Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism


Over heaving broad-backed
water with its reef-
bones that clattered my people's grief,

ancient wings, in widest
threshing urgency
mount with dazzling immensity.

Spirit's duty. Nestled
safely on wing-span,
glad, so glad to be going, yet sad.

Looking back, I saw them
hoist me on a cart,
raise de Massa from dust and dirt,

dangling, bloody. Soldiers
lugged him carefully
towards Great House. He clutched one knee.

April's sky was washed in
blue softness and my
flashing crows' wings contoured with light.

Mistress fled out towards
Massa, her white frilled
cotton night gown whirled and lapped

dirt. One son, now filled the
doorway, wept and wailed.
Proving manhood, the elder marched

father-ward to aid him
slowly up the steps.
Cane fronds waved as the "U" cart left.

Groaning cart-wheels found the
clearing. Even though
dead a'ready, they hoist me rough,

hard, to high mahog'ny
and doused with fuel.
Fired flesh dropped off in cindered chunks.

My head remained in place.
One raised his sword
and severed the head.

With scorn, one took it up.
They found my hut,
raised the skull on a bamboo stake

for all the crows to view.
My spirit grew
heavy. Ancestral daemons bore

the weight of my sorrow,
an undertow
sighing, breaking like water below.

Distant light had lessened,
somewhat, but I glimpsed
Nanny holding the skull. She wrapped

it slow with a piece of old
crocus like pone
draped with banana leaf. She gained

the yard. The tribe began
to swell: old men,
women, children. A surrounding brace.

I swelled again with grief.
A song's relief
reached me, joyous and sad. The bird

of spirit kept me well
informed. The full
breast of ocean; its sighing chest.

Laments, chants, were rising
prayers triumphant
over reefs of ancestral bone.

Nanny's hand then calmly
lowered my remains.
Shallow grave. The women whose names

meant good hope and courage
sustained her with song,
adding strength to her earthy groans.

And all the young men gone,
their frames like mine,
either captured or dead or worse,

near fields of waving fronds
and pasture grass,
near the thickening mounds of moss.

Beads that journey'd over
coasts in Africa,
big carnelian stars, were passed.

Cowry chain of canine
teeth, fish vertebrae,
passed with careful solemnity.

Beads of local flora.
Copper bracelet and
copper ring. A metal blackbird.

Next, the iron knife. My
old beloved clay pipe
fired to buff with a brownish slip.

Polished, smooth. No mold seam.
Kaolins were passed,
white ones; tobacco, cloth, and mats;

pots and bowls of food, all
needed in the place
watched by spirits whose backs I laced.

So Nanny'd help persuade
the aged to hug
Bussa's soul through my body, dead,

would never feel the hold
of native soil,
Nanny's love more constant than death,

she took each object with
such calm and faith,
knowing gifts would be brought for me

and passed in perfect time.
With a crane's benign
careful grace, she then arced her hand

and placed the grave supplies
with my remains,
gently, just where they ought to be.

a n t h o n y   k e l l m a n
a t l a n t a,   g e o r g i a

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Rev'd 2005/10/26