Kamau Brathwaite


Griffin Poetry Prize 2006
International Winner

Book: Born to Slow Horses

Poet: Kamau Brathwaite

Publisher: Wesleyan University Press

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.

Kamau Brathwaite reads from Kumina

From Kumina

the 21 days

on the first day
of yr death it is quiet it is dormant like a doormat
no one-foot touch its welcome. its dust on the floor
is not disturb nor are the sleeping spirits of this house

i sit here in this chair trying to unravel Time so that it wouldn’t happen twine

on the second day
of yr death. i break a small


i can still smell the sweet flour of yr firstborn flesh

on the third day
of yr death. the water in my urine turn to blood
i cover the waterfront of the mirror w/a blue cloth where yr face stood

on the fourth day
yu shd be rising. knocking at the door of
darkness. coming back to me

i do not hear yr call

on the fifth day
after yr death. a young white rooster. white white white feathery & shining tail & tall
neigbour of sound from miles away in the next village
stands in the yard & from his red crown crows & crows & will not go away

he struts round to the back-a-wall
his one eye clicking as he crows

comes to the glissen of my window & he crows
loud like the overflowing voice of my Trelawny

on the sixth day
after yr death. there is this silence of flowers
their petals say their shining needs
soft water needs

sweeet showers needs
sweet rain from heaven

i see them once again inside the chapel of my funeral

on the seventh day
after yr death. the yellow flour
in the cup-cakes in the kitchen have gone sour

there is an eye of rancid in the middle of their meal

i am unhappy like the wind & tides are restless rivers
i can’t find you. i can’t find you. i cannot cannot cannot be console to dreams

the mad dogs of the pasture kill the cock & pillage
it. madwoman wind is scattering white screaming feathers’ petals’ pedals over all
the brunt and burnin ochre-colour land

on the eiate day
after yr death
me do nothin. nothin. nothin. i can’t even get yr inglish ‘eighth’ spelt straight

on the nine /ff night
yu rise again from off the dead

i see you now & at the hour of yr o not soff not soffly dead

it is my pain it is my privilege • it is my own torn flesh torn fresh
o let me comfort us my chile • is not yr heart is broken

on this tenth day
i haffe go down to the Station today to find out
what they doin about yr det. about the ‘accident’
dem call it. bout the black-hearted man who a-kill

yu. an whe dem hide yu body
and po. lice who dealin w/ this case they cannot look me in the lips
and No One kno

whe the boy is or gone or when he will come-back
ten time dis ten dem mek me up & down & book & fourt
to fine my sun. an ten ten time dem ave no ansa for me for me for me

in dis dry-weatha tunda
dem seh because i poor & have no book to haul-out
inside dis station. an i inn got no song

to sing becau i colour in dis Marcus Garvey country proud an strong
an wrong – yu sun gone out & still you colour wrong.
inn got no i say song

i wonda whe Port Royal is. when de eart goin again goin crack

my daughta Ingriid walk beside me hurt
an strong an dress in black
her face inside she face int mekkin sport

on the tenth night after a long long distance silence
i born into this world w/ nothing but my breath & my bare back an hornets
in my chess

now i will haffe doubt if god is good & black & honesty
wha good good do fe me?
whe god dat cricket midnight criminal when Mark of god get call like dat & kill
Mark cyaan dead so if good. if god

my breath give birt to good like god
my sun dis gold is all my riches that cannot be replace
an suddenly me cannot fine him in dis place before dis good god face to face
wha good fe god. no god. what good. wha god. no god
if good Mark have no face to face dis god inside dis good god place

on the eleventh day after he dead

on the twelfth day
after yr debt – o pickney – it is as if me cyaan wake up
Time has been drain from all my clocks. the sky is overcyas & lock
altho it isn’t rainin yet


this night we hold our wake. watch w/ the spirit of my sum before his daily funeral
• people cook food bring bread & drink & there’s some singing
of the old traditions by the older folks & country citizens

but they soon fall to arguing and they soon fall down to quarrellin
about the words the phrases time & tempo of these sookey tunes
it seem they isolated in the old traditions in these coffee hills

From Born to Slow Horses
Copyright © 2005 by Kamau Brathwaite

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