Monday, November 30, 2015

from "The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy" by Edward Kamau Brathwaite

from The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy

from Islands, Part IV: Possession




Every Friday morning my grandfather
left his farm of canefields, chickens, cows,
and rattled in his trap down to the harbour town
to sell his meat.  He was a butcher.
Six-foot-three and very neat: high collar,
winged, a grey cravat, a waistcoat, watch-
chain just above the belt, thin narrow-
bottomed trousers, and the shoes his wife
would polish every night. He drove the trap
himself: slap of the leather reins
along the horse’s back and he’d be off
with a top-hearted homburg on his head:
black English country gentleman.

Now he is dead. The meat shop burned,
his property divided. A doctor bought
the horse. His mad Alsatians killed it.
The wooden trap was chipped and chopped
by friends and neighbours and used to stop-
gap fences and for firewood. One yellow
wheel was rolled across the former cowpen gate.
Only his hat is left. I ‘borrowed’ it.
I used to try it on and hear the night wind
man go battering through the canes, cocks waking up and thinking
it was dawn throughout the clinking country night.
Great caterpillar tractors clatter down
the broken highway now; a diesel engine grunts
where pigs once hunted garbage.
A thin asthmatic cow shares the untrashed garage.


Source of the text – Edward Kamau Brathwaite, The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

TJB: Après moi le déluge: the poet elegizes the utter dismantling of his grandpa’s world—hard, rural, colorful—replaced by progress or whatever.

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