Grace Nichols, Guyana
Por: Grace Nichols
Praise Song For My Mother
water to me
deep and bold and fathoming
moon’s eye to me
pull and grained and mantling
sunrise to me
rise and warm and streaming
the fishes red gill to me
the flame tree’s spread to me
the crab’s leg
the fried plantain smell
Go to your wide futures, you said.
Hurricane Hits England
It took a hurricane, to bring her closer
to the landscape.
Half the night she lay awake,
the howling ship of the wind,
its gathering rage,
like some dark ancestral spectre,
fearful and reassuring:
Talk to me Huracan
Talk to me Oya
Talk to me Shango
my sweeping back-home cousin.
Tell me why you visit
an English coast?
What is the meaning
of old tongues
in new places?
The blinding illumination
even as you short-
into further darkness?
What is the meaning of trees
falling heavy as whales ―
their crusted roots
their cratered graves?
O why is my heart unchained?
Tropical Oya of the weather,
I am aligning myself to you.
I am following the movement of your winds
I am riding the mystery of your storm.
Ah, sweet mystery,
come to break the frozen lake in me,
shaking the foundations of the very trees
Come to let me know ―
That the earth is the earth is the earth.
Statement From The Empire State Building
Still stately standing (thank God) ton on ton
Still intact with the image of my clinging Kong.
Part of this lego-dream of gold and dark ―
Times Square; Madison Square Garden;
Brooklin Bridge; The haunting voice
of that busker’s song drifting out
below the girders into the Hudson;
and all eyes returning to me like moths
now that the twin-kingdoms have gone.
I hold each flame-lit window they beat
against ― a miniature Fort Knox.
But tonight, tonight, the crescent new moon
so close beside my antennae’s pulsing star
stirs me down to my steel bones,
its ancient cryptic formation
awakening in me a thirst for desert.
Now I’m as light as a buoy
dragging my bedrock-roots across the ocean ―
reaching out and art-deco hand
towards the minarets of those mosques;
enquiring if they too quaked when terror rained
its righteousness from our planes?
O to be a ship
on this night of crescent moon and pulsing star
sailing far – from earth’s tragic empires.
Advice On Crossing A Street In Delhi
Firs take a few moments to observe
the traffic’s wayward symmetry.
While contemplating wheels of mortality,
note how whole families on motorbikes
dart daring within the shifting shoal
of the cacophonous river.
Surely if they can, you too can
weave a quick trajectory
So go ―
at the first signs of a small break
with a great faith and a great surrender.
If stranded in the middle of the road
become a sacred cow with gilded horns
adopting the inner stillness of the lotus posture.
Let honking cars, rickshaws, lorries,
swarm or fly around you.
You are in the hands of the great mother.
The thing about India maybe
is to get the rhythm right ―
this rhythm that will change the way
you cross a street forever.
The Children Of Las Margaritas
The children of Las Margaritas
in the State of Chiapas are dancing,
but who are they honouring,
hands raised towards the heavens?
Is it the rain-god, Tlaloc?
Is it Mary of Jesus?
Is it the goddess of the ripening
Like their ancestors before them,
who have themselves become deities
through their suffering and dying –
the children of Las Margaritas
in the State of Chiapas are dancing;
have entered the dance-
They are dancing for freedom, for bright
They are dancing for justice, recompense
for old and new violations.
They are dancing for themselves,
here, on this plateau, with the rains
drifting down from the mountains.
There is something
about Sugar Cane
He isn’t what
he seem ―
and sheathed in blades
His waving arms
is a sign for help
His skin thick
only to protect
His colour is
the aura of jaundice
when he ripe
when it rain
from belly work
burning fever and delirium
smashing him to pieces
Growing up is an art
he don’t have
any control of
It is us who groom
and weed him
who stick him
in the earth in the first place
he growing tall
with the help
of sun and rain
We feel the need
the life out of him ―
But either way he can’t survive
the earth ―
in his name
he cast his shadow
to the earth ―
the wind is his only mistress
I hear them moving
in rustling tones
She shakes his hard reserve ―
caressing all his length
I crouch below them quietly.
The Fat Black Woman’s Motto on Her
IT’S BETTER TO DIE IN THE FLESH OF HOPE
THAN TO LIVE IN THE SLIMNESS OF DESPAIR
Grace Nichols (born 1950) is a Guyanese poet who moved to Britain in 1977, before which she worked as a teacher and journalist in Guyana. Her first collection, I is a Long-Memoried Woman (1983), won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. She has written several further books of poetry and a novel for adults, Whole of a Morning Sky, 1986. Her books for children include collections of short stories and poetry anthologies. Her latest work, of new and selected poems, is Startling the Flying Fish, 2006.