For the man who works with hands.
(The poem won first prize in the inaugural Walter Rodney Foundation Creative Writing Competition. I dedicated the first reading to Minister of Culture Dr. Frank Anthony, the girls at NOC who were allegedly raped by a senior government official, the 15-year-old boy was shot by a police man and Harding, the youth, who was baton raped by police.)
There is no real champion of the brave
no voice at a street corner defending the innocence
of some man named Arnold; no one to fight for some poor Hinckson
a patriot dealt the reward of patriotism:
A bite from our old friend that very monster you spoke of.
The monster has long grown out of control;
it is a savage beast dressed in the flesh of our people.
It has chewed on Ramkarran and Nagamootoo,
eaten even the images of its fathers
and still, our people do not understand.
Ordinary people from the range yards,
from the estate villages, from the savannahs
are living ghosts – born from fading strength,
raised with muzzled mouths – who have bowed
to the appetite of the beast.
The same washing lady from Bent Street, the same cart man,
even their children have sacrificed their characters.
How else could they continue to do miracles?
How else could they continue to feed many mouths
with one dry-up tennis roll and a dab of butter?
Doing the dirty political skullduggery
is a matter of survival for our people.
It is do or die. They are meat men, meat women,
their flesh meant to be fashioned into masks,
dead meat upon dead, dead meat, for hiding the beast’s face.
Even though we all suffer the same pains,
we remain divided. The beast’s tongue
lies between us, waiting to eat any soul
who dares to venture on his brother’s side.
Our fear fattened the beast, widened its tongue.
My feet are firmly planted on the beast’s tongue,
hands reach desperately for a man on the other side. Slowly I am being eaten –
othered because I love a black man; because I looked into his eyes
and saw myself. I became a blood traitor,
the anti-coolie coolie woman who broke the aapanjaht covenant.
Worse yet, there is no one to tell anyone that my suffering
entombs the tragedy of the black man. He and I, we are grains of rice,
bags and bags of rice scattered in the wilderness. The sun
has dried us long-long, too long. We have become dusty, brittle, broken grains.
Ready for boiling into a glutinous glob. Ready for gluttonous eating.
All rice is rice like meat is meat to a hungry beast.
There is no strong tongue to birth this truth. None to tell the story
of how our collective-I sweats like a Bourda market drunkie
in its struggle for shape. There is no intellectual revolutionary
among us yet to fight the beast for people and country.
Still, there is hope. You taught me this in a dream. You said to me:
“Death is certain for all creatures and the monster is no exception.
And even truer than this, oppression will breed two more Rodneys.
And every time they kill us, we shall multiply twofold
until there is an army of us. They cannot kill us all.”
© Sara Bharrat 2014