For Kamau Brathwaite at 86

Seven Worlds  © 2015 by Gary Butte, St Lucian visual artist

Seven Worlds.  Copyright  © 2015 by Gary Butte.


“Where are the open spaces now

clear sky, the stars, horizons’ distances?”

KB, "The Forest-Masks"


We looked with you, pathfinder

into great halls, high spheres

of the seven kingdoms,


and you sang our lives

to memory

before the Golden Stool was lost


when we had our names

and names of the gods


and wombs of strong trees

were oracles under the skin of our hands.

From islands’ scorned syllables

your horn lifted nations’ new tongues


Castries to Kingston

Brixton to Brooklyn

Axum to Kumasi


as they now are.  And it

it is now

now the Times of Salt


the age of griots archived

their heads hung in dark corners

their songs obsolete as vinyl


while ballheads of Babylon

deconstruct themselves

over abysses of mockery;


but children

who have not genuflected to Baal

who have remembered again


whom you name from the drum-

beating of your love

come, come, come


with oil of coconut,

bread of cassava, gooseberry wine,

tablets of fruit of your word,  Kamau.



John Robert Lee is a Saint Lucian poet. His publications include elemental: new and selected poems (Peepal Tree, 2008), Sighting and other poems of faith (Mahanaim, 2013) and City Remembrances: Poems (Mahanaim, 2016). He co-edited Sent Lisi: Poems and Art of Saint Lucia (2014). He is a regular contributor to ArtsEtc.