Ancestors Say Goodbye

The boats’ BOOOOOOOOOM
in the bay bounced off mountains,
joined ancestral voices:

Dey leavin,
dey leavin de bush,
dove siesta lullabies.

Dey leavin sweet potato
to rooting pigs,
yams to run wild.

Dey leavin ajoupas
in cool valleys,
shacks clinging to hills
above seaside fishin towns.

Dey leavin the city bazodee
wid chantin poitiques,
wid traffic rumblings an dust.

Wey yuh goin?
Wey yuh goin?
Came de ancestral voices
like wind through
poui and poinciana.

Wey yuh goin?
Wey yuh rushin to?
Buh dey dohn look back at de lan.
Dey leavin wih ruction
in dey head.

Lan weepin,
crapaud in de house,
in de dark under de bed;
cat gorn,
dog stray.

Buh wey yuh goin?
Wey yuh goin, leavin happy rain,
days wash clean,
days bright wid sun?

Wey yuh goin after all dem years
growin up wid breadfruit
and roast saltfish?
I tellin yuh, yuh go miss
yuh limin,
yuh bacchanal.

Wind, like it malkadee,
rushin across de Atlantic,
pushin water into hills, shiftin
shiftin into movin gullies.
Wind wild, wild
wid more power
dan de obeahman.

De Empire Windrush
like it too-tool-bay,
lurchin like a jack mule on de ocean,
sailin one side of de Slave Trade Triangle.
Wind loud loud like it vex;
buh dis time, no dead cargo
to feed hungry sharks.

Dis time, dey on dey feet
dancin on deck,
singin sex rhythms,
bush rum visions in dey head.

No more ketchin we nenen, dey say.
Opportunity,
opportunity
In de mudder country.


from Voices from a Silk-Cotton Tree (Smith/Doorstop, 2002), © John Lyons 2002, used by permission of the author

Recordings

John Lyons

John Lyons Reading from his Poems

1Chickichong

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2Madbull Kite

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3Grown Away

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4Skin Skin, Yuh Na Know Meh

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5Not Every Old Woman is a Souyouan

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6You Not A Soucouyant

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7Soucouyant On Bonfire Night

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8The Tamboo Bamboo Band

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9Gru-Gru Beff

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10Bobolee

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11Great-Grannie Mammie’s Sunday Food

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12Hauling in the Seine

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13Bonito in the Night

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14Fish on the Menu

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15King Fish

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16Jumbies

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17When Mum Switches on the Dark

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18Carnival Jumbie

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19The Climbing Skeleton

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20I Love Chicken Roast

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21Witch Ghost

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22TV Alien

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23A Room in the City

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24In a Welsh Cafe

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25Grandpa Dolphus

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26Terre-Animus

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27Hauntings

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28My Praying Mantis

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29Mantis

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30Z Sprittle Lepidopterist

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31An Iguana Chase

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32Mongoose

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33Pig’s Boast

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34My Dog Named Woopsin

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35Kisskadee Bird

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36Ancestors Say Goodbye

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37Christmas Come-An-Gorn

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