National Poetry Month with Chabuca Granda!

María Isabel Granda Larco (3 September 1920 – 8 March 1983), known as Chabuca Granda, was a Peruvian singer and composer. She was a trailblazer as a woman lyricist and composer, drawing on Peruvian Criollo music, as well as Afro-Peruvian rhythms, which were much devalued in high society of Lima at the time. It was a world which was plagued (and continues to be) by racism and classism toward Indigenous and Afro-descended peoples while highly dependent on their labour, particularly domestic labour provided by women workers who are often racialized as non-white. In this song, Chabuca shows her continual break with convention by centering the experiences of a working class woman and her labour. Enjoy some poetry put to music and sung by one of Peru’s most noted singers of the late 20th century!

Maria Lando by Chabuca Granda, Peru

La madrugada estalla como una estátua
Como estátua de alas que se dispersan por la ciudad
Y el mediodía cánta campana de agua
Campana de agua de oro que nos prohibe la sóledad
Y la noche levanta su copa larga
Su larga copa larga, luna temprana por sobre el mar

Pero para María no hay madrugada
Pero para María no hay mediodía
Pero para María ninguna luna
Alza su copa roja sobre las aguas…

María no tiene tiempo (María Landó)
De alzar los ojos
María de alzar los ojos (María Landó)
Rotos de sueño
María rotos de sueño (María Landó)
De andar sufriendo
María de andar sufriendo (María Landó)
Sólo trabaja
María sólo trabaja, sólotrabaja, sólo trabaja
María sólo trabaja
Y su trabajo es ajeno

Blood Moon, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2022

Maria Lando, Chabuca Granda, Peru, Trans. Kaushalya Bannerji

Dawn breaks, exploding like a statue,
like a statue of wings scattered
All through the city
And noon sings like a bell made of water
A bell made of golden water that forbids loneliness
And the night lifts its large goblet,
its large goblet, large, an early moon over the sea

But for Maria there is no dawn
But for Maria there is no midday
But for Maria there is no moon
raising its red goblet over the waters

Maria has no time to raise her eyes
Maria ,to raise her eyes, broken by lack of sleep
Maria, broken by lack of sleep ,from so much suffering
Maria, from so much suffering, all she does is work

Maria just works and works,
Maria only works,
and her work is all for another.

A Groundhog Spring! Haiku

This spring, the second of the covid19 pandemic, is another lockdown. I remember my fear and isolation during the first one, the first stay at home order I had ever experienced. I am grateful that I am able to be out in sun, sitting on my balcony and enjoying the calls of the birds. The cat is also filled with alertness and enjoyment from her whiskers to the tip of her tail! Birds, she feels, call to her! Sometimes she chitters back.

Easing back into the blog, I’ve made up for the Haiku challenges I’ve missed on Ronovan Writes. Here, I’ve written around the words suggested for the past three weeks. I hope you enjoy these new shoots of poems!

Dawn, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

swift/ branch

Chirping, spring perches
on branches bare of verdant
bloom. swift, full throated.

fleas/ sneeze

When fleas sneeze rats might
scurry. plague upon both their
nations! leave us be!

comfort/ erupt

Oh comfort erupts
when sun’s days grow longer yet
shadow lies above

Poetry for the Peeps! Georgina Herrera

I’ve been a bit slow on the translation front. I’ve been working on a selection of poems from Cuba’s Georgina Herrera. This writer really captivated my interest when I was studying in Cuba for my doctoral research. Her slim paperback volumes were on display at UNEAC in the Vedado and my favourite poetry bookstore in La Habana, Fayad Jamis, in old Havana. Here is a latest attempt from me!

Pajaro Amarillo

El pájaro amarillo vuelve a la rama verde

Ha regresado

el pájaro amarillo.

Tendido

más que posado está sobre la rama verde.

Semeja un cajigal que trina y se alza desde

uno a otro sitio.

El pájaro amarillo es una flor insólita,

un sol que se estremece

y cabe entre mis manos.

Deja en mí

no sé por qué, este pájaro,

un gozo inacabable.

Suave, entonces, me llenan unas ganas grandes

de verlo así, posado siempre

sobre la tristeza de todos, como

está ahora,

en mi corazón y

allí en la rama verde.

Yellow Bird (Trans. Kaushalya Bannerji)

The yellow bird returns to the green branch

It has returned

the yellow bird.

Perched more than posed on the green branch

She seems a conquering Cajigal that trills and flits

from one place to another.

The yellow bird is an insolent flower,

a sun that quivers and fits between my hands.

It leaves in me,

I don’t know why, that bird,

unmeasurable joy.

Softly, then I’m filled with great desire

to see it again, posing always

on the sadness of everyone, just as it is now, 

in my heart and 

there on the green branch.

(The name Cajigal refers to a Spaniard who subdued Venezuela among other places in the early 19th century. Wikipedia says, “In 1819 he was appointed captain general of Cuba and oversaw the restoration of the Spanish Constitution of 1812 in 1820. That same year he resigned due to health problems and retired to Guanabacoa, where he died in 1823.” My friend tells me that in her family, her Spanish Cuban grandmother used the word to mean a chaotic place. Further, many speculate it may be a species of tree deriving its name from an Aboriginal, perhaps Taino, language. I have picked the Governor’s name as it seems in keeping with Herrera’s theme.

Poetry for the Peeps! Adam Zagajewski

I’ve been away from the blog for nearly a month this time. I’ve been grappling with flares of chronic health issues and also been feeling somewhat disheartened by the announcement of a surge of covid-19 patients where I live, the increasing shuttering of small businesses, the business as usual approach of capitalist warlords, the rise of tent cities in the parks around me and an ad-hoc business model of health care and public health management. It’s been hard to feel hopeful!

Meanwhile, the restrictions that exist are ludicrous and haphazard. Young people’s mental health has been seriously affected in Canada. Statistics show an increase in the demand for services with regard to mental health support. Insomnia and other problems are on the rise. Lone individuals are experiencing unprecedented isolation. All of these issues are having a huge psycho-social impact. It’s a time for this poem by Polish poet Adam Zagajewski (1945-2021).

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

BY ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI
TRANSLATED BY CLARE CAVANAGH

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

May Twilight, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Dirge for Amerikkka (Panic Attack Remix)

black child goes out into the day

mother’s afraid for him today

he brings the only skin he’s got

while a white cop fires the final shot

to take it all away

i can’t breathe

brown woman goes to work

white boss tries to force her with just one phone call to someone who

he’s sure will deport her

some wonder why some are afraid of “Immigration”?

White unions asking”what’s the fuss?

Why all the commotion?”

i can’t breathe

brown men flying

must undergo “special measures”

so that corporations and their reigns

can strip their dignity at their pleasure

meanwhile divide and rule abounds, 

while profit is their treasure

i can’t breathe

sonic weapons, special tanks

loads of money in the bank

on native land, on foreign shore

amerikkka screams for more and more

with special gases and pepper spray

they keep the force of change at bay

i can’t breathe

©copyright December 2014 by Kaushalya Bannerji

Power, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, 2014

The Dollar Store Poem

1.

AnthroApocology

Safari suit clad fascist

with microscope and coolies

enters the Temple of Doom

At his shoulder, Harrison, in those 

Fordlike soundbytes

Urging urging him on

Amen Father Son and Holy Cow

2. 

General Motors stares back at me

From every shop-window

his silver dollar and medals swinging

to a marching oompah pah oompah pah

Military throbbing back at me

Expose skin Agent Orange every time I pass

Shoppers’ Drug Mart

Sirens scream redemption for the rich

While down in the concrete labour force

The lowest price is the law

3.

Can’t go outside might die of cancer mugging rape random

Acts of racism, dyke-bashing police brutality their laws

on my body

But everyday I go bank at Canada Trust 

or practice financial acrobatics at First National

while I am neither 

in the eyes of Canada

Everyday I go to cut up a piece of the pie for my own

the dripping filling of carrots and sticks

Now our backs against the wall and they

call it art

Down on our knees and they

call it theatre

4. 

Monsterhomes monstermeals monsterchildren

surveilling and terrorizing

So well trained with 24 hour doses of violence and inanity 

in Netlandia

Where all the nice folks are white and rich and 

don’t you forget it

honey

But look here-

a monsterchild in the home the nice suburb

the well trimmed lawn

neighbours cut down to size

Violence is the air we breathe

While jovial geneticists jive

during commercials for the next euphemism 

for connection

5.

Meanwhile, millions of miles into the cosmos

probing penile missile rocket pinch and poke 

the skins of other planets

Yes, membership has its privileges and what Columbus began

He didn’t finish

Don’t forget, sisters and brothers, the white man came here

to do a job

of wholesale degradation/trepidation/annihilation

of all that glitters and is not gold

Having used up the ozone layer, the thermal layer, the waterproof layer

Wreaks havoc and hurricanes behind him  as he shoots

Up up and away

6. 

Dreaming digitally sequenced flashes of lightsound waves

Lasered into virtual reality by my own paranoia

The encroaching barbarous world

filling my head with goods and services I cannot afford 

to miss out 

at the 2/3rds off White sale at the Hudson’s Bay 

where the blankets are ready and the suspect is always

native or black in his early twenties

7. 

Out by the old neighbourhood, where crackheads use little kids

to do the dirty work and everyday the girls get younger

puppyfat dimpling their cheeks

Their hair has that sweet prepubescent scent

But not for long

Soon the quick moments between the fixes get quicker

ziponby and they are running to keep up

Goddamnit you better not be in their way

8.

Summer brings out every creep 

from his nook like worms

from offal

Humid hatred and rabid rage boil

over

the commentsthewhistlesthelooksthehorns

“Why dont you shut the fuck up” feeling

Experienced by 52% of our megapopulation

this lovely season

And let’s hope you remember

this is the town of Muddy York

where Ken and Barbie disguised themselves

as Paul and Karla

and came tumbling down

9.

I grew up here

watched the city shift 

white unwelcoming provincial town

to this simmering mirage

of colour, riot

of sound and sorrow, memory and hope

Cumin garlic ginger cilantro

Soursop persimmon tumeric

and soya sauce 

all smells of childhood

amid the sharp zing of mustard frying

with red chillies

10.

I was always the other

no it was never quite like it is

now

so many of us smiles cracking

the stiff coloured masks of our faces

Keeping up with the many names they call us

is a full time job

Since I arrived I’ve gone from Paki to East Indian

to South Asian to curried goat

Claiming my smells like the Amazons their spears

One breasted and terrifying the third eye gleaming

11.

So I’m not surprised when people of colour sit

next to people of colour on the bus

Or when the bus is empty and an Asian man is shot

I’m from the town

where the police are paid to serve and protect

strategies of the ruling class to contain/detain/retrain

us

12.

Distract and redirect us

Take our money and run

I’m from the town where the police are

and we have enough to go around

ready to swerve and deflect

the rising tide of poverty

make way for condos and superstores

mini-malls and and solar herbariums

to get us used to life

After Earth

13. 

Back beyond the clouds 

Where i come from

the plane spitting me out

reborn

as minority

merely tolerated

I spend my money and keep my mouth

shut

14.

We spend our money 

and keep our mouths shut

while the forked tongue snake

twists us to snapping

Think locally buy globally die quietly

May your god be with you

15.

Because now the world is swarming

with gods

Christ, everybody has one

Yehovah Shiva Allah Shango

All raking in the bucks

in discount neighbourhoods

where discount dealers deal

Money House, Seven African Powers

Nuestra Senora de Guadelupe, or San Antonio

patron saint of lost causes

beside dishtowels from El Salvador’s free trade zones

and those 100% aluminium  pots guaranteed

to give you Alzheimers

So your only memory is 

the act of forgetting

Trump at Play, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2017

copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, 1998-2019