Didn't He Ramble

Kamau Brathwaite



So to New York London

I finally come

hope in my belly

hate smothered down

to the bone

to suit the part

I am playing


That summer was fine:

newspaper notices 

variety acts

what the heart lacked

we supplied with your hips

and the art 

of our shuffle shoes


But with the winter I knew

I was old.  Poor

Tom was cold.  Feet 

could no longer walk the fallen

gold of parks.  Gates 

closed, the pavements

skidded blue and fro-

zen.  To and fro

I walked, I wandered; wind

cut my face with its true 

Gillette razor blades and snow

burnt the rivers' bridges.  In my small hired

room, stretched out upon the New

York Herald Tribune, pages

damp from dirty lots, from locked

out parks, from gutters; dark, tired, 

deaf, cold, too old to care to catch

alight the quick match of your pity,

I died alone, without the benefit of fire.




Bring me now where the warm wind

blows, where the grasses

sigh, where the sweet

tongue'd blossom flowers


where the showers

fan soft like a fisherman's

net thrown through the sweet-

ened air


Bring me now where the workers

rest, where the cotton drifts,

where the rivers are

and the minstrel sits


on the logwood stump

with the dreams of his slow guitar




But my sons grow fat, grow

fat, far from the slow guitar.

See them zoot suits, man?  Them black

Texan hats?  Watch false teeth


flash; fake friendship makes them mock

your grief

and overnight they are

the people's choice, the people's politicians.  So


it's now grab the can, grab all

you can and give it to your

selves, the poor.


Let's legislate that black

is white and white that black

dominion that we aim for evermore.


So burn the crops

raise flash car cities

I am Selassie


And Selassie God

black snow falls from my heaven.

You scratch my drum


I beat your violin

I who was once your slave

now slave my captive friend.




But perhaps I am too far

away to care about these

things.  Here

once more the good


soil warms me, worms

now warn me of the too much faith

the too much fear


of others.  The skin's

destroyer in this soft subsidence

obeys impartial laws.


And I no longer lonely now

long for the drums to speak,

the violins listen


before they begin, the slow

guitars converse.

Long, too, for flowers:

not for their spider-feet of roots that now trans-


fix me, but for their touch

of surfaces, of shapes, of colours,

and of course the various

scents that really give them



And I should like to see

my children's children:

slender shoots:  the grow-


ing green reminders

of the seeds I gave.

Will their blooms find my grave?


Will they too share the rocks,

the charcoal bed,

lost gold, the fire trail


of fear, the silent paths

of forest we shall not know



Or do I hear them mock

my sons:  my own sons mock-

ing me?

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