South by Kamau Brathwaite

But today I recapture the islands'

bright beaches:  blue mist from the ocean

rolling into the fishermen's houses.

By these shores I was born:  sound of the sea

came in at my window, life heaved and breathed in me then

with the strength of that turbulent soil.

 

Since then I have travelled:  moved far from the beaches:

sojourned in stoniest cities, walking the lands of the north

in sharp slanting sleet and the hail,

crossed countless saltless savannas and come

to this house in the forest where the shadows oppress me

and the only water is rain and the tepid taste of the river.

 

We who are born of the ocean can never seek solace

in rivers:  their flowing runs on like our longing,

reproves us our lack of endeavour and purpose,

proves that our striving will founder on that.

We resent them this wisdom, this freedom:  passing us

toiling, waiting and watching their cunning declension down to the sea.

 

But today I would join you, travelling river,

borne down the years of your patientest flowing,

past pains that would wreck us, sorrows arrest us,

hatred that washes us up on the flats;

and moving on through the plains that receive us,

processioned in tumult, come to the sea.

 

Bright waves splash up from the rocks to refresh us,

blue sea-shells shift in their wake

and there is the thatch of the fishermen's houses, the path

made of pebbles, and look!

Small urchins combing the beaches

look up from their traps to salute us:

 

they remember us just as we left them.

The fisherman, hawking the surf on this side

of the reef, stands up in his boat

and halloos us:  a starfish lies in its pool.

And gulls, white sails slanted seaward,

fly into the limitless morning before us.

Kamau_Brathwaite.jpg