The Art of Dusk

by panist and Vietnam veteran Dalton Narine

Las Cuevas Bay, Trinidad

Dalton Narine has delivered another artistic gem. When Steel Talks has been very fortunate as masters across many disciplines have allowed us to watch their greatness and brilliance - up close and personal. Moreover they have allowed us to exact wisdom and experience much joy and adventure through their innovative and creative works. Anthony Williams, Clive Bradley, Max Roach, Ralph MacDonald - among others. Dalton Narine walks among these giants - his artistic honesty, clarity, talent, command, passion and uncompromising professionalism is a virtual viewmaster on the senses.

Tripping Out on Nature Clever Cultural Blendings Color and Character

When the sun, a deep yellow color of gold, had abdicated its sovereign power of the day by slipping behind a hump in the northeast sector of the mountain range, the lower sky’s plumage took note and stirred a mosaic of slate-gray, smoky gray, mauve, taupe and a thin slice of plum across the northern quadrant.


What a show-off she was, this all-day patch of blue that swathed the upper atmosphere in the stifling heat. That shimmied like a soul dancer doing the tic-tac-toe across the waves, which heaved and weaved without let up as they mamaguy-ed (ridiculed) the surface of the Caribbean Sea. The sea tripping now, then pushing the waves forward and pulling them back all afternoon long.

What if the most beautiful thing happens on a theater screen.

How about measuring happiness in grains of sand and the dark part of twilight, the partial darkness.

The shade. The gloom

Her favorite dusk paintings from thousands of available designs, hang right there on her breast, Las Cuevas beach.

Beautiful. And sexy, too.

Whatever the emotion.

Hah! you remind me of the original Emotions. That all female soul and R&B Brooklyn Doo-Wop group that partied through the ages.

Las Cuevas: Everyone there feels this overwhelming sense of whatever that emotion is? For, though you're surrounded by hundreds of strangers, you’re in the groove and feel the same thing. A feeling so intensified it's being shared by three hundred people all at the same time.

You're having after-beach parties surrounded by bountiful, copious and luxuriant edibles, then back on the beach where you can measure happiness in grains of sand. and twilight in the water.

Now, you’re ready to mix the cool light of dusk with the creative colors palette.

Such poetic gloom, the shade.

Leave it to the thirty or so bathers to bring a measure of human drama as they dive above the crests, and, as if in submission, duck under them, only to come up for air, time and again. For some, to expectorate, cleanse the nostrils, to mix, in a sense, ice cream with the local pepper sauce. Ha! That would do it.

That’s not what brought us here, though. We sat on slabs of bluish stone in the shade of a small tree, awaiting the gradual departure of the dahlia, its creamy luster fading to the color of dead flowers.

We soon began to pay attention to the soft, cool, dusky hue of the Las Cuevas Bay color palette of pastels and accent colors. With twilight approaching, the sky took its sweet “island” time, shrugging off remains of its blue incandescence and swiping its lingering stain with an index finger across its breast.

Back in time, we watched as bathers poured out from the surf in early anticipation of night. Looking around to the hills at left and to our right, punctuated by coconut trees, village homes and a guest house or two, we hardly expected an early moonlight to peek over a toothy gap in the western ridge. Reminds of “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.” A Billy Holiday song.

Actually, we were scouring the firmament for dusk’s shifting blanket. Dusk being its own reward, bands of gray appeared to belt the horizon in shades you’d probably admire in an architect’s home. The light gray wall. A dark gray divan, for example. Such furniture set off by indoor plants, as if garnishing the color scheme with carrot rosettes.

With a sweep of the hand, we bit off more than we could swallow, barely missing a voguish pop of pink and the flash of yellow on a snapper’s tail where the sun had begun to orchestrate its finale.

It had just sunk into the sea. You could tell.

We turned toward the water’s edge, where footprints and baby toes were etched in a soft burst of dwindling waves. Look at that! They seemed to have the quality of a sound while backtracking out to sea, to a spot where the sun had died.

Ah, Ray Charles, The sun died and my love and the sun, you left me, the summer died too. My love and the sun is the same.

Ray Charles - The Sun Died (À Paris - Les Concerts À La Salle Pleyel 1968)

It was only then that we arose to give Las Cuevas our salute, the skyline dissolving into cobalt, the grays muted and ashy, mauves standing pat. All such daring us to stick around till night fades in. (Though I’m mindful of Canadian novelist Lucy Maude Montgomery’s observation of twilight dropping her curtain down, and pinning it with a star.)

It was a gamble all right, and we bet on the moon. Minutes later, we went up a flight of concrete stairs that led to a railing with a view looking out to bobbing boats. Months earlier, braving a steady drizzle, we had slouched against the white barrier in a last-gasp effort to milk the final seconds of a tardy twilight. But a fresh rain insisted on drumming out an opportunity to catch her last breath. We believe that we’d made it in the nick of time, despite a stiff wind roiling the sea; and imbuing it with a veritable color of, well, the black of night.

Deep nothingness it was, the wind howling about as if it were a prop for Halloween. A flash of lightning cracked the firmament, siding with the devil.

The unkempt wind, though, kept rolling back and forth beyond the rail, except for the yellow blink of a cyclopean eye somewhere among a grappe, as the old Francophiles ensconced in the steep hills would embellish this cluster of Lilliputian fishing boats.

At sea level, we grapple with our consciences. Whether we feel it in our bones or not. Whether or not to un-beach Las Cuevas and dust off the elongated evening. Pelted by a downpour in the sliver between late, late dusk and a child’s bedtime, has since become an eerie photograph on the memory. A print we treasure for the authenticity of a now envious dusk, jealous of our imaginations.

This time, in fast forward, a splendiferous happening greeted us as we turned away from the buoy — that flashy eye in the sea tending to the boats — toward young adults as they played “soccer basketball” to music in a carpark brimming with dancehall Soca — the music of the islanders. Most vehicles had already revved up and pushed off from the residue of dusk spiriting away from the park . And now, one more is wheeling away, its occupants looking back, searching around for dregs of the aura’s hour.

Indeed, the price we paid for dismissing nature’s painterly hands had rewarded us a full moon that rose up just so with a kind of religious zeal, eager to add its signature to the light show up and down the North Coast. We shifted gears up the incline, along a serpentine roadway, and there she was, fat and happy, with that big ol’ button-face of hers, stealing open space between twin peaks. The better to show off a million-carat sparkle, the Universe’s most wondrous nugget, She.

I crank up the volume.

As if for effect, Billie Holiday reaches the mind with an emotional power that American jazz disc jockey Phil Schaap calls “genius beyond words.”

“Ooh, ooh, ooh,” Holiday croons, “what a little moonlight can do.”

The beam followed us a ways through the trees until we lost it for a while. So our eyes strayed across to the northwest, where we picked up a block of sky that had turned tango pink. Late, but all the richer for its tardiness.


Tango pink. She didn’t say, but we both knew that she would try it on someday in the lipstick department. I’m looking forward to another round of dusk. My favorite colors by now you well know.

Looking back on the twilight dusk love fest, I believe that when God took us up and around those hair-raising turns that shunted us to the Bay, nature played a trick on us. And, you know what? We both feel emotionally healthier for the therapeutic possibilities of her psychedelics.

She’s only human, Nature. Still and all, a mystifying phenomenon to this bona fide night tripper. In my musings, it just dawned on me — what will light in the sky bring before the rising sun skips over the horizon? What will the art of dawn bring up in the storied Village?

The fishermen roaming in the gloaming far out at sea and well into the night, later parading their catch to the Francophile fishmongers, those villagers with scarves wrapped around their head, glorifying in their own mythicism. I met some at the market in the city and there’s nobody like them with whom to have a conversation. They were born free and jovial. You’d laugh richly at their version of life and local politics.

It would be a treat to learn their craft while watching them handle, gut, bone and fillet the catch, right there on the beach, I suppose. Displaying, merchandising, frying and selling. Tripping out on nature.


Dalton Narine is a disabled Vietnam Veteran who won writing awards for The Village Voice (New York), The Miami Herald and Ebony Magazine.


Las Cuevas Beach

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Dalton Narine
About the author, Dalton Narine

Dalton Narine watched a movie among friends and was harassed for watching the credits roll. He was 12. They laughed at his quip that someday his name would be scrolling like that on a movie screen somewhere. Little did they know it was a prescient warning.

A similar scene played when Narine stopped learning the piano and walked into a panyard. Nobody believed him until they saw him playing classical music on pan on J’Ouvert. Eventually Narine co-founded the iconic PAN magazine and became senior editor.

Narine, an award-winning writer for two newspapers and a magazine, started working on a novel. But the chair of Columbia University film school steered him toward a screenplay instead. Your story is a movie, the professor said. Today Narine is working on his final draft, with two more screenplays in his head.

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