May 2, 2008

"Bob Marley's Dead" by Rachel Manley

Rachel ManleyRachel Manley was born in Cornwall, England in 1955, daughter of an English mother and Jamaican father, the future Prime Minister, Michael Manley (in 1972-1980, and from 1989 until his retirement due to ill-health). At the age of two she came back to Jamaica and was thereafter brought up by her grandparents, Norman Manley, PNP leader, Chief Minister of pre-independence self-governing Jamaica, and Edna Manley, outstanding Caribbean sculptor and patron of the arts and literature in Jamaica. Rachel Manley has written a most moving memoir of these years in her Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood (1996), which won a gold medal in the Canadian Governor-General's Literary Awards.

Rachel Manley attended schools in Jamaica and took a BA at UWI, Mona. From this period on, writing poetry was her major preoccupation, first publishing Prisms in 1972, an artistically designed pamphlet printed in Jamaica, with illustrations and printed in green. This was followed by Poems 2, printed in Barbados in 1978. Her poems were also published in Focus and The Greenfield Review. She was the editor of Edna Manley: The Diaries (1989).

Her first full length collection of poems, A Light Left On was published by Peepal Tree in 1992, to considerable praise. At the heart of the collection are a series of poems which mourn the death of the grandmother who had raised her, who died in 1987, and to her grandfather, who had died in 1969.

Rachel Manley is the mother of two children. She has lived in Toronto for some years.

Bob Marley's Dead

(For Drum)

The moon is full

heavy yellow

Marley's dead

and there is prophecy


Jah is singing on the moon

and all our pain

is like the shadow of a branch

across its face;

it's not the King who lives

long live the King

it is the Kingdom lives

My island is a mother

burying wombs

I rise, at my beginning

the squalor

the flower

The moon is dread

she bleeds

Marley's dead

and there is prophecy

The Kingdom lives

a heart of drums

a small town throbs,

we have begun

the phoenix

from a mulch of bones

I rise beyond

a fantasy

I wake

I break faith

with the white dream

The moon is black

my mother sings with me

Oh Marley's dead

and there is prophecy.

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