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The Ark

For Stephen Samuel Gordon: Spaceape.

 

Sun Ra was on the ark. Prince Nico Mbarga, he was on the ark. So was Art Taylor and Sonny Simmons, and Bessie Smith and Superblue, all on the ark and Joe Tex and Mitty Collier, Leon Thomas and the Roaring Lion, even Robert Aaron and Lou Ciccotelli were abdominally on the ark. The Original Defosto himself was also on the ark, beat rivers of song upon the omele drum, just a cutlass carpenter, no skill with timber, four eyed fish were on the ark. Who playing war and fraid blood? Who playing mas and fraid powder? Who prevaricate and ruse, throwing holi powder as ritual upon the ark, but don’t want ink or powder to touch their clothes? Who else was on the ark? Max Roach was on the ark, and Ras Shorty I and David Rudder, Belafonte and Dolphy, them was high up upon the boat. Babatunde! was on the ark, Olatunji! mama drum, say you coming to come and you never reach, as far as the leader house, his records and sawed off speaker box, to boom dub roots all around the village – bachelor life – and then you hear he bulling some woman in the congregation, and the shepherd sanding crook-sticks and tapping his foot when the hymn swing, but is suffer he suffering in silence, because while he in church, his woman horning him with the leader, and he don’t need to be a see-er man to see, make him burn his own house down, his hand was good, he was on the ark. Bheti was on the ark, and Vino in pyjamas, the wild moon, fever in his throat. Performance poet and Stand Up Comic, both were on the boat. And the ark was full, but more was to come and they coming still. Ethel Waters was on the ark, Octavia Butler, hip good, up upon this boat. Slinger Francisco, robed in African wax print and dancing as man, Eric Williams, dead and living same time, also wrapped in kente. Larry Lee, masked and southern drawling, Fats Waller, Art Pepper, Miss Bobbye Hall, Gang Gang Sara, blown from Guinea to Les Coteaux Tobago, who climbed the great silk cotton tree in Culloden with intentions to fly back to Africa, but fell to stony death because she had eaten salt, she was on the ark, as was The Mighty Spoiler, The Mighty Terror, The Mighty Broclax, in proper soft pants, dead or living among the dead, as taxi driver or stevedore, leaning into a cacophony of whores. Pharoah Saunders and Yusef Lateef, Eric Roach was on the ark, his book of poems still warm, under his arm, he did not drown, at least not deeply, and when the ark had two days to go before it reach Southhampton, here come John La Rose and Charles Mingus, here come Paul Robeson and Beryl McBurnie, even Olive Walke would rode upon that ark. This was years long since the firearm ban, when the river washed down and cleansed the city, and who eh drown waterlogged, and who eh dead, badly wounded, and the devil come down with his escort and chariot to survey the land, and found poor folk had hidden in holes in the earth and barrel sealed shut with laglee sap from the breadfruit root and drowned: stupid-stupid. The poets had hid in trees. And the devil rode on, and the houses of prime minsters were burnt to the ground, and all round the embassy route, those grand facades and remnants of colonial times, were volcanically cast to ash and plundered. And the devil moved west, he was looking for that long throated woman who after making love one morning ventured him up to the hills overlooking the city, behind the bridge and the quarry, where his navel string bury, and show him his own city, laid out like a map before him, its grids, lay lines, the white foam foaming at the coast, so he went knocking at discotheque doors, but she was long gone upon the boat, with candle wax gripping her praying hands, making necromancy. Jan Carew was on the ark, and Dominique Gaumont, as was Milton Cardona and Rosetta Tharpe, Odetta, C.L.R. James, Kemal Mulbocus, but not Kamau Brathwaite, he was not on the ark, instead Baba, the great teacher had evaporated into air, into language, into sound, into the very sex fruit of poetry. Oil does not dry upon his tongue, nor honey on the tips of his fingers. But Spaceape was there, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Stephen Samuel Gordon was upon the bow. And the ark drove down to Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester too, it swooned to Alaska, New York, and Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, New Orleans see it too, come now, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, Suriname, you bound to roam. Look, it pass through Aruba, Trinidad, and Grenada, it gone up the Orinoco river, and it never wear neck tie yet. It come up from the southern Caribbean all the way up to Pascagoula Bay. Yes, Spaceape was on the ark –

blowing

the big

ABENG!


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is a British/Trinidadian poet, novelist, musician and academic. His latest volume of poetry is Rubber Orchestras (Salt, 2011) and his latest album is entitled Caribbean Roots. He is a Colm Tóibín Fellow at The University of Liverpool.

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