Place Name: Oracabessa

by Kei Miller

Oracabessa – origins disputed but most likely leave over
      from the Spanish. Oracabeza, Golden Head, though
      what gold was here other than light shining off the bay,
      other than bananas bursting out from red flowers? But
      this too is disputed – not the flowers – rather, the origin
      of bananas; they may have come here with Columbus on
      a ship that in 1502 slipped into Orcabessa the way grief
      sometimes slips into a room. In those days the sailor
      tried to name the island Santa Maria, as if not knowing
      we already had a name, in another language, a language
      whose speakers would soon die – though this too is
      disputed – not the deaths, but the completeness of
      genocide. Consider, if you will, such leave-over words as
      barbecue; consider hurricane; consider the word Jamaica,
      land of wood and water – but not of gold. Could someone
      please go back in time and tell Columbus, in Taino there
      is no word for gold. Christopher Columbus, in Italiano
      Cristoforo Colombo, en español Cristóbal Colón. A teacher
      once told me ‘Colón’ is root word for colonist, and though
      I know that was false etymology, there is some truth to it.
      Oracabessa – place where you might find such tranquil
      villas as Golden Cove, Golden Clouds or Goldeneye
      longtime home of Ian Fleming who sat there on cliff’s
      edge, the morning’s breakfast brought to him by a woman
      named Doris, the scent of ackee and crisp-fried
      breadfruit wafting up to his nostrils while between his
      teeth he bit a number 2 pencil, all the time looking out to
      sea as if fishing for a story – maybe a man – an incredible
      man – let’s call him Bond. James Bond. Who knew 007
      wasn’t Scottish, but a barefoot bwoy from St Mary, Jamaica.
      Like so many others, he too would migrate – the brutish
      winter cooling his complexion down to white. Such stories!
      Goldfinger, GoldenEye, The Man with the Golden Gun.
      Did you never stop to wonder where all this gold came
      from? Did you never stop to ask, what was found in El
      Dorado? Well, let me tell you: not a nugget, not an ounce
      of ore – but light gilding the bay, and perhaps bananas, and
      perhaps ackee, and such language as could summon
      wind to capsize Columbus’s ships – and if that’s not gold,
      then what is?