Elizabeth M Castillo
British-Mauritian poet Elizabeth M Castillo is a writer, indie press promoter, and two-time nominee for The Pushcart Prize. Her writing reflects the various countries and cultures she grew up in and with – exploring themes of race, ethnicity, woman/motherhood, language, love, loss and grief (often with a dash of magical realism). Published widely in the UK, USA, Australia, Mexico and the Middle East, Elizabeth has bilingual debut collection Cajoncito: Poems on Love, Loss, y Otras Locuras to her name. She'll add debut chapbook Not Quite an Ocean in December 2022.
I tell my children there are no
ghosts in this house. I press
a kiss into their cheeks and foreheads
and leave them to the peaceable
mercy of sleep. No ghosts, I say.
Except the one that lives in the stain
on the bathroom floor. The lady that
swirls around the bottom of your mother’s
teacup, in amongst the sediment. The
ones you plastered into the walls. No
ghosts, except the one that lies in bed
between us. The one hidden beneath
the flowers in the garden. The two I folded
between the pages of my passport. The one
that stares back at me from the bathroom
mirror when I brush my teeth at night.
Zot dir, or a short
history of Mauritius
Ou koné ki zot dir? So many things mon tann zot dir
they say / they say the dutchman came / he ate the dodo /
curious bird / stupid bird / zot dir independence will be won
by the wits of the indian / papi inn dir / nu bizin alé
/ nu bizin get out /
zot dir Le Père de la Nation has the ear of the queen /
they say / things are better in Australia / In UK / In SA they
don’t say créole zot dir coloured / Mo matante inn allé last year
/ 65 / before the riots start / labas tou prop / she said / labas
seulman ena bon dimoun / nice people / they say / zot inn met
bann lekor / under the mountain / enba la ter / they say / Mauritius
is still the star of the indian ocean / they say parti socialis pu sauv
nu zile / zot dir / ten thousand rupees / c’est rien / they say
/ sorti la! / sorti la! /
kifer Kaya pann res trankil ? / they say / the hungry tourist /
come down / devoured our coastline / the south / the east / is all
we have left / Ramgoolam / they say / has lined his own pockets
/ they say it once /
they say / look to the horizon / thick and black / we blame Japan /
zot dir / the island is retracting / inwards / they say / nu zil pé vinn
bien gran / no more beaches / no fish / ban pecheur / zot disan /
has pooled down by the river’s mouth / Jugnauth / zot dir /
his hands live under the table / so bann kamrad / their coffers are
full / faratha from six / to 25 rupees / they say / we have no language
/ they say if bis don’t kill you / hopital will / they say
/ pa kozé /
stop saying all the things we saying / res trankil / dernié fwa kiken in kozé /
so disan / his blood / it runs beneath the mountains / out beyond the reef
/ into the sea / that you left behind /
The Other Woman
The sun has set, and at this hour,
shadows hang between the daylight and the trees.
There, the sudden scent of blood,
scent of man,
carries to me on the breeze, the wind
howling through, falls silent at my feet:
'good hunting, milady,'
it whispers, then retreats. There is
a darkness in this forest, an end
that rivals death itself,
in the mist about my ankles. Even lizards
know they would do well to hide
inside their hovels, and underground.
Dirt crunches beneath.
Leaves plunge downwards,
to be eaten by the earth.
The naked trees testify: this forest is deadly,
and will swallow you whole. I hear
footsteps racing, running, in thundering lockstep.
Flash of black. Flash of teeth.
There are dangerous games afoot!
Surely it’s time to turn back. Surely it’s time to go home.
I am well beyond my borders now.
She can’t catch me, she can’t catch me,
here, where I lurk
and linger on the periphery
just out of sight, just beyond her mind’s eye.
She knows I am here, her veins
course with rage, and vengeance.
But she does not know where.
She is death. She is danger.
But the line has been crossed,
the threat prowls within
her marked territory.
She may think I have lost,
but this no longer bears any resemblance to a fair
fight. No, now two legs, not enough.
I drop down onto four,
draw strength from the thousand invisible
heartbeats, the lifeblood,
the microbiome of the forest floor.
There is fear, and some fury,
encrusted under each hungry claw. The hunt
smells of my father, champion long before I
had ever heard of this sport, and I wonder:
would he be proud?
There is sweat at my temples, and my wrists are bound
to stop them from trembling.
I step, crabways, low and feral, without shadow
or sound. Your ears twitch and you shudder,
your neck craning to see what you
and I must learn the hard way:
the deadliest thing in here is me.
Ghosts / Zot dir, or a short history of Mauritius:
exclusive first publication by iamb
The Other Woman: Glean & Graft / Descent (Fresher Publishing)
Shortlisted for the 2021 Bournemouth Writing Poetry Prize