Remembering Martin Carter (1927-1997)

Celebrating Martin Carter, indubitably Guyana’s greatest poet of the 20th century (7 June 1927-13 December 1997)

Remembering Martin Carter (1927-1997)

I mind as if yesterday
has become today
in the leaps and bounds
of tomorrow’s trials and tribulations
holding a flagrant torch with hands up high
remembering Martin Carter
in the hoist of a dream
crackling true turbulent colonial waves
head above rising tide
leaving blood and sweat and tears
in the tabloid of our hearts.

Leonard Dabydeen

Special poem (Like) by Martin Carter

I Come from the Nigger Yard of Yesterday

I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
leaping from the oppressors’ hate
and the scorn of myself;
from the agony of the dark hut in the shadow
and the hurt of things;
from the long days of cruelty and the long nights of pain
down to the wide streets of to-morrow, of the next day
leaping I come, who cannot see will hear.

In the nigger yard I was naked like the new born
naked like a stone or a star.
It was a cradle of blind days rocking in time
torn like the skin from the back of a slave.
It was an aching floor on which I crept
on my hands and my knees
searching the dust for the trace of a root
or the mark of a leaf or the shape of a flower.

It was me always walking with bare feet
meeting strange faces like those in dreams or fever
when the whole world turns upside down
and no one knows which is the sky or the land
which heart is among the torn or the wounded
which face is his among the strange and the terrible
walking about, groaning between the wind.

And there was always sad music somewhere in the land
like a bugle and a drum between the houses
voices of women singing far away
pauses of silence, then a flood fo sound.
But these were things like ghosts or spirits of wind.
It was only a big world spinning outside
and men, born in agony, torn in torture, twisted and broken like a leaf,
and the uncomfortable morning, the beds of hunger stained and sordid
like the world, big and cruel, spinning outside.

Sitting sometimes in the twillight near the forest
where all the light is gone and every bird
I notice a tiny star neighbouring a leaf
a little dropp of light a piece of glass
straining over heaven tiny bright
like a spark seed in the destiny of gloom.
O it was the heart like this tiny star near to the sorrows
straining against the whole world and the long twilight
spark of man’s dream conquering the night
moving in darkness and fierce
till leaves of sunset change from green to blue
and shadows grow like giants everywhere.

So I was born again stubborn and fierce
screaming in a slum.
It was a city and a coffin space for home
a river running, prisons and hospitals
men drunk and dying, judges full of scorn
priets and parsons fooling gods with words
and me, like dog tangled in rags
spotted with sores powdered with dust
screaming with hunger, angry with life and men.

It was a child born from a mother full of her blood
weaving her features bleeding her life in clots.
It was pain lasting from hours to months and to years
weaving a pattern telling a tale leaving a mark
on the face and the brow
Until there came the iron days cast in a foundry
Where men make hammers things that cannot break
and anvils heavy hard and cold like ice.

And so again I become one of the ten thousands
one of the uncountable miseries owning the land.
When the moon rose up only the whores could dance
the brazen jazz of music throbbed and groaned
filling the night air full of rhythmic questions.
It was the husk and the seed challenging fire
birth and the grave challenging life.

Until to-day in the middle of the tumult
when the land changes and the world’s all convulsed
when different voices join to say the same
and different hearts beat out in unison
where the aching floor of where I live
the shifting earth is twisting into shape
I take again my nigger life, my scorn
and fling it in the face of those who hate me.
It is me the nigger boy turning to manhood
linking my fingers, welding my flesh to freedom.

I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
leaping from the oppessors’ hate
and the scorn of myself
I come to the world with scars upon my soul
wounds on my body, fury in my hands
I turn to the histories of men and the lives of peoples.
I examine the shower of sparks the wealth of the dreams.
I am pleased with the glories and sad with the sorrows
rich with the riches, poor with the loss.
From the nigger yard of yesterday I come with my burden.
To the world of to-morrow I turn with my strength.
Martin Carter


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