THE BARBICAN SONGS
'Everything round me torn out by the hurricane
And out of me torn by the hurricane leaves and idle words'
-Leopold Sedar Senghor
There is a tree replete with thorns
Standing on the hill
Between our circling houses,
No one climbs, no one tries
The prick of the safe Thorntree.
I have watched that tree grow corpulent
From year to year to and heard
How fleshbirds croak on it and fart
Their excess to the winds.
There was a tree, the legends say
Strong and straight beyond compare;
This tree with not a wisdom tooth
Took humble root with other trees
Flowering like a girl in the rainforest-
Until a giant evil eye
Roamed and lighted on the tree
And out came murder like an axe
And felled the straight-strong tree.
Still, riffs of rain translate our past to us
And the winds are tongues possessed by history
Fluent like rivers that never dry
Loading our secret places with phrases
Transmuted by time.
This is the camel continent
The gourmand-fecund land that sired us
The fecund-gourmand all-mother we suck.
Lailo. A lone gong,
A lone flute that plays the never-ending note,
A lone voice, shrill and clear
Calling back ancestors to the market- square.
Lailo, that one gong,
That one gong is my guide,
In the season of sappers
When shrapnel shatters Sunday peace.
Monday is a joke.
What defence we have is hid
In notes of gong and flute.
The part of me that sings
Shall cross the dunes with a hoard of mellowed songs,
The tramp within my bones
Shall summon steam to sail these broad reserves of earth.
These parts of me that hope and trudge shall haul my burdens
To the promised land; if it takes forever-the revenant parts of me
Shall journey till the landing on those infrangible shores.