First Green

Staceyann Chin
b. 1972


Earmark me images
speckles pretty
with the tears of a child

open windows and summer
ominous air-marked with the first green

over-turned poems
mouths tinkling humor

pages rustling
sensible shoes

they unwind me
orange and gray laces

you/me entwined/separate
ice cream hinting the weather

may soon be

Black Woman’s Love Song

Elean Thomas
1947 – 2004


I sang you love songs
as they dumped us

amongst the cockroaches and rats
in the hole of the slave ship

I sang you love songs

when in that stinking hole

I helped you keep alive

for the new world fight to come

I sang you love songs
when they had us
on the auction block
and took you east
dragging me north

I sang you love songs

through my cries

of pain

begging you

please don’t ever forget


I sang you love songs
when they took me
for their concubine
and took you
for their stud

I sang you love songs
even when I ceased
to be their concubine
but you couldn’t stop
being their stud

I sang you love songs
when the backra-massa
threw us off our land
paid for

by our sweat and blood

I sang you love songs
when you said
‘if we can’t beat them
join them’

and took up with the backra-missis

I sang you love songs
when we got our heads

demonstrating for the right
to speak to strike
to politicize
to organize

I sang you love songs

when you cried upon my breast

and I rubbed healing herbs

into your wounds

us both


that my own insides were torn
and shredded with wounds

I sang you love songs
when we took up arms
against the enemy
to reclaim our dignity

I sang you love songs
even as you disclaimed
our child

conceived from your hasty seed
shot into my womb
on a one-day furlough

I sang you love songs
after the war

when we worked together
to rebuild a whole people
and a free country

I sang you love songs
when you said

I was no longer bright enough
or good enough
to attend the State dinners
you were now being invited to

I keep singing

love songs
even as hate songs
threaten to smother
my very soul

I sing you love songs

so you can understand
that I want you
beside me

Singing me love songs too.

Praise to the mother of Jamaican art

Lorna Goodison
b. 1947


She was the nameless woman who created
images of her children sold away from her.
She suspended her wood babies from a rope
round her neck, before she ate she fed them.
Touched bits of pounded yam and plantains
to sealed lips, always urged them to sip water.
She carved them of wormwood, teeth and nails
her first tools, later she wielded a blunt blade.
Her spit cleaned faces and limbs; the pitch oil
of her skin burnished them. When woodworms
bored into their bellies she warmed castor oil
they purged. She learned her art by breaking
hard rockstones. She did not sign her work.

Welcome, Welcome, Brother Debtor

Francis Williams
c. 1700 – 1770


Welcome, welcome Brother debtor;
to yon poor but merry place,
Where no Bayliff, dun or setter,
Dare to show their frightful face,
But kind sir, as you’re a stranger;
Down your garnish you must lay
Or your coat will be in danger
You must either strip or pay.

Ne’er Repine at your confinement
From your children or your wife,
Wisdom lies in true Refinement
Thro’ the various scenes of life
Scorn to Show that least resentment
Tho beneath the frowns of fate,
Knaves and beggars find contentment,
Tears and cares attend the great.

Tho’ our Creditors are spiteful
And restrain our bodies here,
Use will make a Gaol delightful
Since there’s nothing else to fear,
Every Island’s but a prison
Strongly guarded by the sea,
Kings and princes for the reason
Prisoners are as well as we.

What was it made great Alexander
weep at his unfriendly fate?

Twas because he could not wander
Beyond ye world’s strong prison gate,
The world itself is strongly bounded
by the heavens and stars above,
Why should we then be confounded,
since there’s nothing free but love.


We present this work in honor of the 30th anniversary of the poet’s death.

M.G. Smith
1921 – 1993


I saw my land in the morning
And oh, but she was fair,
The hills flamed upwards scorning
Death and failure here.

I saw through the mists of morning
A wave like a sea set free,
Faith to the dawn returning,
Dark tide bright unity.

I saw my friends in the morning,
They called from an equal gate:
Build now while time is burning
Forward before it’s late.