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OL' HIGUE

by Wordsworth McAndrew


Ol' woman wid de wrinkled skin,

 Leh de ol' higue wuk begin.

Put on you fiery disguise,

Ol' woman wid de weary eyes

Shed you swizzly skin.


Ball o' fire, raise up high

Raise up till you touch de sky.

Land 'pon top somebody roof

Tr'ipse in through de keyhole - poof!

Open you ol' higue eye.


Find de baby where 'e lie

Change back faster than de eye.

Find de baby, lif de sheet,

Mek de puncture wid you teet',

Suck de baby dry.


Before 'e wake an' start to cry

Change back fast, an' out you fly.

Find de goobie wid you skin

Mek de semidodge, then - in!

Grin you ol' higue grin.


In you dutty powder gown

Next day schoolchildren flock you round.

"Ol' higue, ol' higue!" dey hollerin' out

Tek it easy, hold you mout'

Doan leh dem find you out.


Dey gwine mark up wid a chalk

Everywhere wheh you got to walk

You bridge, you door, you jealousie

But cross de marks an' leh dem see

Else dey might spread de talk.


Fly across dis window sill,

Why dis baby lyin' so still?

Lif' de sheet like how you does do,

Oh God! Dis baby nightgown blue!

Run fo' de window sill!


Woman you gwine run or not?

Doan mind de rice near to de cot.

De smell o' asafoetida

Like um tek effect 'pon you.

You wan' get kyetch or what?


But now is too late for advice,

'Cause you done start to count de rice

An' if you only drop one grain

You must begin it all again.

But you gwine count in vain.


Whuh ah tell you?


Day done, light an' rice still mountin'

Till dey wake an' kyetch you countin'

An' pick up de big fat cabbage broom

An' beat you all around de room.

Is now you should start countin'


Whaxen! Whaxen! Whaxen! Plai!

You gwine pay fo' you sins befo' you die.

Lash she all across she head

You suck me baby till um dead?

Whaxen! Whaxen! Plai!


You feel de manicole 'cross you hip?

Beat she till blood start to drip.

"Ow me God! You bruk me hip!

Done now, nuh? Allyou done!"


Is whuh you sayin' deh, you witch?

Done? Look, allyou beat de bitch.

Whaxen! Whaxen! Pladai! Plai!

Die, you witch you. Die.

Whaxen! Whaxen! Plai!




DEATH OF A COMRADE

by Martin Carter


Death must not find us thinking that we die

too soon, too soon

our banner draped for you

I would prefer

the banner in the wind

Not bound so tightly

in a scarlet fold

not sodden, sodden

with your people's tears

but flashing on the pole

we bear aloft

down and beyond this dark, dark lane of rags.

Now, from the mourning vanguard moving on

dear Comrade, I salute you and I say

Death will not find us thinking that we die.



I CLENCH MY FIST

by Martin Carter (1953)


You come in warships terrible with death

I know your hands are red with Korean blood

I know your finger trembles on a trigger

And yet I curse you – Stranger khaki clad.

British soldier, man in khaki

careful how you walk

My dead ancestor Accabreh

is groaning in his grave


At night he wakes and watches

with fire in his eyes

Because you march upon his breast

and stamp upon his heart.


Although you come in thousands from the sea

Although you walk like locusts in the street

Although you point your gun straight at my heart

I clench my fist above my head; I sing my song of

Freedom!




How Do I Love Thee


West Indian Style

Author Unknown


Let me count the ways ....

You are the essence in my mauby

De fish in my fishcakes

I love you love you dearly

You are the lardoil in my bakes.


You are the coconut in my sweetbread

De pigtail in my rice

Just like piece of curry goat head

I will love you till I dead.


You are the sardine in my gravy

The dumplings in my soup

I love you more than gambling

Yes I love you bad fah true


Like banana leaf around my conkie

I'll be always close to you

Sweet like sugar in your green tea

I'll do anything for you.


You are the sauce around my Cou Cou

Hot like sweetbread when it done

In my arms I love to hold you

Just like a glass a rum.


I will stick to you like dandruff

Like the corns upon your toes

Like the fat around your belly

I'll be everywhere you go.


Cause you are my black pudding

And I know I am your souse

When you call I will coming running

Like when a boar cat see a mouse.


Oh my pepper on my pork chop

Sweet like sorrel when it mix

When my hands caress your body

You feel just like a couple-six.


You are sweeter than a snowcone

I will give you all I own

You are sweeter than a hambone

Soft and sweet like piece'o'pone.


No one can take me from you

Not in this life or death.


The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy

(A traditional West Indian Christmas Carol)

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy

And they say that his name is Jesus

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,

Oh yes, believer, oh, yes, believer

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,


The angels sang when the baby was born

The angels sang when the baby was born

The angels sang when the baby was born

And they sang that his name is Jesus

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,

Oh yes, believer, oh, yes, believer

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,


The shepherds came where the baby was born

The shepherds came where the baby was born

The shepherds came where the baby was born

And they say that his name is Jesus

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,

Oh yes, believer, oh, yes, believer

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,


The wise men saw when the baby born

The wise men saw where the baby born

The wise men went where the baby born

And they said that his name is Jesus

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,

Oh yes, believer, oh, yes, believer

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,


They saw the star over Bethlehem

They saw the star over Bethlehem

The trailed that star over Bethlehem

To the crib of the child named Jesus

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,

Oh yes, believer, oh, yes, believer

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,


They found a manger in Bethlehem

They found a manger in Bethlehem

And in that manger in Bethlehem

They worshipped the child named Jesus

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,

Oh yes, believer, oh, yes, believer

He come from the Glory,

He come from the Glorious Kingdom,




Not I With This Torn Shirt


They call here,

- Magnificent Province!


Province of mud!

Province of flood!

Plantation - feudal coast!


Who are the magnificent here?

Not I with this torn shirt

But they, in their white mansions

By the trench of blood!


I tell you

This is no magnificent province

No El Dorado for me

No streets paved with gold

But a bruising and battering for self preservation

In the white dust and the grey mud


I tell you and I tell no secret -

Now is long past time for worship

Long past time for kneeling

With clasped hands at altars of poverty.




THE LEGEND OF KAIETEUR


-  set to music by Philip Pilgrim


1. Now Makonaima, the Great Spirit dwelt

In the huge mountain rock that throbbed and felt

The swift black waters of Potaro's race

Pause on the lip, commit themselves to space

And dive the half mile to the rocks beneath.

Black were the rocks with sharp and angry teeth

And on those rocks the eager waters died,

Above the gorge that seethed and foamed and hissed

Rose, resurrected into lovely mist.


The rock He lived in towered a half mile high

So that it seemed a rival to the sky

And over it this living mist He drew

To curtain off Divinity from view.

He gave it too the privilege to choose

To take the glory of the rainbow's hues

To wear at morning, and for changed delight

The marvelous sunsets of the tropic night.

From day to day, behind this rainbowed screen,

The Father, the inscrutable, unseen,

Would ponder on His domain of the earth

And all the nations He had given birth


And He caused flowers to weave upon the ground

Their rich embroideries, and He set around

The village where each tribe worked all day long

A veritable tapestry of song


 2. From birds that in the branches built their bowers

And spent within the shade quick musical hours,

So every wind blew peace and fortune down

From the sweet heavens, and everywhere was sung

A song of praise to the Great spirit above

That fathered them in kindliness and love


And every moon each tribe would come and float

Upon the stream a sacrificial boat

New-carved and painted, laden with fish and fruit

And watch it gain speed as it neared and shoot

Over the rock into the gorge below.


And as the waters, so the centuries flow

Until the savage Caribishi came

And put the Patamona to the flame.

They came by night and took them in their sleep

Slaughtered the guards and drove away the sheep

Ravished the women, burnt their huts and shields,

A few, the merest remnant, took to flight

And under shelter of the friendly night

Escaped from the pursuing torches sent

To slay them in the caches where they went.

These took the terrible tidings of the raid

To the far camp their restless kin had made

On the Potaro-that the feud was awake

And counsel what defenses they could make


3. Old Kaie was chief in counsel.   He was wise

Over a hundred seasons had those eyes

See in their passage.   Time had made the dim

But with its wisdom compensated him.

He knew the cures for all men's ills and fears

And he had words for women in their tears

To comfort them.   He set all day and talked

Unto the tribe, for painfully he walked

On legs like rotten trunks wherein chigoes

Had nested and made caves of all his toes



Just now he counseled, "Since our arms are small

I and another to the mountain wall

Will go to question Makonaima's will

What He requires that we must fulfill

In sacrificial offerings.   He is kind

His orders will chase fear out of our mind."

Then someone murmured "But can Kaie's feet stand

The troublesome journey through steep, rocky land?"

Flame sprang to Kaie's eyes, "Will you never learn,

From what the mind wills, body will not turn?" So the next morning labored up the slope

Kaie and the one other with their ropes



4. Strapped round their backs, their bags of magic art

With all the stuff that in their spells had part.

Kaie's feet oft staggered and the westering sun

Was swallowed up by night, the day was done

Before they came upon the slab of stone

That ends the path to the Great Spirit's home Alone


They stood while the vast starry night was full

Of falling water.   Kaie felt his pull

His arm.   "Look there," "Yes, Makonaima's birds,

They are His messengers, they speak His words,

These small black cruiser birds, they fly in flocks

And feed on lana seed among the rocks.  " And now the birds made swoopings round the pair

And chattering, brushed Kaie's cheek and kissed his ear.


Twice, thrice, they did this.   Then with sudden flight

They wheeled and veered off through the seeing Night.

Then in a voice that swelled and sank and broke

With the great wealth of joy he felt, Kaie spoke

"Oh, great is Makonaima and the words

That he has spoken by message of his birds.

I must go down the passage of the river.


5. That I may sit before His face for ever

In His great house, the everlasting rock.

And He has promised that no harm, no shock

Shall bruise our people, for His Watch and ward

Shall circle us and He shall be our guard.

I am accounted for a sacrifice

For all the tribe.   You with your younger eyes

Shall see the offering that you may tell

How boldly Kaie clasped such a death, how well

He lost his life to save his threatened race

And shadow them with the eternal peace."


So in the morning, while the dim mist wrestled

And the fall thundered and the deep gorge seethed

That other sat at vantage by the wall

And scanned the river to the waterfall.

He saw the sun o'er-peep the world and throw

Tide after tide of golden ray and glow


 6. Against the fall, flood full on its attire,

Its misty veil, and catch that mist afire.

Amazed, he stared.   The opalescent light

Deepened and sank and changed.   Then in his sight

Below the point that Kaie had bid him mark

He saw Kaie in a sacrificial bark.


The frail boat bobbed and bucked within the grip

Of the live waters that hurried it to the lip

Over the abyss.   Kaie then raised his tall

Huge bulk in the boat and towered over the fall,

A cruciform over the flaming mist.

Then with a force that nothing could resist

The boat rent all that misty veil in two,

Drawing a dark line down the rainbow hue.

But of Kaie's body never showed a trace,

He sat with Makonaima, before his face.

 


(ON THE KINGSTON GREAT FLOOD)


On the occasion of the Kingston Great Flood of 1855 in Georgetown, Guyana

Writer unknown


Be sober my muse, and with gravity tell

What sad havoc and ruin all Kingston befel;

How the sea swept away all the dam and its smouses

Made canals, Noah's arks of the houses,

How some bridges blew up, how some houses came down,

And together went wandering over the town.




PEACE 

by Patricia (Pat Cameron)


Peace!

A gentle word

Speak ... it gently

The soft word's sibilance

Whispers of an Allness

An Holy Healing

Whispers of God's presence

Ever Near

Ever Here

Everywhere!










Ol' Higue - Wordsworth McAndrew

Death of a Comrade - Martin Carter

I Clench My Fist - Martin Carter

How Do I Love Thee - Author Unknown

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy - Author Unknown

Not I With This Torn Shirt - Martin Carter

The Legend of Kaieteur - A. J. Seymour

(On the Kingston Great Flood) - Anonymous

Peace - Pat Cameron