January 30, 2006

Happy Birthday, Andrew Salkey

Andrew Salkey’s, Breaklight introduced me to the work of many Caribbean writers and gave me the inspiration to broaden the scope of my writing. Salkey was a fine poet, essayist, and journalist who wrote against injustice and sought to preserve "the small flame" of Caribbean writing.

I was nineteen years old when Breaklight was given to me by Sonia Jones, a friend of mine, who wrote, “I hope that reading these will bring you joy.” Twenty-eight years later, they still do.

Give thanks.

After the War on the Land In Memory of Victor Jara
By Andrew Salkey

Should you ask me where I come from, I must talk
with broken things,
with fairly painful utensils, with great beasts turned to dust as often
as not and my afflicted heart.
-- Pablo Neruda

The skin of sand and gravel in the cities and countryside
shivered, because it had been, for far too long, pierced
by the quick chainsaw slashes of juddering Sherman tanks,
by the vulturous generals in mufti and a secret police
in snugly-fitting disguises, with a northern licence to act;
and so they all did, as the republic retched in disgust.
The hunched workers and spavined peasants duly endured
their grapnel shoulder-yokes and staggering fatigue,
until their lives were caught on snags of dread and despair.
Where were the blossoms of expected rosy times and ideals?
Where, the halcyon nest of hush that soothes spiky anguish?
Where, the salvation signs across the prophetic Andean sky?
Now that the years of trampling and butchery have withdrawn
their highly polished jackboots and accurate meat-hooks,
and the new vote has cut the abundant waste of citizens,
the cannas and marigolds will blaze, street by street,
and branch and brandish freedom, fiercely, Victor,
all the way down the ribbon of your southern landscape.

Source: Originally published in the September/ October 1993 issue of Boston Review


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