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Passages: an African experience of the kiaspora.

Many times man lives and dies Between his two eternities, That of race and that of soul (W. B. Yeats, "Under Ben Bulben")


Where the skull leans eastward to form a continent, where the ocean guts through the palmbeached rock,

the blood is drawn seaward toward the starved shark waters where people bellied in ships across the grey-mouthed Atlantic.

Crusted under plaques, stitches of nailrust, bilgewater mixed with the tongues of Akan, Mandinka;

Benin, a dream in the iron summer. Their voices take root, inhabit our dreams, fall

out of the Great and Living unconscious Amenta. Listen, you can hear the sea ache, the memories warm.

Children's shackles keep them on walls, their stomachs filling with air, rotting millet. They lie or stand,

pears growing brown, heavy with indigestible prayers for salvation above the mute mother's unbelieving expression.

O lost and spidercrossed ancestral germination. The sea belches in through the carved windows, salts

the opened cut. Blood and rot iron clot near the veins. Time marks itself in deaths, finds a rhythm

in the trumped and arcane religion that develops like an embryo unraveling its name. Voudon is coming. The acrimony of welts,

footbones, crushed extremities cooks in the meat of voices, noise. In the winter crossing the canvas blades

into ice. On deck shooting into the underside of heaven the mast slickens with oil, hardened grease.

History, the survivor, marries these waters. The dead minnow down past seaweed, past Bullhead, down to where

the mother of pearl finds her element. Others, ancient, robed in the green that sways below the deepest

level tidal pool draws in the voyagers. Sharks know the smell. Young males, diseased ones, weakened

lungs go over the side. The wooden bowels of The Charleston head for Rio, Port au Prince, somewhere to the north.

Out of nowhere seagulls apostrophe the sky. There's the smell of toilets from inland waters, then Carolinas breathe into the casket of survivors;

The Charleston moves to it, beaches on shore. Now terror takes a quantum leap, the profits are counted. Dark fist, dark water,

inescapable coma of grief, estrangement. O hemorrhaging birth from the first sea. Caves and mirrors in backforest greet

our completion. Owls, newts make a welcome. Between the scythe and the cane, between the rootwork and perdition,

the roots urge. The Yam re-grows, the languages hibernate, the heart takes on the sinew of dreamwork, sweat.

Here in the aberrant thirst of afternoons as the wind coaxes the earth to seed, teases it up with barley,

cotton, tobacco letters that write across the split, fragrant gases of the strange-tongued earth

in delicious smells the hurt, the love, the intimate exchange of root, desire in plant and men

that begins to imitate the shade of laughter, hope, grows toward the thorn-stretched spiritual.

With time another cataclysm breaks. A civil war; the air electric with bullets, fire sucking men into eternity, jewels

and horses scattered in explosions, everything a hammer with obvious intent. Still the earth multiplies by Spring. The afternoons

are almost ours. We pulse toward other centers in the manic-depressive of years, capital. It was as this

before. The migrations spreading out like legions of Ibis birds over the Nile River. The carved religions, the intimate features broad, smooth

as an ebony icon. The Diaspora, a common occurrence, the collective dream of blood and dynasty, recapitulation.


Because the moon's hard light is bisected by radar, Because the souls of past racists are liberals, Because cancer is plagiarizing the hysteria of tuberculosis, Because madness is the narcotic of power, Because Black feet clap the broken streets of glass and oil, Because cars compete with coffins for what most of us will inherit, Because time and appetite eat my memory, Because children thigh into the future surrounded, indelible, Because this voice survives the metropolitan ironies, the blister of shopping malls, Because heroin supports the C.I.A., Because I know fusion and dissociation while loving the middle, Because someday I will die and not understand why, Because every year small war grows on small war, Because poetry is an expedition for the wild metaphor, Because my blood lifts into the ocean, carrying the Ages before, after me, I wonder what dream loosened from the nerve of God carries me, tooth-broken, stunned, to this shore.


The climacteric of the sea groans over Jamaica, the mangos yellow, spot-green the picnic table. Trees painted backleaning

balance off the whitecaps, aquamarine champagnes over Black Rock. Here the clouds imitate the migrations of fish drifting, corrected, across the abyss.

The rain is hardly noticed. I am with you, closer than saline and air on this Caribbean phalanx of sand, coral-grist.

The gravel beneath these seats is the outpost of ants in a One-thought civilization; the Chameleon dinosaurs through their bark, stubble land.

Tropical rain sexualizes the flora, small blue flowers colonize the terrain. A stray dog of 8 tits bovines to my cottage, green

memorizes to where the horizon passes. The Rastafari hook their words, combine religion with Ganja smoke, the eccentricities of God.

Across the bay near a slap of grass A mare, her foal, keep the cycle; hunger is a cousin you always expect. The Rastafari balance this with tools,

music. Even the Ackee yellowing through bush is spirit, anima to those who can perceive it; schizophrenic or maelstrom for the germinal sea.

The brine takes an edge off Coralita, makes the smell ease through tree, thicket. Two fishermen oar out, their variation on the theme.

I am with you in Manhattan, Rio, wherever the blackhawk kites the wind, wherever there is time, the memory of traveling, the lost

tribe and self breaking on shore. The New Babylon ruined on this archipelago pulses reggae, Jah blood up the gulf. Haile Selassie

dreams deeper than peace. The Lion of Juda, a dissipating God, eaten by weather, grown weak with laws, disappears, returns, a tidal underflow.

I am with you here in cycle, casaba moon, palmbeached rock. I reach the coconut, open its milk, the skull is discarded, the salt digests.

Edward Bruce Bynum, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and Director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Health Services. He is the author of four texts in psychology, most recently The African Unconscious (Columbia U-Teachers C P, 1998), and two volumes of poetry, The Dreaming Skull and Godzillananda (Brutal Swan Press, P.O. Box 3121, Amherst, MA).
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Author:Bynum, Edward Bruce
Publication:African American Review
Date:Mar 22, 1999
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