Indo-Guyanese Women Poets

Mahadai Das

They Came In Ships (1976-1977)

They came in ships 
From far across the seas 
Britain, colonising the East in India 
Transporting her chains from Chota Nagpur and Ganges plain. 
Westwards came the Whitby 
Like the Hesperus
Alike the island-bound Fatel Rozack. 

Wooden missions of young imperialist design. 
Human victims of Her Majesty’s victory. 

They came in fleets of ships. 
They came in droves 
Like cattle. 
Brown like cattle. 
Eyes limpid, like cattle. 

Some came with dreams of milk and honey riches. 
Others came, fleeting famine
And death, 
All alike, they came —
The dancing girls, 
Rajput soldiers — tall and proud
Escaping the penalty of their pride. 
The stolen wives — afraid and despondent.
All alike, 
Crossing dark waters. 
Brahmin and Chamar alike. 
They came 
At least with hope in their heart.
On the platter of the plantocracy 
They were offered disease and death. 

I saw them dying at the street-corners 
Alone and hungry, they died 
Starving for the want of a crumb of British bread 
And the touch of a healing hand. 

Today, I remember my forefather’s gaunt gaze. 
My mind’s eye sweeps over my children of yesterday 
My children of tomorrow. 
The piracy of innocence. 
The loss of light in their eyes. 

I stand between posterity’s horizon
And her history. 
I, alone today, am alive, 
Seeing beyond, looking ahead.

I do not forget the past that had moulded the present. 
The present is a caterer for the future. 
I remember logies 
Barrack-room ranges 
N-yards. (make a note about the editing here)
My grandmother worked in the field. 
Honourable mention. 

Creole gang, child-labour —
Second prize. 
I remember Lallabhagie. 
Can I forget how Enmore rose in arms
For the children of Leonora?

Remember one-third quota
Coolie woman. 
Was your blood spilled so that I might reject my history?
Forget tears in shadow — paddy leaves. 

Here, at the edge of the horizon
I hear voices crying in the wind. 
Cuffy shouting — Remember 1763. 
John Smith — At least, if I am man of God, 
Let me join forces with black suffering. 
Akkarra — I too had a vision 
Before I lost it. 
Atta — in the beginning, I was with the struggle.
And Des Voeux cried
I wrote the Queen a letter
For the whimpering of the coolies 
In their logies would not let me rest. 

Beaumont — Had the law been in my hands. 
And the cry of the coolies 
Echoes around the land. 
They came in droves 
At the door of his office 
Beseeching him to ease the yoke off their burden. 
And Crosby struck in rage 
Against the planters 
In vain
He was stripped naked of his rights 
And the cry of the coolies continued. 

The Commissioners came 
Capital spectacles with British frames 
Consulting managers 
About the cost of immigration. 
They forgot the purpose of their coming. 
The Commissioners left, 
Fifty-dollar bounty remained. 
Dreams of a cow and endless calves 
And endless reality, in chains. 

Militant (1976-1977)

Militant I am 
Militantly I strive. 
I want to march in my revolution, 
I want to march in with my brothers and sisters 
Revolution firing my song of freedom. 
I want my blood to churn 
Change! Change! Change! 
We are the army. 
We are the people. 
We are Guyana marching for change. 
This revolution’s banner is clasped by our hands. 
This revolution’s banner will march through our feet. 
This revolution’s banner will march through our feet. 

Singer I am
Singing I strive. 
I want to sing my country’s revolution 
I want the notes to climb Pakaraima’s peaks, 
Spread like her stars o’er Kimbia’s peaks, 
Grow, like seeds, in our people’s hearts. 
I want to sing
I want to sing 
I want to sing my country’s revolution. 

Writer I am
Writing I strive.
I want my words scorching pages
Burning tongues 
Panging my people’s servility. 

My Finer Steel Will Grow (1982)

My heavens are hailing upward tonight. 
The felled star is like a dagger
stuck deep in my heart. Anon. I am gone. 
There is no place to rest 
My accidental head. 
It is a dog’s life. Today there are no bones. 
Yesterday there were too many. 
The common fleas irritate my hairy nape. 
My legs are poles the world 
cannot  keep upright — they 
dare not fall through
My paws trace out this path 
of death too often that I smell. 
My snaky hunger obsesses, 
My red-eye rage, 
apoplectic , twists my growling gut. 
the day will come when the sun 
will shine its brazen face 
upon my heart, gone dark
like night and rotted blood. 
I will drown my fleas or the river 
choke me to death. They pound 
like a carpenter gone 
beserk; hammering 
rains the bullets 
on my back. 
Whilst the hammering arm 
in rhythmic falter flags, 
my finer steel will grow. 
My heaven. 

About Mahadai Das

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