not hands                                                                        

like mine

these Carib altars knew:

nameless and quite forgotten are the gods;

and mute,

mute and alone,

their silent people spend

a ring of vacant days,

not like more human years,

as aged and brown their rivers flow away.

yes, pressing on my hand,

there is an ocean’s flood;

it is a muttering sea,

here, right at my feet

my strangled city lies,

my father’s city and my mother’s heart:

hoarse groaning tongues,

children without love,

mothers without blood,

all cold and dust, nights dim, there is no rest.


mine was a pattern woven by the slave

dull as a dream and encompassed in a tomb.

now still

are the fields

covered by the floods;

and those rivers roll

over altars gone:

naked, naked loins

throbbing deep with life

rich with birth indeed,

rouse, touring to the sun

and more fierce rain will come again tonight.

new day must clean, have floods not drowned

the fields

killing my rice and stirring up my wrath?

                                                                                           by Martin Carter

Guyana reveled in the celebration of its independence anniversary with the imitation of a carnival borrowed from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; the people had fun looking elsewhere for significant cultural expressions of a Guyanese nation.

While we hasten to acknowledge that the importation of that festival is in line with the times – the march of the popular culture and cultural change – we recognise two ironies. First, 53 years ago, Guyana celebrated Independence Day in exactly the same way, with a borrowed carnival that continued annually until 1969. The nation then moved on from that, replacing it with Mashramani in 1970. But it has turned 360 degrees, to exactly where it started with an imported independence carnival. Second, we can go back 69 years to the colonial era and find true definitions of Guyana’s real independence in cultural expressions, through its developing literature in the 1940s and 1950s.  ….

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