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Zea Mexican Diary

7 September 1926—7 September 1986

Kamau Brathwaite

Publication Year: 1991

In May of 1986 Edward Kamau Brathwaite learned that his wife, Doris, was dying of cancer and had only a short time to live. Responding as a poet, he began “helplessly & spasmodically” to record her passage in a diary. Zea Mexican is a collection of excerpts from this diary and other notes from this period of the Brathwaites’ lives, and few who read this book will fail to be caught up in the depth of Edward Brathwaite’s grief. Zea Mexican is a tribute to Doris Brathwaite and an exploration of the creative potency of love. (The title comes from the name Brathwaite gave Doris, who was originally from Guyana of part Amerindian descent.) Exposing the intimacy of his marriage, this book is the closest Brathwaite has ever come to an autobiographical statement. In examining his life with Doris he found the courage to reveal something of his own character. But, more than an autobiography, Zea Mexican is an extraordinary work of literature, much of it written in the expressive “nation language” of Jamaica and the Caribbean. Brathwaite filters his pain through his poetic gift, presenting it to the reader with all the poignancy poetry conveys.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Foreword, Acknowledgements

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pp. 2-21

Table of Contents

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pp. 9-23

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pp. 11-12

When EKB came face to face with the unimaginable news 26 May that his wife Doris Monica was terminally ill he started an ms diary which he kept helplessly & spasmodically until she died on her birthday 7 September after which to the...

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The Second K'un

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pp. 13-14

The first line, divided, shows its subject with bare buttocks straitened under the stump of a tree. He enters a dark valley, and for three years has no prospect (of deliverance) The second line, undivided, shows its subject straitened amidst the wine and viands, There comes...

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I. Irish Town 1

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pp. 15-34

...The Third Day after the News. It is five in the early morning, end of May, the month of my birthday* Dawn light about to come. Bird caUs thru the rain [This was the time of the ~ flood-rains that claim ed a dozen lives in Jamaica 6 $miUions in property dam age. We could...

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II. Irish Town 2

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pp. 35-54

Mary hapes far a miracl.. But there is na such thing as 'hapeful error' in scientific medicine. But I went along wi her until this morning when I woke up with my mind at the deathbed (or nearly) & dlen coming back up here alone & wondering what to do w' her clothes & imagining...

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III. Mona

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pp. 55-80

[Sad lovely Sunday, quiet here on campus at Mary's old wooden house, w' bright sun & some wind. But it is the quiet that I love. Reminds me of Mile & Quarter days. Today is her birthday. 60 years!! No one will ever believe that! Looking...

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IV. Middle Passages

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pp. 81-104

Tonight - at midnight just before midnight) Me~can died - peacefully, thank God I was not there Had gone to Irish Tn to finish Jab Music 6 her Bibliography It seems that around 10 o'clock she woke up 6 asked to sit in a chair. Her breathing, which Mary had said she...

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V. Letter to Zea Mexican

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pp. 105-124

Tomorrow afternoon I'll see yr face for the last time see you for the last last time I really can't imagine that, you know From the very first I saw you I knew . I was certain. And I have always been secure w' you. Standing near to you at Mother's funeral when I didn't...

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VI. Ayama's Letter

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pp. 125-142

...[But she did not, my love. The circle knew its curve, was coming round w/ verve & confidence & the 'completion' was it seemed another thirty years away. The tragedy for me & if you will allow what some people will call 'arrogance' - 'what right have you to arrogate such high importance...

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VII. 'The working Muses...'

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pp. 143-154

I twas AJS, [then over 70] & himself married to Elma for 45 yrs] who best, as poet to poet, spoke to me about the meaning of the loss of the poet's wife & the threat...

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VIII. This obeia business

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pp. 155-168

What worries me right now is the oppression of soul that I feel when I go up to Irish Tn Which is why I have cried out for company Someone to share the space to tell me it is my imagination. Insanaliy & Cynthia (& they both...

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IX. Letters to Mary Morgan

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pp. 169-186

In all cultures, in this day & age, I shd have thought, there are ceritain customs connected wI family SUPPORT & community SUPPORT & LIFE! not DEATH support! helping towards the light if not ensuring continuity and making it possible, surely, for the blood to flow again thru...

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X. Epigraph

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pp. 187-192

takes one look at this irie dahta of Guyana then visiting Barbados April 1960 and married her by May. She trekked with me to Ghana of that year, whirling, I remember well, in a blizzard of golden bees near Navrongo: dash-way the head tie, a passing herdsman yelled: the cloth around her head was damp with moisture in that desert; the thirsty buzzings needed itl climbing the sun/day...

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XI. The Tulip Tree

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pp. 193-208

...The tree planting (there were some scares &; breakdown hitches) after all went well, thank God. Started off, as you might xpect, feeling v upset Went first for the poor tree which had languished all night in the cold (one of the problems/hitches) then passed for Bev who said vite Miss Mac which put a further ...

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XII. The Awakening

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pp. 209-214

One late afternoon I drove Aunt May & Dream Chad up to HardWir Gap & the Park up there Looking across from W1.ere ~ ~re there WiS a valley & beyond that on the same level...

Other Works in the Series

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pp. 217-231

E-ISBN-13: 9780299136437
E-ISBN-10: 0299136434
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299136406
Print-ISBN-10: 029913640X

Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 1991