I hear youAs I follow your pageAs a child you woke to lightSplashed on walls/ceilingThat drew you to lean outYour window to face a beveled,Mirror sea held up to the planed lineOf the horizonThat line curls as your voiceJoins a queue of wavesTaking turns to stand tall,Charge the beach, crash,Tumble pebblesYour voice for a seaI wade intoDrawn out deeperBy its tug and pullUntil the tide of your voiceSoaks every poreMakes a xylophone of my ribsSpineNailsTeethTaking me back to our drive in your jeepUp a rutted trail in Jamaica’s blue hillsTo your small coffee holdingBack to your papered New York University flatAnd your return a stone’s throw from that blue-greenLightning glass ruled by eyesEarsNoseTongue of the seaHistory poetYou sing your way through timeFrom Africa to this CaribbeanBasin where some body treads the seaAnd hands beat a ribbed scrubbing boardSo your Barbados shinesBack at AfricaYour way of skipping stonesOn wrinkled water for a walkAcross the seaTo sink thoughtSpirals sent deepWhere all hearts meetSlip timeWhere tongueLipsBreathSkip now
“Kamau” from LETTERS TO AMERICA: by Fred D’Aguiar.
Published by Carcanet Press 2020.
Copyright © 2020 by Fred D’Aguiar.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Fred D’Aguiar writes poetry, fiction, plays and essays. His sixth novel, Children of Paradise (Harper, 2014), is inspired by the events at Jonestown in 1978. His eighth poetry book, Letters to America (Carcanet, UK, 2020) is a U.K. Poetry Book Society Winter Choice. His fourth play, Mr. Reasonable, was a BBC Radio commission broadcast in 2015. Year of Plagues, a memoir, appears this summer from HarperCollins.
Born in London of Guyanese parents and brought up in Guyana, he returned to the UK for his secondary and tertiary education. He has lived in the U.S. since the 90s. Currently, he teaches at UCLA where he is Professor of English.
The Poetry Book Society Winter 2020 Choice
In Letters to America the Guyanese-British poet, novelist and playwright Fred D'Aguiar has some difficult things to say. The twenty-two poems are full of lived tales and memories - of Britain, the Caribbean and the United States - and of specific and shared memory. He supplies some of the difficult detail he has omitted from earlier poems. The modern mid-city Los Angeles sun-rise we experience is a cacophony, violent and memorable music rendered in prose. The poems weave in and out of familiar forms, including terza rima, casting and breaking spells. There is peril at every turn, and opportunity.
"In parts of Letters to America, Fred D'Aguiar comes to seem like Walcott's true twenty-first-century heir ... Fred D'Aguiar has written 'a canticle of water', a book for the individual bowed, imperilled, under the wave of history — monarchical and imperial — and crying out for collective action to stop it from consuming further shores. Letters to America is emphatically worth reading."
—Camille Ralphs, Ambit