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Beautiful things, beautiful places, are not supposed to be complicated. They exist to be dreamt of, and no one wants to have annotations and footnotes on their fantasies. When beautiful places are allowed stories they are simple ones. Paradise is lost or paradise is found, perhaps the world begins in it but certainly does not stay in it. It is a garden, which is not something one lives in; it is a place to visit. Paradise is an idea.

You may have heard that the Caribbean is a paradise. (We will take that compliment, as we are sure it is meant.) It is many paradises spread across a transatlantic current, curled along the jeweled throat of lands facing the Caribbean sea.

Paradise is perfect when it has only what is wanted and nothing that is not. All gardens require enthusiastic and regular weeding; or the garden becomes wilderness, which is the enemy of civilization and certainly not a restful place of beauty. Much like a drawer, it must be emptied so that order can be imposed upon it from above. It must be chopped and burned, the languages rooted out and replaced so that it is a pleasant place to visit and own. Paradise must be made to hate itself in order to make the garden self-sustaining. It must be kept simple.

It is always sunny in Paradise. It must be for when it is visited. And for the rest of the time, when hurricanes eat at the shore, or genocides are waged against entire forests, or the rivers shrivel up into ravines, or the mountains disgorge millennia of wrath—that also has a certain kind of appeal for a certain kind of visitor. Watching lava flow can be great fun, if it is not anywhere near your house.

Paradise holds great wealth—to be taken away. What is the purpose of leaving the treasure in the garden? There is wealth in beauty, there to be preserved or not, to be experienced by those with the time and leisure and power to experience it. There is wealth in people, carried over by boat and steamship and plane, there to serve as Paradise is meant to serve, as well as the people who do live there. However, as the wealth is merely transient (as soon as it is made, it is flying over water to colder climates to be stored in banks, palaces, and social safety nets held behind thick layers of anti-immigration glass), Paradise cannot possibly feed all of its children. They must leave and serve elsewhere.

Paradise is a place where stories can happen but it is not a place where stories come from. What does a garden have to say for itself that has not already been written in its design? What can those who live in perfect eternal sunshine possibly have to say?

Paradise is an idea but here is another. (Said the serpent in the garden, who presumably was there from the very beginning.) There are stories in the ground, in the air, in the lines of mitochondria spread from Ivory Coast to Kingstown, to Carolinas and Colombia. Anything that can be survived, can be transformed. Revolution can begin in a garden, when people take back the humanity that was stolen for a profitable lie.

You may not want to hear these stories. We may be punished—have been punished—for telling them. But as you will see, we are not going to stop telling them. We are a complicated beautiful idea of our own.



Marika Bailey is an Afro-Caribbean author, designer, and illustrator. Her fiction has previously appeared in FIYAH, Fantasy Magazine, Apparitions Lit, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Strange Horizons. You can find her online on her website, www.commanderrika.com, or on Twitter as @Marika_Writes_. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and the softest cat in the world.
Current Issue
26 Feb 2024

I can’t say any of this to the man next to me because he is wearing a tie
Language blasts through the malicious intentions and blows them to ash. Language rises triumphant over fangs and claws. Language, in other words, is presented as something more than a medium for communication. Language, regardless of how it is purposed, must be recognized as a weapon.
verb 4 [C] to constantly be at war, spill your blood and drink. to faint and revive yourself. to brag of your scars.
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