National Anthem / ian gregory strachan

I

this is the song
of my islands

pleasure house of venal gods
stomping ground of gangsters
house of the somnambulists

this is the wail
of my islands

these atrophied islands

slave blood and crab shit
mingled and smelling
on the dock side—

my islands
my sacred and
sacrilegious place
of being,
of self and
self de-selftion

my I-lands,
place of the pink sand
and dead smugglers
place of picky heads
and fat Bay Street bosses

a song of my islands
a whale
a dead seal scrolling
a search for a shack
in the middle
of the bushes

a quest for names
we like more

God’s blue eye
seeing us
struggle

seeing us
trying
to
remake
ourselves

again.

This is the song
of my drylands

paradise for
plantation
bullet for
bottle
hamburger for
hominy
.
.
.
II

this is the wail
for my I-lands

mangrove and marsh
lake and swamp
pine forest and coppice

this is the song
for my drylands

army of lizards
battalion of stray dogs
palace of termites
guerrilla racoons
.
.
.
III

one hundred years ago
from this spot
a painter with a poet’s name
caught a coconut frond
in the wind and
brushed the white lighthouse

ebony Apollos,
romantic savages,
flexed and fished
on his canvases
while darkie boys
dove for coins and
ran races for
white bosses

now the lighthouse is
red and white, but
from this spot the
wind still holds
the coconut frond
between its thumb and
forefinger

and cruise ships
pass between the tree and
the lighthouse, depositing
pale discoverers
all in search of Eden,
a smiling mammy or
black cockslinger
.
.
.
IV

this is the wail
of my islands

these atrophied islands

God’s blue eye
seeing us
struggle

seeing us
trying
to

remake
ourselves

again.

•••

Reprinted with permission from Ian Strachan’s Silk Cotton Soul (Cerasee Books, 2006)

Ian Gregory Strachan is the author of several plays, including No Seeds in Babylon, Fatal Passage, and Diary of Souls. His other works include the novel God’s Angry Babies, the academic treatise Paradise and Plantation: Tourism and Culture in the Anglophone Caribbean, and the documentary Show Me Your Motion.

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