Pilate / elvis alves

“Now he knew why he loved her so. Without leaving the ground, she could fly.”
—Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon.


The men and women who live in the commune are ital.
They do not eat salt.

There is the shared belief that eating salt makes the body
heavy, preventing it from flying back to Africa, the land of
Black gods and ever-living ancestors.

In the bottom of slave ships, black men and women of different
tribes and tongues spoke a common language of suffering
and impending rebellion to each other.

Massa head ah go’h roll” was the common slogan amidst
cries of pain caused by pressure of chains around ankles, wrists,
and necks.

The gods do not sleep. The human will to survive is not weak.
African slaves found ways to get out of chains and not be prey
to white predators.

Their voyage was not maiden. Some refused to stay on board, jumping into
waters that will forever bear their souls.

Others arrived on shores whose inner lands were already stained by the
massacred blood of innocent Carib Indians.

Free spirits running into the wild. Free spirits running wild.
The Maroons, The Maroons “Da ah wha we are.”

Episode 1: “Brudda, Brudda, leh me in.” A runaway African slave begged.
No was the answer. He killed himself on the way back to the big house.


Drums too are in the blood where their beating competes with
that of the heart, making the latter stronger, more able to repulse
evil forces.

Runaway African slaves carried beliefs with them to the safety of
the woods as they sketched war plans on matted hair.

How many animals need sacrificing before the gods are satisfied? None.
Rebellion is not prayed for. It is a given; always within and simply needs
expressing outwardly.

No leader needs anointing. Everyday a Moses is born. Sista Harriet
waded in the waters of Jamaica before crossing over to America.

Come leh we canga li.” A Papaloi named Boukman prayed.
The machetes-ready black masses walked to the plantations
to set their fellow brothers and sisters free.


Episode 2 (dialogue): “Me ah look fo’ Pilate.
She deh in de ‘special house.’ Time ah de month.

Ithiopia continues to stretch forth her strong, black hands;
forever willing to gather her children home. Yes, Ithiopia’s
hands are that of a nature motherly in essence.

For now, the Rasses, residents of the contemporary commune,
burn incense, smoke ganga, and pray to Selassie while
Pilate sits in the “special house.” Her power is too powerful.

Was Marley, like Muhammad, the last prophet? Come
out, Pilate, and sit on your rightful throne. Life is too
precious to have flown out of you.

Or have you prematurely achieved the objective of not eating salt,
causing your rebel soul to fly back to Africa too soon?

A black woman shall lead them. Wake, Pilate, wake, for you are
our Boukman in this new century.


Elvis Alves was born in Guyana and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His poetry has appeared in the Caribbean Writer, Small Axe Salon, Colere, Magazine De La Mancha, First Reads, and other journals. He lives and works in New York City.