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					      Limbo
      And limbo stick is the silence in front of me             knees spread wide                                Vultures                                                                                                    Nothing’s Changed                                                                                      Blessing
      limbo                                                     and the water is hiding
                                                                                                                 In the greyness                                30     ...Thus the Commandment at Belsen                     Small round hard stones click                     I press my nose                                      The skin cracks like a pod.
      limbo                                                30   limbo                                            and drizzle of one despondent                                                                               under my heels,                                                                                        There never is enough water.
                                                                                                                                                                       Camp going home for                                                                                     to the clear panes, know,
      limbo like me                                             limbo like me                                    dawn unstirred by harbingers                                                                                seeding grasses-thrust
                                                                                                                                                                       the day with fumes of                                                                                   before I see them, there will be
5     limbo                                                                                                      of sunbreak a vulture                                                                                       bearded seeds                                                                                          Imagine the drip of it,
                                                                                                                                                                       human roast clinging                                                                              30    crushed ice white glass,
      limbo like me                                             knees spread wide                           5    perching high on broken                                                                                5    into trouser cuffs, cans,                                                                              the small splash, echo
                                                                                                                                                                       rebelliously to his hairy                                                                               linen falls,
                                                                and the dark ground is under me                  bone of a dead tree                            35     nostrils will stop                                    trodden on, crunch                                the single rose.                                5    in a tin mug,
      long dark night is the silence in front of me                                                              nestled close to his                                                                                        in tall, purple-flowering,                                                                             the voice of a kindly god.
                                                                                                                                                                       at the wayside sweet-shop
      limbo                                                     down                                             mate his smooth                                                                                             amiable weeds.
                                                                                                                                                                       and pick up a chocolate                                                                                 Down the road,
      limbo like me                                        35   down                                             bashed-in head, a pebble                                                                                                                                                                                           Sometimes, the sudden rush
                                                                                                                                                                       for his tender offspring                                                                                working man’s café sells
                                                                down                                        10   on a stem rooted in                                   waiting at home for Daddy’s                           District Six.                               35    bunny chows.                                         of fortune. The municipal pipe bursts,
10    stick hit sound                                                                                            a dump of gross                                                                                        10   No board says it is:                                                                                   silver crashes to the ground
                                                                                                                                                                40     return…                                                                                                 Take it with you, eat
      and the ship like it ready                                and the drummer is calling me                    feathers, inclined affectionately                                                                           but my feet know,                                                                                 10   and the flow has found
                                                                                                                                                                           Praise bounteous                                                                                    it at a plastic table’s top,
                                                                                                                 to hers. Yesterday they picked                        providence if you will                                and my hands,                                     wipe your fingers on your jeans,                     a roar of tongues. From the huts,
      stick hit sound                                           limbo                                            the eyes of a swollen                                                                                       and the skin about my bones,                                                                           a congregation: every man and woman
                                                                                                                                                                       that grants even an ogre                                                                                spit a little on the floor:
      and the dark still steady                                 limbo like me                               15   corpse in a water-logged                                                                                    and the soft labouring of my lungs,                                                                    child for streets around
                                                                                                                                                                       a tiny glow-worm                                                                                  40    it’s in the bone.
                                                                                                                 trench and ate the                             45     tenderness encapsulated                          15   and the hot, white, inwards turning                                                                    butts in, with pots,
      limbo                                                40   sun coming up                                    things in its bowel. Full                                                                                   anger of my eyes.                                                                                 15   brass, copper, aluminium,
                                                                                                                                                                       in icy caverns of a cruel                                                                               I back from the glass,
15    limbo like me                                             and the drummers are praising me                 gorged they chose their roost                                                                                                                                                                                      plastic buckets,
                                                                                                                                                                       heart or else despair                                                                                   boy again,
                                                                                                                 keeping the hollowed remnant                          for in the very germ                                  Brash with glass,                                 leaving small mean O                                 frantic hands,
      long dark deck and the water surrounding me               out of the dark                             20   in easy range of cold                                                                                       name flaring like a flag,
                                                                                                                                                                       of that kindred love is                                                                                 of small, mean mouth.
      long dark deck and the silence is over me                 and the dumb gods are raising me                 telescopic eyes…                                                                                            it squats                                                                                              and naked children
                                                                                                                                                                50     lodged the perpetuity                                                                             45    Hand burn
                                                                                                                     Strange                                           of evil.                                         20   in the grass and weeds,                           for a stone, a bomb,                                 screaming in the liquid sun,
      limbo                                                     up                                               indeed how love in other                                                                                    incipient Port Jackson trees:                                                                     20   their highlights polished to perfection,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               to shiver down the glass.
      limbo like me                                        45   up                                               ways so particular                                                                                          new, up-market, haute cuisine,                                                                         flashing light,
                                                                                                                                                                       Chinua Achebe                                                                                           Nothing’s changed.
                                                                up                                          25   will pick a corner                                                                                          guard at the gatepost,                                                                                 as the blessing sings
20    stick is the whip                                                                                          in that charnel-house                                                                                       whites only inn.                                                                                       over their small bones.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Tatamkhulu Afrika
      and the dark deck is slavery                              and the music is saving me                       tidy it and coil up there, perhaps
                                                                                                                 even fall asleep - her face                                                                            25   No sign says it is:                                                                                    Imtiaz Dharker
      limbo                                                     hot                                              turned to the wall!                                                                                         but we know where we belong.
25    limbo like me                                             slow
                                                           50   step
      drum stick knock
      and the darkness is over me
                                                                                                   Two Scavengers in a Truck,
                                                                on the burning ground.
                                                                                                     Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes
                                                                Edward Kamau Braithwaite
                                                                                                        At the stoplight waiting for the light
                                                                                                                                 nine a.m. downtown San Francisco
                                                                                                           a bright yellow garbage truck
                                                                                                                        with two garbagemen in red plastic blazers
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Night of the Scorpion
     What Were They Like?                                                                           5         standing on the back stoop
                                                                                                                              one on each side hanging on
                                                                                                                                                                                                   Island Man
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I remember the night my mother                             the peace of understanding on each face.
                                                                                                            and looking down into
     1) Did the people of Viet Nam                                                                                                                                                                 (for a Caribbean island man in London who still wakes up to the            was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours                         More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
                                                                                                                                 an elegant open Mercedes
        use lanterns of stone?                                                                                                                                                                     sound of the sea)                                                          of steady rain had driven him                              more insects, and the endless rain.
                                                                                                                     with an elegant couple in it
     2) Did they hold ceremonies                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              to crawl beneath a sack of rice.                           My mother twisted through and through,
        to reverence the opening of buds?                                                                                                                                                          Morning                                                           5        Parting with his poison - flash                       35   groaning on a mat.
                                                                                                   10   The man
     3) Were they inclined to quiet laughter?                                                                                                                                                      and island man wakes up                                                    of diabolic tail in the dark room -                        My father, sceptic, rationalist,
                                                                                                              in a hip three-piece linen suit
     4) Did they use bone and ivory,                                                                                                                                                               to the sound of blue surf                                                  he risked the rain again.                                  trying every curse and blessing,
                                                                                                                    with shoulder-length blond hair & sunglasses
        jade and silver, for ornament?                                                                                                                                                             in his head                                                                The peasants came like swarms of flies                     powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
                                                                                                        The young blond woman so casually coifed
     5) Had they an epic poem?                                                                                                                                                                5    the steady breaking and wombing                                            and buzzed the name of God a hundred times                 He even poured a little paraffin
                                                                                                                            with a short skirt and colored stockings
     6) Did they distinguish between speech and singing?                                                                                                                                                                                                             10       to paralyse the Evil One.                             40   upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
                                                                                                   15      on the way to his architect’s office
                                                                                                                                                                                                   wild seabirds                                                              With candles and with lanterns                             I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
     1) Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.                                                                                                                                                   and fishermen pushing out to sea                                           throwing giant scorpion shadows                            I watched the holy man perform his rites
                                                                                                        And the two scavengers up since four a.m.
        It is not remembered whether in gardens                                                                                                                                                    the sun surfacing defiantly                                                on the mud-baked walls                                     to tame the poison with an incantation.
                                                                                                                                      grungy from their route
        stone lanterns illumined pleasant ways.                                                                                                                                                    from the east                                                              they searched for him: he was not found.                   After twenty hours
                                                                                                                       on the way home
     2) Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,                                                                                                                                     10   of his small emerald island                                       15       They clicked their tongues.                           45   it lost its sting.
                                                                                                        The older of the two with grey iron hair
        but after the children were killed                                                                                                                                                         he always comes back          groggily groggily                            With every movement that the scorpion made
                                                                                                   20                                    and hunched back
        there were no more buds.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              his poison moved in Mother’s blood, they said.             My mother only said
                                                                                                                  looking down like some
     3) Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.                                                                                                                                               Comes back to sands                                                        May he sit still, they said.                               Thank God the scorpion picked on me
                                                                                                                                gargoyle Quasimodo
     4) A dream ago, perhaps. Ornament is for joy.                                                                                                                                                 of a grey metallic soar                                                    May the sins of your previous birth                        and spared my children.
                                                                                                        And the younger of the two
        All the bones were charred.                                                                                                                                                                                        to surge of wheels                        20       be burned away tonight, they said.
                                                                                                                           also with sunglasses & long hair
     5) It is not remembered. Remember,                                                                                                                                                       15   to dull North Circular roar                                                May your suffering decrease
                                                                                                   25      about the same age as the Mercedes driver                                                                                                                                                                                     Nissim Ezekiel
        most were peasants; their life                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
        was in rice and bamboo.                                                                                                                                                                    muffling muffling                                                          May the sum of evil
                                                                                                        And both scavengers gazing down
        When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies                                                                                                                                         his crumpled pillow waves                                                  balanced in this unreal world
                                                                                                                                        as from a great distance
        and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces,                                                                                                                                       island man heaves himself                                         25       against the sum of good
                                                                                                                        at the cool couple
        maybe fathers told their sons old tales.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              become diminished by your pain.
                                                                                                             as if they were watching some odourless TV ad
        When bombs smashed those mirrors                                                                                                                                                           Another London day                                                         May the poison purify your flesh
                                                                                                   30                in which everything is always possible
        there was only time to scream.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
     6) There is an echo yet
                                                                                                        And the very red light for an instant                                                      Grace Nichols                                                              they said, and they sat around
        of their speech which was like a song.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       30       on the floor with my mother in the centre,
                                                                                                                          holding all four close together
        It was reported that their singing resembled
                                                                                                                  as if anything at all were possible
        the flight of moths in moonlight.
                                                                                                                                              between them
        Who can say? It is silent now.
                                                                                                   35          across that small gulf
                                                                                                                            in the high seas
        Denise Levertov                                                                                                                    of this democracy

                                                                                                        Lawrence Ferlinghetti
     from Search For My Tongue
                                                                     Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan
     You ask me what I mean                                                                                                Half-Caste                                          from Unrelated Incidents                       Hurricane Hits England
     by saying I have lost my tongue.                                They sent me a salwar kameez
     I ask you, what would you do                                                  peacock-blue,                           Excuse me                                           this is thi                                    It took a hurricane, to bring her closer
     if you had two tongues in your mouth,                                                  and another                    standing on one leg                                 six a clock                                    To the landscape.
5    and lost the first one, the mother tongue,                           glistening like an orange split open,            I’m half caste                                      news thi                                       Half the night she lay awake,
     and could not really know the other,                       5    embossed slippers, gold and black                                                                         man said n                                     The howling ship of the wind,
     the foreign tongue.                                                            points curling.                        Explain yuself                               5      thi reason                                5    Its gathering rage,
     You could not use them both together                              Candy-striped glass bangles                    5    wha yu mean                                         a talk wia                                     Like some dark ancestral spectre.
     even if you thought that way.                                                snapped, drew blood.                     when yu say half-caste                              BBC accent                                     Fearful and reassuring.
10   And if you lived in a place you had to                            Like at school, fashions changed                    yu mean when picasso                                iz coz yi
     speak a foreign tongue,                                    10                 in Pakistan –                           mix red an green                                    widny wahnt                                    Talk to me Huracan
     your mother tongue would rot,                                   the salwar bottoms were broad and stiff,              is a half-caste canvas/                      10     mi ti talk                                     Talk to me Oya
     rot and die in your mouth                                                       then narrow.                     10   explain yuself                                      aboot thi                                 10   Talk to me Shango
     until you had to “spit it out.”                                 My aunts chose an apple-green sari,                   wha yu mean                                         trooth wia                                     And Hattie,
15   I thought I spit it out                                              silver-bordered                                  when yu say half-caste                              voice lik                                      My sweeping, back-home cousin.
     but over night while I dream,                              15                  for my teens.                          yu mean when light an shadow                        wanna yoo
                                                                                                                           mix in de sky                                15     scruff. if                                     Tell me why you visit
                                                                     I tried each satin-silken top –                  15   is a half-caste weather/                            a toktaboot                                    An English coast?
     (munay hutoo kay aakhee jeebh aakhee bhasha)                         was alien in the sitting-room.                   well in dat case                                    thi trooth                                15   What is the meaning
                                                                     I could never be as lovely                            england weather                                     lik wanna yoo                                  Of old tongues
                                                                                     as those clothes –                    nearly always half-caste                            scruff yi                                      Reaping havoc
20   (may thoonky nakhi chay)                                   20       I longed                                          in fact some o dem cloud                     20     widny thingk                                   In new places?
                                                                     for denim and corduroy.                          20   half-caste till dem overcast                        it wuz troo.
                                                                         My costume clung to me                            so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass               just wonna yoo                                 The blinding illumination,
     (parantoo rattray svupnama mari bhasha pachi aavay chay)                        and I was aflame,                     ah rass/                                            scruff tokn.                              20   Even as you short-
                                                                     I couldn’t rise up out of its fire,                   explain yuself                                      thirza right                                   Circuit us
                                                                25       half-English,                                     wha yu mean                                  25     way ti spell                                   Into further darkness?
     (foolnee jaim mari bhasha mari jeebh)                                          unlike Aunt Jamila.               25   when yu say half-caste                              ana right way
25                                                                                                                         yu mean tchaikovsky                                 to tok it. this                                What is the meaning of trees
                                                                     I wanted my parents’ camel-skin lamp –                sit down at dah piano                               is me tokn yir                                 Falling heavy as whales
     (modhama kheelay chay)                                               switching it on in my bedroom,                   an mix a black key                                  right way a                               25   Their crusted roots
                                                                     to consider the cruelty                               wid a white key                              30     spellin. this                                  Their cratered graves?
                                                                30                    and the transformation          30   is a half-caste symphony/                           is ma trooth
                                                                     from camel to shade,                                                                                      yooz doant no                                  O why is my heart unchained?
     (fullnee jaim mari bhasha mari jeebh)                                 marvel at the colours                           Explain yuself                                      thi trooth
                                                                                       like stained glass.                 wha yu mean                                         yirsellz cawz                                  Tropical Oya of the Weather,
                                                                                                                           Ah listening to yu wid de keen               35     yi canny talk                                  I am aligning myself to you,
30   (modham pakay chay)                                             My mother cherished her jewellery –                   half of mih ear                                     right. this is                            30   I am following the movement of your winds,
     it grows back, a stump of a shoot                          35     Indian gold, dangling, filligree.              35   Ah lookin at yu wid de keen                         the six a clock                                I am riding the mystery of your storm.
     grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,                                 But it was stolen from our car.        half of mih eye                                     nyooz. belt up.
     it ties the other tongue in knots,                              The presents were radiant in my wardrobe.             and when I’m introduced to yu                                                                      Ah, sweet mystery,
     the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,                           My aunts requested cardigans                      I’m sure you’ll understand                          Tom Leonard                                    Come to break the frozen lake in me,
35   it pushes the other tongue aside.                                             from Marks and Spencers.                why I offer yu half-a-hand                                                                         Shaking the foundations of the very trees within me,
     Everytime I think I’ve forgotten,                                                                                40   an when I sleep at night                                                                      35   Come to let me know
     I think I’ve lost the mother tongue,                       40   My salwar kameez                                      I close half-a-eye                                                                                 That the earth is the earth is the earth.
     it blossoms out of my mouth.                                         didn’t impress the schoolfriend                  consequently when I dream
                                                                     who sat on my bed, asked to see                       I dream half-a-dream                                                                               Grace Nichols
     Sujata Bhatt                                                         my weekend clothes.                              an when moon begin to glow                       Not my Business
                                                                     But often I admired the mirror-work,             45   I half-caste human being
                                                                45       tried to glimpse myself                           cast half-a-shadow                               They picked Akanni up one morning
     This Room                                                                       in the miniature
                                                                     glass circles, recall the story
                                                                                                                           but yu must come back tomorrow
                                                                                                                           wid de whole of yu eye
                                                                                                                                                                            Beat him soft like clay
                                                                                                                                                                            And stuffed him down the belly
                                                                            how the three of us                            and de whole of yu ear                           Of a waiting jeep.
     This room is breaking out                                                          sailed to England.            50   and de whole of yu mind                 5               What business of mine is it
     of itself, cracking through                                50   Prickly heat had me screaming on the way.
                                                                                                                                                                                   So long they don’t take the yarm
     its own walls                                                         I ended up in a cot                             and I will tell yu
                                                                                                                                                                                   From my savouring mouth?
     in search of space, light,                                      in my English grandmother’s dining room,              de other half
5    empty air.                                                           found myself alone,                              of my story                                      They came one night
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Love after Love
                                                                                       playing with a tin boat.
                                                                                                                                                                            Booted the whole house awake
     The bed is lifting out of                                                                                             John Agard                                                                                         The time will come
                                                                                                                                                                   10       And dragged Danladi out,
     its nightmares.                                            55   I pictured my birthplace                                                                                                                                 When, with elation,
                                                                                                                                                                            Then off to a lengthy absence.
     From dark corners, chairs                                            from fifties’ photographs.                                                                                                                          You will greet yourself arriving
                                                                                                                                                                                  What business of mine is it
     are rising up to crash through clouds.                                            When I was older                                                                                                                       At your own door, in your own mirror,
                                                                                                                                                                                  So long they don’t take the yam
                                                                     there was conflict, a fractured land                                                                                                                5    And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
                                                                                                                                                                                  From my savouring mouth?
10   This is the time and place                                           throbbing through newsprint.
     to be alive:                                               60   Sometimes I saw Lahore –                                                                                                                                 And say sit here. Eat.
                                                                                                                                                                   15       Chinwe went to work one day
     when the daily furniture of our lives                                           my aunts in shaded rooms,                                                                                                                You will love again the stranger who was your self.
                                                                                                                                                                            Only to find her job was gone:
     stirs, when the improbable arrives.                             screened from male visitors,                                                                                                                             Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
                                                                                                                                                                            No query, no warning, no probe –
     Pots and pans bang together                                           sorting presents,                                                                                                                                  To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
                                                                                                                                                                            Just one neat sack for a stainless record.
15   in celebration, clang                                                              wrapping them in tissue.
                                                                                                                                                                                    What business of mine is it
     past the crowd of garlic, onions, spices,                                                                                                                                                                           10   All your life, whom you ignored
                                                                                                                                                                   20               So long they don’t take the yam
     fly by the ceiling fan.                                                                                                                                                                                                  For another, who knows you by heart.
                                                                                                                                                                                    From my savouring mouth?
     No one is looking for the door.                            65   Or there were beggars, sweeper-girls                                                                                                                     Take down the love-letters from the bookshelf
                                                                           and I was there –
                                                                                                                                                                            And then one evening
     In all this excitement                                                            of no fixed nationality,                                                                                                               The photographs, the desperate notes,
                                                                                                                                                                            As I sat down to eat my yam
20   I’m wondering where                                             staring through fretwork                                                                                                                                 Peel your own images from the mirror.
                                                                                                                                                                            A knock on the door froze my hungry hand.
     I’ve left my feet, and why                                                      at the Shalimar Gardens.                                                                                                            15   Sit. Feast on your life.
                                                                                                                                                                   25       The jeep was waiting on my bewildered lawn
                                                                                                                                                                            Waiting, waiting in its usual silence.
     my hands are outside, clapping.                                 Moniza Alvi                                                                                                                                              Derek Walcott

     Imtiaz Dharker                                                                                                                                                         Niyi Osundare