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Let Me Discover Myself and other poems

Let Me Discover Myself and other poems
Twelve poems by Saint Lucian poet and Industrial Relations Specialist George Goddard, who published his first collection of poetry Interstice in 2016, as part of World Poetry/Prose Portfolio [WPP], curated by Sudeep Sen

Let Me Discover Myself


(English translation of “Lésé Mwen Dékouvè Mwen “ by the author)

The white cedar’s in bloom, profuse 
with little flowers,
its blossoms so like a perfume on the air,
a swallow sings a song in the forest
its song so soft and toned with gold;
and in the forest, by the rivers, we listen
we drink in
all these intrinsic experiences of earth;
let us stop then for a moment
let us linger a while longer
don’t be too quick to rise up, to leave
to run away
stay a while and listen…slowly…slowly

Give me some flowers blossoming in the cedars
give me little wild berries
bursting forth in the forest
inebriating, soothing me with peace;
give me rivers, clear runnels
whose waters come from the hills and from
high-peaking mountains
and at the riverside wild pigeons stopping to drink
water from the clouds and the high places.
Let this water touch my tongue too
let me speak words like pure, shining gems
and as words unfold on the tongue
let me shout at the water’s edge and on hills
let me discover myself, at last.   

*

Lésé Mwen Dékouvè Mwen


Pòwyé ka fléwi, ka chajé plizyè ti flè
fout sé flè-a konm an pafen an lézè,
iwondèl ka chanté an chanson dan léfowé 
afòs chanson-i telman dous é doré;
é an léfowé, obòd la wivyè, nou ka kouté, nou ka bwè
toutsa èspéwiyans natiwel di latè;
alò, lésé nou pozé pou an ti mouman
kité nou tadé timyèt pli lontan
pa tròp pwésé pou lévé, pou alé, pou foukan
rèsté annékout ...lantman...lantman

Ban mwen dé ti flè ka pousé asou pòwyé
ban mwen dé ti fwi bwa gwiyé ka
boujonen dan léfowé
ka soulé mwen, ka soulajé èvèk lapé;
ban mwen la wivyè, wavin klè,
ki sous dlo yo sé lé mòn é montany ka pitjé ho, anlè
é asou bòdaj la wivyè lé ranmyé ka pozé bwè 
dlo lé nwaj é lé hòtè.
Lésé dlo sala touché lanng mwen osi
ban mwen palé dé mo pawòl konm dé bijou kléwant é pi
é konm la pawoli ka déwoulé asou lanng
lésé mwen anndjélé bòdaj dlo é asou mòn
anfen lésé mwen dékouvè mwen.


Through A Window


From here hills fold one into another
green into smoke of distant grey;
the aloneness of our distance wraps around me 
like this Monier mist in January;
a mobile phone on the breakfast table 
does not bring back the hot touch of flesh,
your fingers on my cheek, on my chest
the nipples at the summits of your breasts.
It was here at the top of the world
that I would slip from the highs of pulsing nipples 
to nestle between your thighs, naked,
unfettered, in the blitheness of youth.
Our hills were unending folds of emerald haze
beneath whose sheets an island moved to the poetry
of a rhythm so free as to be singularly
you and me.  And the small hours would slip 
under cool cotton uncovering the simple lusts
that moved us: from these heights we thought, “how deep!”

And then on a morning like this one
I woke and you were gone.  I stared through 
a latticed window, through the mist;
the year had begun with the January rain
and I was thinking I’d begin again
where hills recede indistinctly to the past
and earth ends offering up in the blue air
the incense of an unbelieving prayer for the soul, ethos
of an island people slipping away from us:
you somewhere in the diasporic wind, 
and me remote in hand
still wanting somehow to hold on.

Morning Coffee


Morning coffee
takes me back 
to the archives of my childhood
my grandmother
her dibélwè
constant as her morning prayers
brewing café nwè
from home-grown coffee beans;
waking us at 5
when the feisty scramble 
for mango la rose,
mango dou-i-dou
had ended with their season
and there was no reason
to jump out of bed
but morning coffee...

This morning
I am drinking
Nescafé.


Cinquante Pas du Roi


A moon rises red on late hills stained
as the conscience of a generation – eyes open
mouths clammed in terror, mute 
at the slaughter that dragged this economy
this peripheral petit pays, cowed to the market

A moon rises, its stains sweltering blood of canes 
cooled to granules of profit too plethoric to count
escaping gnarled fingers of banana valleys clawing
groping to get out —  
their despair the blood of many moons, the starved blood of canes
running away through veins of rivers, mud red
to bays estranged from their beginnings;
bays that float white ships that come ashore claiming
step by step les cinquante pas du roi
over and over, like the waves
that forget the rhythm of ancestral canoes,
that wince at the feel of our footprints on native shores,
that unravel the melding of our peoples’ paths
to assert again les passe droits of an empire’s feet;
les cinquante pas du roi, over and over
repeat like the waves...

Terse Note in August...


Between Monierand a skyline’s shards of sea 
the green burst of hills in August;
weeks ago only, the russet abstinence of lent
burnished the land with a wistful beauty – 
there is no season without beauty here!
And yet there’s an unsettling trepidation
with the coming of the rains interspersing
flamboyant reds and yellows among reds and blues
and other hues of roofs:
the middle strata have burgeoned up the midriff 
of these hills so quickly, suddenly
as shorn deciduous brown explodes to green,
its shrapnell startling the touterelles coupling here
and with this, the decoupling fear
that they may be gone – irretrievably,
in not so many seasons from this one.

Les Raconteurs


Like a tamboureur, palms on goatskin
the spirit of centuries thundering
in a strange possession to his heart

The chanterelle under a trembling moon
the lightening rod of a thunderstone 
touching her tongue

A séance, rhythms of body, rhythms of sole
telling a griot’s tale of savannahs
stretching our imaginings to pounding shores

Like a tassa drum speaking the language 
of many leaves in the wind
catching the orange fire of sunset

In the saffron softness of robes
offering libations of the Ganges
at the sandaled feet of forced exoduses

To these islands of thundering water.

Here, master potters that we are
we craft a work conceived in the womb
of continents and born to the gods of these islands 
of the sea

More beautiful than Iliad or Odyssey
a narrative on our tongues
that does not speak with the tongues

Of Europe, or Asia or Africa
but in all these tongues; and yet in new words
that are ours. And the music…

En savannes La Carrière, Giltonn à sur tambour,
Silou Sumayah ka chanter enbas la lune
an ancient voice on the tongue of a Fond d’Or wind.

Twanblann Tè 


(tremblement de terre, ou la séisme)

I

The earth trembled beneath Port Au Prince
and his faith in the Saints and the Spirits of his Ancestors trembled
then fell, unnerved, among the rubble and the dead
and trembled again…

II

In a city where the dead do not rise,
les zombis notwithstanding,
and the stench is insufferable and suffocating
the living must rise from the rubble and the dying of a quake
whose aftershocks transcend two centuries
that bespeak the oppression of empires
that have denied them the hand of brotherhood;
aussi bien l’égalité et liberté.
Here, where stars have stripped the hills
of the green beginnings of clear rivers
whose stripes uncoil now, in snakes that flail
with the brown venom of floods,
hope ebbs like blood on screaming earth.

III

Agony
of living death through a loud chasm;
a black hole lost among white stars
to the blue-dark, engorging abyss of 
market economies
are no myth.
No myth, the machetes of les macoutes
spilling the blood of all their Saints 
(Toussaint to Aristide’s faithful)
in a long, long age, shaking faith and drowning the red earth of soul.

Still, the living rise from the hopelessness of their dying…

Mangue Pont
(Kwéyòl: Mango Pon)


You’re not eating Graeme, its sterile seed 
scooped out for artificial vanilla ices
savoured on “plantations by the sea”

You’re biting deep
into amply flavoured, natural, elongated
Mangue Pont — 
not a hybrid or grafted
not genetically altered by food conglomerates
who grow money on trees

Just grown in the backyard in La Retraite,
Monchy, Canaries where they are gathered
by children whose joy is in them (every morsel,
mouth-dripping and yellow flesh); gathered
by women who take them to the market on Friday

For us
who sink our teeth into palpable flesh of islands
deep
down
to living
seed.

Eternal Word!


To betray philosophy is the gentle treason
of poets…” — Walcott

Iguana in the crackling underbrush that 
suddenly ignites an emerald furore of hills 
after rains that end the long days of dearth and drought,
after a season of lingering doubt,
will refresh this page; must catch again, strangely
in the rain, an allure of the word 
efflorescing in youth
yet not arrogating to my pen a search for truth – 
a search for being consumes this page.
Calm yourself, calm the raging in your head like 
the raging of a highway going nowhere 
threatening a lizard’s fragile wilderness; or
a raging that explodes from the box into which
they have forced you while they exhort you
to think “out of the box”.
A raging that confounds
disingenuous catch-phrases, buzz-words,
the carefully spun images, the postulation
that being is that which we perceive – when
my only truth begins with you:
I recall now, a long-gone April, 
our flying the ungridded skies of a boy’s forgotten kite,
an untamed coast, the tearing wind, haze
recalcitrant on water, and you
stubborn and resolute, eternal Word.

Oklahoma


In red autumn the Oklahoma plains are plain
and featureless
grey trailer houses inflict the landscape
with an uneventful sameness
until, suddenly, you come upon that part of town
with fingers of manicured gardens
and driveways that roll softly to discreet façades 
of houses outside of which you see no one.
Firs along languid streets smell like damp carpet.
Miles from here, past a city just waking
the bowed fossils of bison grazing on a prairie’s last stand 
before it withers into history, are an anachronism.
This has to be what is left of the place in the song where buffalo roam
and curious meerkats startle the furtive grass 
along a boy’s way home.
In childhood I wondered about this:
how does a boy of eight
for whom an island circumscribed by mountains is the universe
conceptualise this?
Further on where hills rise distantly
and a river falls to eternal death or glory,
to the far thunder of memory, we visit a museum – 
Pat and I. We are reminded we are aliens estranged
among immigrants whose patrimony is 
that they pushed Geronimo over these falls
to a glory recognised after all
in the muted thunder of memory – only;
these images of Sauteurs!
A people’s story, a fossil framed in a gallery.
Now Pat and I are here in the autumn of our years,
our summer having gone so quickly.


Clear Water


That they have bequeathed us the leisure to
smell the flowers,
to explore in symmetry and perspective the soaring flight
of supercilious hawk
and how it perceives the world from heights
of need not exhilaration;
and they have given us the word  
that we may be, that we may exult
as the masterpiece exults in the beauty 
of his creator – a mirror image in clear water;
that they have condescended to invest us
with their humanness is frightening!

Frightening because
in antithesis to this narrative
of being, of their word defining – us,
our frailties, faults, culpabilities 
and grudgingly sometimes, our beauties,
there is Sesenne; and Silou, unsung but
a voice ever in my memory, always as
the wind through a corridor, through scrub
through ageing coconut palms, from Fond d’Or.
The voice rising lithe on a goatskin’s throb
was ours – always ours, always…

In the beginning was our word
and yet we spoke their word, in ways that were ours,
because before their word there was always 
the Word, our word

You see, their word was the serpent’s speaking
with honeyed venom from a tree of knowledge
from which we dare not choose – and yet we chose
life in the burgeoning flowers, the fruit elating 
from branches, branches etching the calligraphy
of hills, hills reaching up to clouds
that burst earthward in pure, unadulterated water,
Guillen’s water, clear water mirroring
our image in its imperfection  — 


NOTES:

Morning Coffee
 L.5 “dibélwè”, Saint Lucian French Kwéyòl for traditional coffee maker. Also Kafétyè.
L.7 “café nwè”, literally black coffee but refers here to traditional ground coffee. Also “café moulu”
Ll. 11-12, “mango la rose”, “mango dou-i-dou” two of the many mango varieties common in Saint Lucia

Les Raconteurs
L.26 “Giltonn”, he was a traditional drummer in the community of La Carrière, Dennery, Saint Lucia from which the Author hails. “Silou Sumayah” was a traditional singer (chanterelle/Chantwèl) of Afro-East Indian decent whom he accompanied at traditional kont sessions or séances. She is also referred to in the poem “Clear Water” by the author.

Oklahoma 
L.28 “Sauteurs”, cliffs in Grenada, Eastern Caribbean, where a number of indigenous Kalinago people were said to have leapt to their deaths rather than succumb to enslavement by European settlers. 

Terse Note in August
L.13 “touterelles”, also “toutwèl”, Saint Lucian French Kwéyòl for the dove species “Zenaida a. Zenaida”.

Clear Water
L.16 “Sesenne”, Dame Selipha “Sesenne” Descartes, Saint Lucia’s officially recognized cultural icon, traditional chanterelle/chantwèl and “Queen of Culture”.  

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