From Me to You: Folkways by Edward ‘Kamau’ Brathwaite


I first fell in love with Edward Kamau Brathwaite when I was in College. I didn’t like poetry, I didn’t like Caribbean poetry. I thought it was tedious and very heavy. I thought it was just too much Afro-centricity!…It was a drag, people talking about our struggles, slavery etc, it was  hard to digest…so I blocked my mind and avoided poetry esp. Caribbean as much as I could. Then came college and a course called Caribbean Literature…

…We had to do select our favorite Caribbean Poet, find one of his/her poems and analyze it…I found Folkways by Edward Brathwaite.

To be honest, the thing that got me about this poem was the word ‘fuck’…I was intrigued that such a poem so, raw and passionate exists. I began to dig a little deeper, reading as much as I could find. It was then that I was taken out of my narrow mindedness and into the world of poetry, real poetry, not the roses are red crap.

Folkways is a powerful poem that focusses on the struggles and frustrations of black men, it will get you…

…So without further ado, here is my man…Kamau Brathwaite!…

I

I am a fuck-
in’ negro,
man, hole
in my head,
brains in
my belly;
black skin
red eyes
broad back
big you know
what; not very quick

to take offence
but once
offended, watch
that house
you livin’ in
an’ watch that lit-
tle sister.

My puffy pink-
faced sin-
ful palms
are hands
that hit
hard, hold no
futures.
The precious life-
line readings there
outline no
ready fortunes.
Just hard hands,
man, spade hard
and licensed
with their blisters.

I am a fuck-
in’ negro,
man, hole
in my head,
brains in
my belly;
steel
hits the rock
and the borad blade
shivers, eye
sockets bulge and
burn with the
shock, sweat
silvers the
back until I feel
bad, mother, I feel

like the sick
dog kicked from the
garbage, the snicked
hawk gripped in its tightening circle

of air.  This is the hate
that makes my skin
stink, gives me my body
odour.  And I feel

bad, mother, I feel
like a drum with a hole
in its belly, an old
horse lost at the hurdle.

But don’t touch
me now, don’t hold
me; for the good
God’s sake, if you scheme-
in’ now to relieve
me now, to sweet
talk me now, to support
me now, just forget

it now, please forsake
me now.  Just watch
me fall in the mud
o’ my dreams

with my face in the cow-
pen, down
at heart, down
at hope, down

at heel.

But bes’ leh we get to rass
o’ this place; out o’ this
ass hole, out o’ the stink o’ this

hell.

To rass
o’ this work-song singin’ you singing’
the chant o’ this work chain

gang, an’ the blue bell

o’ this horn that is blowin’ the Lou-
ee Armstrong blues; keep them
for Alan Lomax, man, for them

swell

folkways records, man
that does sell for two pounds ten.  But get
me out’a this place, you hear, where my dreams are wet

as hell.

Hope you Enjoyed 🙂

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