Elizabeth M Castillo

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the poet

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.

the poems

Ghosts

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            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

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            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

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            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.

                                                    Treacherous soil!

            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.

Publishing credits

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