Magic Words

I met Kenrick on the beach.  I was sitting in front of the fisherman’s supply store at Calabash Bay.  I was about halfway through my early morning bike ride, sitting on the low wall in front of Mr. Graham’s shop, writing in my journal.

It would have been impossible not to notice him: a tall, beautiful man with sun-dark, caramel skin, short, dark blond locks and a smile that lit up his face when he saw me.  He smiled and nodded and continued on his way … then passed back a few more times after that, smiling and nodding each time.

On the last pass he spoke: “What works you performing?”

I’ll admit that I loved this question … and that I had not the first idea what it meant.  Turns out he was referring to my journal, to my writing.  What works was I performing?  I know I believe in the magic of writing, but his question made it exquisitely mysterious, made my pen and paper more like a wand and spellbook!

And that was all I needed.  That question, and I knew we’d get along, knew we’d be friends.

Still so hard to believe he’s gone, this big, pretty man with the full-bodied laugh.  He would greet me with a tough handshake and a loudly exclaimed, “Rastafari Bless!”  If I was too far away for him to call out his hello, he’d put both hands over his heart and bow.  Seeing him always made me smile.


This poem is a favorite of mine.  I thought of it this morning when I remembered my reaction to Kenrick’s question that morning at Calabash Bay.

Magic Words
after Nalungiaq

In the very earliest time,
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen —
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That’s the way it was.

Translated from the Inuit by Edward Field

10 thoughts on “Magic Words

  1. Sorry about your loss.
    Glad that the memories are strong and can cause you perform your works.
    I am sure that he would agree…

    Can’t wait to meet for coffee. I will email when I am in town!


  2. Thank you for sharing this memory of your dear friend. It’s such a warm and happy one.

    I love the poem, too. Especially this bit:

    A word spoken by chance
    might have strange consequences.
    It would suddenly come alive


    1. This is a memory from my second trip to Jamaica, when everything about the island was still feeling very magical … even the name of Kenrick’s fishing boat had the word ‘magic’ in it! Hmm … and I guess some of that feeling of magic could have had something to do with the fact that I had just met AC the day before …


  3. Isn’t that the best question ever? I just love that he asked me that. It’s probably the most common thing to say in Jamaica, though I’ve never heard anyone else say it, and half the world has caught me scribbling at one time or another.


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