as in raggamuffin, raggasoca, ragga ragga music
that music with the deep rough beat
raggamuffins, them youths by the street corner
with they eyes like fire
angry, hungry, greedy
but never nobody.
Ragged and lean, they want.
Out of shreds they make
Ragga youths like seeds
sitting on pieces of themselves
Ode To the Gulf of Paria
The body craves water.
clear to fathoms.
The white boat a gull flying on the surface.
I am haunted by you here,
where the North Sea roars black and cold.
Still it is the mother of you,
child-ocean dressed in your play-clothes,
emerald, turquoise, sea-blue,
harborer of dolphins, mermaids,
and my tiny water-baby self flying,
swimming, forever dreaming.
Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days.
- Bartolomé de las Casas, Account of the Devastation of the Indies (1552)
Their people came in boats across the ocean, from the cold lands far north. Kihuan remembered when the gods came in ships, pale and white like ghosts with terrible eyes. They gave them gifts, beautiful beads glittering like jewels, soft fabrics and a fiery drink that made their men wild. Then they saw the gold in their noses and ears. Where? They smiled and her ancestors, who had seen wolves, would have known those smiles. She knew now that they were not gods, only greedy sick men, their sickness fanned outward into their skins.
They were doomed now, she knew. They kept running, away from the paths, in the general direction of the mountain, Tucuche. They were going to the home of the golden tree frog to ask for guidance; it might be that he would not let them find him. No one had ever seen him but they told of him in stories, how he had once warned the hummingbird people before their village was swallowed up in mud. They didn’t listen and there was now no trace of them, it was as if they had never existed. But she was avoiding the problem in her mind. She had to save her village and it didn’t matter anymore whether she was Arawak or Carib, her mother was one, her father the other and she must help them both.
Their bare feet followed the dark underbrush of the forest naturally, not missing a step. Below the canopy here it was cool and dark, pierced through with rays of light in places where the leaves thinned. They kept alert for snakes but they would hardly be abroad during the daytime. Her brother Turanok ran easily at her side and questioned her no more. It was strange enough that she could fight and shoot. How could she not, with the blood of her father, kassequa, chief of their people, in her blood?
If only Huracan would smite them with his storms! Huracan one-legged of winds and lightening would destroy their ships and houses. But it was too early in the season for that, and that would mean their village would also be destroyed. But then it was destroyed anyway if they did not kill the Spaniards, the terrible not-gods, the sick ones. Tucuche rose like a rocky, tree-covered thumb amidst the northern range and all around the sky soared blue and clear. Away north the sea washed onto shore in waves of green and blue like foamy kisses. The winds were calm today; it was a good sign for their expedition. It meant blessings from their land, Iere, land of the hummingbirds.
Whirlpool off the Coast of Gasparee
Me, Luke, Neil, and skinny Mark perched on the cliff
trying to fish but they would never come to
that dark whirling pit of black water
no safety harness here, if one of us fell in he would
never have the chance to scream before disappearing
it was like a giant washing mashine, the one your mother
throws clothes so savagely into, except how could she have
known her child might be one day so thoroughly cleaned
so completely erased?
So we perched there for a while,
gripping the black cliff,
staring into the Devil’s maw
and finding no fish
trekked back to the house for lunch.