Canisia Lubrin’s poem “The Mongrel” explores the complications of race and belonging through consideration of the biological and cultural heritages for people in the Caribbean islands. The primary symbol that the author deploys is that of the “Mongrel,” a character that is at once divine, human, and animal. All kinds of mixtures are included in this central symbol, which demonstrates continuity over time, even as its (or her) form and exact composition vary depending on the location where it appears. The ubiquity of the Mongrel as a representation of diasporic geographies is suggested in “the Mongrel’s Creole maps,” which associates biracial, New World people or “creoles” with images of space or territory in “maps.”
Another symbol of the complexity of mixed heritage is Caliban, which the author calls “the animal that knew it had been/ brutalized by men. An allusion to the character in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Caliban stands for the attribution of animal characteristics to people of non-European heritage.
Hyperbole, extreme exaggeration for effect, is associated here with characteristics of the Mongrel, which extend the emphasis on temporal continuity: “On a throne / of a million years.” This character’s features also reveal a singular message that connects with their ongoing pain and protest: “she’d done nothing except bawl the lost, / are enough!” The emphasis on lost people indicates the alienation of diasporic peoples’ experiences.
Repetition applies especially to “the Mongrel,” a term that appears more than 10 times. The theme of temporal continuity is furthered by repetition of “still,” the word that begins the poem.
Still unraveling from ghosting stars ...
The Mongrel was still breaking ...
still dug into old valleys, still
lulled by disappearing suns.
orienting grace is still its tail.