Kamau Brathwaite


The stone had skidded arc'd and bloomed into islands:

Cuba and San Domingo

Jamaica and Puerto Rico

Grenada Guadeloupe Bonaire


curved stone hissed into reef

wave teeth fanged into clay

white splash flashed into spray

Bathsheba Montego Bay


bloom of the arcing summers...



The islands roared into green plantations

ruled by silver sugar cane

sweat and profit

cutlass profit

islands ruled by sugar cane


And of course it was a wonderful time

a profitable hospitable well-worth-you-time

when captains carried receipts for rices

letters spices wigs

opera glasses swaggering asses

debtors vices pigs


O it was a wonderful time

an elegant benevolent redolent time--

and young Mrs. P.'s quick irrelevant crine

at four o'clock in the morning...



But what of black Sam

with the big splayed toes

and the shoe black shiny skin?


He carries bucketfulls of water

'cause his Ma's just had another daughter.


And what of John with the European name

who went to school and dreamt of fame

his boss one day called him a fool

and the boss hadn't even been to school...



Steel drum steel drum

hit the hot calypso dancing

hot rum hot rum

who goin' stop this bacchanalling?


For we glance the banjoy

dance the limbo

grow our crops by maljo


have loose morals

gather corals

father out neighbour's quarrels


perhaps when they come 

with their cameras and straw

hats:  sacred pink tourists from the frozen Nawth


we should get down to those

white beaches

where if we don't wear breeches


it becomes an island dance

Some people doin' well

while others are catchin' hell


o the boss gave our Johnny the sack

though we beg him please

please to take 'im back


so now the boy nigratin' overseas...

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