Tall Palm Tree
Editor’s Note: Following on the reprinting, in last week’s Stabroek News, of Rupert Roopnaraine’s essay on the late Philip Moore (which will also be forthcoming in Roopnaraine’s latest collection of essays with Peepal Tree Press, In the Sky’s Wild Noise), this week’s column carries a poetic tribute to Philip penned by elder Eusi Kwayana.
How do we remember Philip? In a powerful line in his poem, and as a reminder of the sad consequences of the divisions we still live in today’s Guyana, Kwayana urges us to settle for judgments coloured, not “by the patron’s mood”, but rather by the bright, unforgettable and expansive palette of Moore’s spirit-scapes.
There have been calls, and rightly so, for the meditation museum that Philip Moore dreamed of to be brought into existence. Others have also appealed for his earthly remains to be laid at Seven Ponds. Where our artists are concerned, it has to be said, it is a sad comment on our Caribbean (Moore is not the first in this regard) for us to rush to honour those who have given their life’s work to our region after they have passed, but not while they have walked among and with us.
The proper tribute will come through the psychic recognition that is the most revolutionary, that respects no divisions and that apprehends with love, joy and humility the gift that Philip Moore has bequeathed us all. Through his deep and internal meditative journeys, that ‘ancient African soul in a modern body’ that walked this earth for 90 odd years, shared himself without privilege or exception.
Tall Palm Tree by Eusi Kwayana
Human Star, shining in the east
above the basin of two rivers
lighting your native land
Reading up to recent times in your bed
you fell asleep
humanly speaking, but in your creations
you are wide awake
keeping the wisening world aware.
Your Mother, Blessed Orintha
Has a bosom for your cotton –haired, woollen head to nest
Though they lay your African body at the Seven Ponds
May they allow something of you
To rest in Lan-Liv-Man, the village Trinity
One Icon at Babu John
and at Lan–liv-Man
With a mere five miles between
This is good for Corentyne
And they abound!
Some play music and some cricket
Things people live by.
Early enslaved Berbicians
Alarmed the hemisphere
Challenged the Netherlands
in 1763 the first, fierce, fiery, frontal fight
that brought the colonial Ogre, who scorned Peace,
to his knees;
and they prevailed just short of one year in unequal contest
Shaking empires, only put down by bloody warships
You, Philip, carved their Memorial
And many of us, fools, reviled you
Since all judgments are coloured by the patron’s mood
Always your world was wide
You left Sugar cane field for Land of Canaan, the Jordanite purgatory- school
To purge flesh and leave spirit pure;
Once a novice
Now you have left us Prophecy in Wood
and visionary Word
baffling professors at learned Princeton, where you, a guest, sowed seedlings
You named the long despised race “Souls in African bodies”
An expansion of your west evangelical pilgrims faith
New key to Respect for humankind
Key to that universal Essence
Challenging the Universe of hypocrisy
Who would not hear your softly -spoken syllables.
You taught “God – Manliness” as your higher creed
Mystic, Sage and Maestro.
In Wood, of all the beauties and utilities
The similes and stories of your Muse
You left us Lady Guyana, in her agony;
Still, still, beautiful Philip,
Still in needless, wasting
And with her as though because of her pain
Maternal deaths and miseries for her Kind
and the dumbing down of voices is in course
but your drums roll and waken
the dead in spirit
O Berbician, O human Star!.