Pan Session: Laventille

By Wayne Brown


The oildrums submerge. The ebbing
light bears the flotsam of faces away. Dusk
like a threshing of great wings dies
over the city . . .


The god of the surf
is silence

The womb of the wind
is silence

Indeterminate as smoke, thunder rolls from the hills . . .

Carry in your heart or whisper only:
the sun has been lost at sea.
Carry in your heart: even now
the gravedigger’s banner
hangs from the eaves.

Carry in your heart the canefield’s thunder!
Carry in your heart
those quiet seas . . .

The standpipe’s forgotten its function.
Worms play in the bucket beneath it.

Mind yuh face indoors
pickney, pickney,
mind yuh face indoors,
the moon gwine get yuh!

O hear! The city’s deserted!
O hear! The corbeau cries
“In the kingdom of carrion Corbeau is King!”
whose idling furrows the moon’s face,
who hangs free now, who is our vanguard —.

Under tides now rising
sand shifts.

The wind’s whiplash falls over the city,
the bird’s wingspan buries the city,
the moon swerves into eclipse

and Night, our village matriarch, ruffling, comes
like any empress between banks of the Nile
clogging the veins of the canals

while on the hilltop their marble Madonna,
pale as a tombstone in this night’s long forgetting,
scythes over the city, toppling,

still sorrowing
in robes.

This issue of the CRB also includes an essay by Mervyn Morris on Brown’s life and poetic achievement.


The Caribbean Review of Books, September 2010

Wayne Brown was born in Trinidad in 1944, read English at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, and thereafter lived mainly between those two countries. He published two books of poems, On the Coast (1973, awarded the Commonwealth Prize for Poetry) and Voyages (1989). His other books include Edna Manley: The Private Years (1976), a biography of the Jamaican artist; and two collections of short stories and remembrances, The Child of the Sea (1990) and Landscape with Heron (2000). Some 3,200 editions of his column In Our Time appeared in various Trinidadian and Jamaican newspapers. He taught English literature at UWI’s St Augustine and Mona campuses, and creative writing in the MFA programme at Lesley University, Massachusetts. He was the founder-tutor of the WB Creative Writing Workshop in Jamaica. He died in 2009. On the Coast and Other Poems, an edition of Brown’s collected poems, is forthcoming from Peepal Tree Press.