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Callaloo 23.3 (2000) 918-920

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The Immigrants

Norberto James

The story of their sorrow
Is not yet written.
Their old pain joined to ours.
    They had no time
--as children--
to seize between their fingers
the multiple colors of butterflies
to fix their eyes on the landscapes of the archipelago
to know the humid song of the rivers.
They had no time to say:
--This land is ours.
We'll gather colors.
Make a flag.
defend her.
There was a time
--I never knew--
when the cane
the millions
and the province with an Indian name
brackish and wet
had its own music
and from the most remote places
the dancers would come.
Because of the cane
the sea
the cold winding rail
many were trapped.
Left behind the merry flight of others
remained only the corrupted sound of the name
difficult to pronounce
the decrepit town [End Page 918]
the dusty barrio
noiselessly crumbling
the pathetic inertia of the carriage horse
the youth, clubbed and beaten
the warmth of his true country.
The ones who remained. These.
The ones with blurred smiles
lazy tongues
weaving the sounds of our language
the firm root of my forebears
old rock
where the ancient hatred of the crown
of the sea
of this horrible darkness
plagued by monsters
grows and burns furiously.
Hey there old Willy coachman
faithful lover of masonry.
Hey you George Jones
unwearying bicycle rider
John Thomas preacher.
Whinston Brodie teacher.
Prudy Ferdinand trumpet player.
Cyril Chalenger railroad engineer
Aubrey James chemist.
Violeta Stephen soprano.
Chico Conton baseball player.
I come with all the old drums
bows arrows
wooden swords and axes
painted in all colors
dressed up
in the many colored costume of "Primo"
the Goliath carnival dancer-nurse.
I come to write your names
next to the others
to offer you
this land, mine and yours
because you earned it
by our side [End Page 919]
in the daily struggle
for bread and peace
for light and love.
Because every day that passes
every day that falls
upon your tired worker's salt
we build
the light that you want for us
we secure
the possibility of the song
for all.

Translated by Beth Wellington

Norberto James's poetry and non-fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. In addition to poetry, he has published Un estudio sociocultural de dos novelas dominicanas de la era de Trujillo: Jengibre y Trementina, clerén y bongó (1992).



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pp. 918-920
Launched on MUSE
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