Martin Carter was the National Poet of Guyana for three decades. I recently picked up his selected poems on a visit to the Guyana Book Foundation. This poem gave me pause.
Being here I’m still in the moment and in the experience of it all and I feel like language hasn’t quite formed yet. I’m still asking myself what I will make of this time here. The other day while journaling, this poem arrived:
I’m an outlier.
I come from outliers.
Fathers and mothers, the line is long and stands out.
Those who are deadbeat and beaten dead and those who made it with make-do and sou sou, the pooling of pennies make this great stew.
All those bodies who coming, who burst into their own light to make life and lay limp with their shell shards around them.
Those who pace like a weasel in its own stench and shit and no where to run in a cage no spine can stand tall.
Here on the margins where the bread is buttered with margarine and the cow is ceremoniously killed–there is no gin to turn our tongues to truth, these scheming outsiders, slick hair-dos and naps that empower our fists, in anger and beauty.
I am one of those sweaty faces in the kitchen proud to put the elbow grease in the pepperpot.
I am that lineage of crust used to wipe the plate clean, where trust gets thrown in the eye like dust kicked up from the road side, carried into the home, and we strip off our skin just to be human again, just to lay the burden down.
Where what is earned has been worked from stolen hands, drown hands, bodies surfacing from dark waters that took daring to cross.
To cross ourselves in sentences that mean no kind of English in our mouths, and still we seek a salvation that reminds us that we are not good for this here God.
I’m from another dividing line for which I want out, for which I can do away with honey, for which tea can be bitter to guarantee one less extinction.
So a water lily can open to the moon and never beg to be a flower.