start to blow it. I full up me chest with air. I huff and puff and huff and puff like the wolf in The Three Little Pigs and I blow. Smoke nearly choke me. I fan and fan the fire with a piece of cardboard until it blaze up again. Then I leave it to burn.

Sharing Force Ripe …so much thanks to give

DSC_0053 Saturday’s Book launch or should I say celebration of Force Ripe was as I wanted it to be.  Perfect venue -at
, the Priory House on Church Street- picturesque setting with the harbour lights and sparkling water in the  background, family, friends and well wishers finding a space in the garden to share this  experience with me. I don’t want to call it a ceremony, but a celebration. It was short and  sweet, down to earth and rootsy, full of sharing, laughter yet so turgid with emotions, that I  felt my heart almost physically bursting. And I have a feeling I am not the only one.

And so I would like to thank everyone one who took the time to come out and share this experience with me. I appreciate you being there and I loved the way it turned out. Thank you Raelene Lazarus, my MC for the evening, among other roles which she just fitted very nicely into. I appreciate you and the help you have been giving, asking nothing in return except that I do what it takes to succeed and “play it forward”- this I could work with.

My Son Brendon who is my graphics artist, thank so much for your artistic input and for being there with me all the way. Kamilah my daughter, shying away in the background, but I know you are with me. My other son Gino, though you were abscent, my launch in your birth month is my thanks to you as a mother. My partner of 17 years, Richard Worth, who has financed my creative indulgence in this writing thing and who did the formatting and other technical support, to take me through the final leg of publication, thank you. Marcelle Toussaint, always there and behind me, encouraging me, you are my Earth mother, I give thanks. Ama, ( Judy Antoine), my spiritual sister, my friend, my listener. Your presentation, the words which you shared, no one could have said it better. Thank you for digging deep. Oonya Kempadoo, thank you for being such a strong literary pillar in our society and no one could have endorsed Force Ripe as powerfully as you did! I thank you. Kriss  Davies for reading and re-reading my manuscript and offering very constructive critique/ Thank you for believing in me and for being there to support. Eudine Robertson, who despite her family crisis, made it to the celebration. I appreciate your effort and thanks for supporting. Cleopatrice Andrews thank you for reading and sharing Force Ripe with others. Thank you for blending my vision with your special skills and inspiration to create my glorious outfit. I love it! Patricia Walcott, thank you for being so attentive, for your “full of verve spirit” and your very encouraging comments. Anthea Smith, for your strong back up, I know you are there in spirit and solidarity too. Thank you Sarah and Steve for being there to support and for taking the photos of the evening. I am very grateful! The members of the Writers Association of Grenada (WAG) and special mention to Cemal for all the information he shared and Liz for reading and reviewing Force Ripe. All other friends and family who came to share this experience, my brother Raul, Deyna, Shelly, Kathyann, Gus and Annette, Theresa, my neighbour and her friend, and everyone else, big thank you. Myrna Charles for catering. Not forgetting a little personal touch which topped off the evening, Force Ripe branded cupcakes by my Sister- in- Law Deyna. Thank you so much. It was special. The evening was special. What more could I ask for. I feel blessed. Thanks you all .

On its own merit…judging a book

booksThey say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. Don’t you? Well I do, more often than not. And I don’t get to walk into book stores much any more, but I love book shops and I can remember spending so much time in Water stones, (our first Christmas in England 2007), so engrossed in all those books on display -judging covers – that we (me and my daughter) missed the coach to London!! Our first coach trip, on our own, to London! We had to wait another two hours for the next one!! Anyway, this is to say that I just love looking at the covers and trying to tell how interesting a read they would be. I think I bought The Pirate’s Daughter, by Margaret Cezair-Thompson. And I thoroughly enjoyed that read! So yes, I judge books by their cover a lot. I will advise against judging books by their movies though!

And in my opinion, just as books should be judged by the cover, so should the contents be judged on its own merit.
Force Ripe is no “To kill a mocking bird or Angela’s Ashes nor is it Jayne Eyre. And I don’t claim to be no Harper Lee, Toni Morrison or one of the Bronte sisters.

Force Ripe is not a piece to show off no intellectual writing or intelligence. It is not a thriller with John Grisham plots, twists and turns, nor is it a fairy tale with a “happily ever after” ending. Force Ripe is what it is – the story of a little girl, of her experiences, during an important historical era. It portrays, among many themes, the way it used to be, growing up during the days when “doors were never locked and the road was my playground.” It takes the readers into Lee’s life, in her village, and with the use of sensory images, paints very vivid and memorable scenes of: her Mammy’s biasness towards her brother, as we see in this excerpt from chapter one.
“Eh eh! What taking you so, Peeya!”
Mammy spit out Peeya so hard, some of she food pitch out from she mouth with it. I don’t even know what Peeya mean. I used to wonder if is somebody who does pee in bed. But I does not pee in me bed. Mammy never call Rally names like that. She does call him Beta. And when she say come Beta, it does come out soft and nice – like sweet potato pudding. But she does spit out Peeya, just like she does spit out coconut husk from she mouth – after she suck out all the milk from it. She does spit it out just like she does spit out nuts, after she suck out all the sugar from the sugar-cakes.

It shows Lee’s bond with her father, even though his visits were brief and sporadic. It takes the reader into the Rastafarian commune and, for example, demonstrates the many uses of the coconut tree and its product.  ‘Once I hear Daddy say, “You see this coconut? Jah make it specially for Rastaman”.  It also shows us a child’s experience of the revolution and how Rastafarians were treated, and offers a very palpable taste of Lee’s emotions, her fears and shows us how she copes.

Force Ripe is a voice. The voice of this little girl, Lee. Her voice through her experiences, from her perspective. It is what it is. Her story. It does not try to explain, demoralize, take sides nor cast any blame. And it certainly does not call for any actions. It has gone through all its phases of trying to conform, fit in with what you learn you should and should not do, how you should and should not write, especially as a new and inexperienced writer. And it is certainly not forced ripe, because it has matured and is now confident to use and own that voice.

judge book

Press Release..


B&W01Grenadian Author Cindy McKenzie publishes her first novel after working on it for several years. The book is  entitled “Force Ripe” and is written from the perspective of, and in the voice of Lee, the main character. Lee  takes the reader on  her journey from her first memories of life in a Rastafarian commune, through foster care  and her subsequent reunion with her mother when she is a teenager. Lee draws from images, characters,  stories  told and historical events, to weave a beautiful portrayal of a little girl’s survival and an important part  of her  island’s history.

The book makes liberal use of Grenadian creole dialect and local idioms, adding to the authenticity of the  characters. Themes of immigration (barrel children), the extended family structure, Rastafarianism, The  Grenada Revolution, amongst others, hold special appeal for a wide audience, especially readers with an  appetite and longing for more Caribbean literary works.cover pic01

“I have been on a long, lonely journey of learning and healing. I have matured along the way and so has Force Ripe. I feel proud of this achievement and ready for where it will take me – on the next journey.”

Cindy McKenzie was born in the northern parish, St Patrick, Grenada. Her first years of education started at Miss Redhead’s pre-school, continued at the St Patrick Roman Catholic School and later the St Joseph’s Convent, St George. She is the mother of three. She has lived in the UK briefly and currently resides in Confer, St George, with her husband and daughter.

Force Ripe is available for purchase on Amazon –  For more information, please visit Cindy McKenzie Author on Facebook.

Contact: Cindy McKenzie
Phone: 1 (473) 414 6737