coolie naam dharaiya ham tej pakare
jaisan chhuri kate hamke Guyana mein aike
With this whip-scar iron shackle name Aja
contract-bound, whole day cut cane; come night he drink
up rum for so until he wine-up and pitch in
the trench’s black water and cries Oh Manager!
until sugar and pressure claim his two eyes.
The backra manager laugh at we — so come so done.
I was born a crab-dog devotee of the silent
god, the jungle god, the god crosser-of-seas. White tongues
licked the sweet Demerara of my sores. Now
Stateside, Americans erase my slave story;
call me Indian. Can’t they hear kalapani
in my voice, my breath’s marine layer when I say?
They made us hold the name coolie
like a cutlass it bit us coming to Guyana