“Yo cumplo mi encuentro con La Vida” / “I keep Life’s rendezvous”: Poemas para Viernes Santo / Good Friday poems: Countee Cullen

ZP_Simon of Cyrene_painting by Theophilus of Knoxville, Tennessee

ZP_Simon of Cyrene_painting by Theophilus of Knoxville, Tennessee


Countee Cullen (Poeta negro del “Renacimiento de Harlem”, E.E.U.U., 1903-1946)

Habla Simón de Cirene”


Nunca me habló ninguna palabra

pero me llamó por mi nombre;

No me habló por señas,

y aún entendí y vine.


Al princípio dije, “No cargaré

sobre mi espalda Su cruz;

Sólo procura colocarla allá

porque es negra mi piel.”


Pero Él moría por un sueño,

Y Él estuvo muy dócil,

Y en Sus ojos hubo un resplandor

que los hombres viajarán lejos para buscar.


Él – el mismo – ganó mi piedad;

Yo hice solamente por Cristo

Lo que todo el Imperio romano no pudo forjar en mí

con moretón de látigo o de piedra.


.      .     .


Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Simon the Cyrenian Speaks”


He never spoke a word to me,

And yet He called my name;

He never gave a sign to me,

And yet I knew and came.

At first I said, “I will not bear

His cross upon my back;

He only seeks to place it there

Because my skin is black.”

But He was dying for a dream,

And He was very meek,

And in His eyes there shone a gleam

Men journey far to seek.

It was Himself my pity bought;

I did for Christ alone

What all of Rome could not have wrought

With bruise of lash or stone.



Luke 23:26

And as they led Him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country,

and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus”.


.     .     .


Tengo un encuentro con La Vida”


Tengo un encuentro con La Vida,

durante los días que pasen,

antes de que pasen como un bólido mi juventud y mi fuerza de mente,

antes de que las dulces voces se vuelvan mudas.


Tengo un ‘rendez-vous’ con Esta Vida.

cuando canturrean los primeros heraldos de la Primavera.

Por seguro hay gente que gritaría que sea tanto mejor

coronar los días con reposo en vez de

enfrentar el camino, el viento, la lluvia

para poner oídos al llamado profundo.


No tengo miedo ni de la lluvia, del viento, ni del camino abierto,

pero aún tengo, ay, tan mucho miedo, también,

por temor de que La Muerte me conozca y me requiera antes de que

yo cumpla mi ‘rendez-vous’ con La Vida.


.     .     .


I have a rendezvous with Life”


I have a rendezvous with Life,

In days I hope will come,

Ere youth has sped, and strength of mind,

Ere voices sweet grow dumb.

I have a rendezvous with Life,

When Spring’s first heralds hum.

Sure some would cry it’s better far

To crown their days with sleep

Than face the road, the wind and rain,

To heed the calling deep.

Though wet nor blow nor space I fear,

Yet fear I deeply, too,

Lest Death should meet and claim me ere

I keep Life’s rendezvous.



.     .     .

Countee Cullen produced most of his famous poems between 1923 and 1929;  he was at the top of his form from the end of his teens through his 20s – very early for a good poet.

His poems “Heritage”, “Yet Do I Marvel”, “The Ballad of the Brown Girl”, and “The Black Christ” are classics of The Harlem Renaissance.  We feature here two of Cullen’s lesser-known poems

– including Spanish translations.

.     .     .     .     .

Traducciones del inglés al español:   Alexander Best

Chinua Achebe: “Pine Tree in Spring” and “Their Idiot Song”

Norway Spruce_and Maple  tree on the right_Toronto_Canada.

Chinua Achebe

Pine Tree in Spring

(for Léon Damas *)


Pine tree

flag bearer

of green memory

across the breach of a desolate hour


Loyal tree

that stood guard

alone in austere emeraldry

over Nature’s recumbent standard


Pine tree

lost now in the shade

of traitors decked out flamboyantly

marching back unabashed to the colours they betrayed


Fine tree

erect and trustworthy

What school can teach me

your silent, stubborn fidelity?



*Léon Damas, 1912-1978, French poet, born in French Guiana (“Guyane”);  one of the founders,

along with Léopold Senghor and Aimé Césaire, of the “Négritude” literary and ideological movement


.     .     .


Their Idiot Song


These fellows, the old pagan said, surely are out of their mind – that old proudly impervious derelict skirted long ago by floodwaters of salvation:  Behold the great and gory handiwork of Death displayed for all on dazzling sheets this hour of day its twin nostrils plugged firmly with stoppers of wool and they ask of him:  Where is thy sting?

Sing on, good fellows, sing on!

Someday when it is you he decks out on his great iron bed with cotton wool for your breath, his massing odours mocking your pitiful makeshift defences of face powder and township ladies’ lascivious scent, these others roaming yet his roomy chicken coop will be singing and asking still but

YOU by then no longer will be in doubt!


.     .     .

Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria in 1930,

of the Igbo People.  He is a world-famous poet and writer,

and his first novel, “Things Fall Apart”, is among the most

widely-read books in African literature.


.     .     .     .     .

Hector Poullet: “Mi yo doubout an péyi-la…” / “Standing tall in our country…”

Hector Poullet (né/born 1938)

(Écrivain noir, créoliste, de La Guadeloupe

/ Black Creole-language writer, Guadeloupe)


E mi sé ti moun péyi-la

Mi yo

Mi yo doubout an péyi-la

An mitan lanmé

An mitan soley

Yo la

Po nwè

Po jonn

Po rouj

Po shapé

Po blan

Nou byen fouté pa mal !

Nou sa sé zenfan péyi-la

Sé swé a yo ki ka rozé péyi-la


Voici les enfants du pays,     Here are the children of the country,

Les voici,                                 Here they are,

Les voici érigés au pays,               Standing tall in our country,

Au coeur même de la mer,       With hearts as much of the sea as sun.

Au coeur même du soleil.

Ils sont là                                      There they are:  the

Peaux noires                            Black skins, yellows,

Peaux jaunes                          Red skins and shedded skins,

Peaux rouges                           White skins, too.

Peaux échappées et

Peaux blanches

Quelle importance !                    And it’s so important –

Ce sont, nous le savons,               That they are – and we know it –

Les fils de ce pays;                          The children of this country;

Leur sueur nourrit la terre de ce pays!      Their sweat nourishes this earth!


Mildred Barya: “Una Gota de Sangre” / “A Drop of Blood”


Mildred Barya (nace 1976)

“Una Gota de Sangre”



El día que me llegó la regla

Exclamó mi madre:

“¡Ahora eres mujer!”

Entonces me pregunté:

¿Qué yo había sido antes?

¿Y cómo me ha hecho una mujer

Una gota de sangre?


Cuando llevaron a mi hermano al círculo,

Él se estremeció a la sensación de un cuchillo afilado.

Pero le convencieron:

“No debes  tener miedo,

No muestres ninguna cobardía.

Tan pronto como te cortemos la piel

Te harás un hombre.”


Cuando mi madre tenía a Junior

Tan pesado en su vientre

Se apuraba de la mesa

Y corría al lavaplatos.

El día que le llevaron al hospital

Cayó al suelo una bolsa de agua

Pues una gota de sangre.

Gritó mi padre: “¡Mujer!”


Leí en Las Sagradas Escrituras

Como fue sacrificado el Hijo de Hombre.

Antes de dar su último aliento,

Manaron fuera de él

Agua y la sangre.

En este momento se hizo Hombre

Que era el Dios.


Supongo que haya algo en una gota de sangre

Que nos hace hombres y mujeres.




Mildred Barya (born 1976)

“A Drop of Blood”



The day I got my first period,

Mother exclaimed:

“You’ve become a woman!”

And so I wondered,

What had I been earlier?

And how could a drop of blood

Make me a woman?


When they took my brother to the circle,

He flinched at the feel of a sharp knife.

But the elders convinced him:

“You must not fear

Do not show any cowardice

Once we slice off the skin

You become a man.”


When mother was heavy with Junior,

She would rush off the table

And run to the sink.

The day she was taken to hospital

A bag of water dropped to the ground,

Then a drop of blood.

Father cried: “Woman!”


I read in the Holy Scriptures

How the Son of Man was crucified

Before he breathed his last.

Water and blood flowed out,

There he became Man,

Who was God.


I guess there’s something in a drop of blood

That makes us men and women.




Mildred Barya,  poeta,  nació en Uganda.

Ganó el Premio Pan-Africano del Foro Literário

en 2008.   Barya también es periodista y escritor

de viaje.   Vive en Syracuse, Nueva York, EEUU.


Poet Mildred Barya was born in Uganda.

She won the 2008 Prize of the Pan African

Literary Forum.   Barya is also a journalist

and travel-writer.   Currently she lives in

Syracuse, New York.


Translation from English into Spanish /

Traducción del inglés al español:   Alexander Best

Ataulfo Alves: “In a masquerade of Joy I hid my Sadness…”

Ataulfo Alves  (Sambista brasileiro, 1906-1969)

“Ilusão de carnaval”


Mascarado de alegria

Escondi minha tristeza

Terminada a folia

Sou mais triste com certeza

Ilusão de carnaval

Enganei somente a mim

Sem pensar que afinal

Carnaval também tem fim.


Ataulfo Alves 

(Brazilian Samba composer, 1906-1969)

“Carnival Illusion”


In a masquerade of Joy

I hid my Sadness.

Revelry done,

More sad than ever

Am I…


You Illusion – oh Carnival !

I merely tricked myself

Without thinking that,

After all,

Carnival too comes to an end.



Translation from Portuguese:

Alexander Best

Djavan: “Face of the Indian” / “Cara de Índio”

Letra da canção de

cantor e compositor afrobrasileiro

Djavan (nasce 1949)

“Cara de Índio”(1978)



Índio cara pálida,

cara de índio.

Índio cara pálida,

cara de índio.

Sua ação é válida, meu caro índio.

Sua ação é válida, válida ao índio.

Nessa terra tudo dá,

terra de índio.

Nessa terra tudo dá,

não para o índio.

Quando alguém puder plantar,

quem sabe índio.

Quando alguém puder plantar,

não é índio.

Índio quer se nomear,

nome de índio.

Índio quer se nomear,

duvido índio.

Isso pode demorar,

te cuida índio.

Isso pode demorar,

coisa de índio.


Índio sua pipoca,

tá pouca índio.

Índio quer pipoca,

te toca índio.

Se o índio se tocar,

touca de índio.

Se o índio toca,

não chove índio.

Se quer abrir a boca,

pra sorrir índio.

Se quer abrir a boca,

na toca índio.


A minha também tá pouca,

cota de índio.

Apesar da minha roupa,

também sou índio.





(Brazilian songwriter, born 1949)

“The Indian Face” (1978)



Indio pale-face

Indian face.

Pale-face Indio

Your action is just, my dear Indio.

Your action is valid, right for the Indian.

In that land everything grows

– the Indian’s land.

In that land everything grows

– but not for the Indian.

When someone can plant,

who knows? The Indio.

When someone inspires,

Isn’t it the Indio?

An Indian wants to call himself

an Indian name.

Indio wants to call himself himself

– I doubt it, Indio

– that might take time – take care,

That might take time,

The Indian thing.


Indio gets just

A little “popcorn”.

He wants “popcorn” too

– it’s your turn, Indio.

If the Indian touches his head

it doesn’t rain.

If he wants to open his mouth

– Smile, Indio.

If he wants to open his mouth,

Don’t touch him.


I also have little,

An Indian’s share.

Despite my clothes,

I’m an Indio, too.



Jorge Ben Jor: Day of the Indian / Dia de Índio


Jorge Ben Jor (nasce 1942)

“Curumin chama cunhãtã que eu vou contar

(Todo dia era Dia de Índio)”  (1981)

Hey  Hey  Hey!

Hey  Hey  Hey!

Jês, Kariris, Karajás, Tukanos, Caraíbas,

Makus, Nambikwaras, Tupis, Bororós,

Guaranis, Kaiowa, Ñandeva, YemiKruia

Yanomá, Waurá, Kamayurá, Iawalapiti,

Txikão, Txu-Karramãe, Xokren, Xikrin,

Krahô, Ramkokamenkrá, Suyá !


Curumim chama cunhatã que eu vou contar

Cunhatã chama curumim que eu vou contar

Curumim, cunhatã

Cunhatã, curumim


Antes que os homens aqui pisassem

Nas ricas e férteis terraes brazilis

Que eram povoadas e amadas por milhões de índios

Reais donos felizes

Da terra do pau-brasil

Pois todo dia, toda hora, era dia de índio

Pois todo dia, toda hora, era dia de índio


Mas agora eles só têm um dia

O dia dezenove de abril…

Amantes da pureza e da natureza

Eles são de verdade incapazes

De maltratarem as fêmeas

Ou de poluir o rio, o céu e o mar

Protegendo o equilíbrio ecológico

Da terra, fauna e flora.

Pois na sua história, o índio

É o exemplo mais puro

Mais perfeito, mais belo

Junto da harmonia da fraternidade.

É da alegria,

Da alegria de viver

Da alegria de amar.

Mas no entanto agora

O seu canto de guerra

É um choro de uma raça inocente…

Que já foi muito contente

Pois antigamente

Todo dia, toda hora, era dia de índio.


Jês, Kariris, Karajás, Tukanos, Caraíbas,

Makus, Nambikwaras, Tupis, Bororós,

Guaranis, Kaiowa, Ñandeva, YemiKruia

Yanomá, Waurá, Kamayurá, Iawalapiti, Suyá,

Txikão, Txu-Karramãe, Xokren, Xikrin, Krahô,

Ramkokamenkrá, Suyá !


Todo dia, toda hora, era dia de índio…..

Curumim, cunhatã / Hey! Hey! Hey!

Hey! Hey! Hey! / Cunhatã, curumim…..


Jorge Ben Jor

“Every day, every hour, was the Day of the Indian”

Hey  Hey  Hey!

Hey  Hey  Hey!

Jês, Kariris, Karajás, Tukanos, Caraíbas,

Makus, Nambikwaras, Tupis, Bororós,

Guaranis, Kaiowa, Ñandeva, YemiKruia

Yanomá, Waurá, Kamayurá, Iawalapiti,

Suyá, Txikão, Txu-Karramãe, Xokren, Xikrin,

Krahô, Ramkokamenkrá, Suyá !


Call:   “Curumim cunhatã” – I’m going to tell it.

Cry:   “Cunhatã curumim” is how I’m going to tell it.

Curumim, cunhatã

Cunhatã, curumim


Before people trod here

Upon this rich and fertile land of Brazil

It was populated and loved by millions of Indians,

Happy moneyless owners

Of this land of “Brazil-wood”.

Back then, every day, every hour, was the Day of the Indian.

But now they have only one day,

The 19th of April…


Lovers of purity, of nature,

They knew truth, incapable of

Mistreating Woman

Or of polluting river, sky and sea,

Protecting the ecological equilibrium

Of earth, flora and fauna.

And so, in history,  the Indio

Is an exemplar most pure,

Perfect and beautiful.

Together in the harmony of humanity

He gives joy – joy of life,  joy of love.

Now, though, theirs is a war song – and it’s

The cry of an innocent race…

In olden times they were most happy because

Every day, every hour, was the Day of the Indian.


Jês, Kariris, Karajás, Tukanos, Caraíbas,

Makus, Nambikwaras, Tupis, Bororós,

Guaranis, Kaiowa, Ñandeva, YemiKruia

Yanomá, Waurá, Kamayurá, Iawalapiti,

Txikão, Txu-Karramãe, Xokren, Xikrin,

Krahô, Ramkokamenkrá, Suyá !


Every day, every hour, was the Day of the Indian.

Curumim, cunhatã / Hey! Hey! Hey!

Hey! Hey! Hey! / Cunhatã, curumim…..



Jês, Kariris, Karajás, Tukanos, Caraíbas, etc.,

–  Ben gives us a list of names of the

Indian/Indigenous/Native Peoples of Brazil

The 19th of April – throughout Latin and South America,

this day – Dia Americano del Indio – draws attention to the

cultures, struggles and progress of Indigenous Peoples;

initiated in 1940 at Pátzcuaro, México, during the first

“Congreso Indigenista Interamericano”

/ InterAmerican Indigenous Congress

Martinho da Vila: Voz Afro-Brasileira

Sob chuva_a escola de samba Morro da Casa Verde faz ensaio técnico para o Carnaval 2013 no Sambódromo do Anhembi_zona norte de São Paulo

Martinho de Vila (nasce 12 fevereiro 1938)

“Madrugada, Carnaval e chuva” (1970)

Carnaval, madrugada

Madrugada de carnaval

Cai a chuva no asfalto da avenida

E a escola, já começa a desfilar

Molha o surdo, molha o enredo, molha a vida

Do sambista cujo o sonho é triunfar

Cai o brilho do sapato do passista

Mas o samba tem é que continuar

Os destaques se desmancham na avenida

E o esforço já é sobrenatural

Mas a turma permanece reunida

Um apito incentiva o pessoal

E a escola já avança destemida

É o samba enfrentando o temporal

Madrugada,vai embora, vem o dia

E o sambista pensa em outro carnaval

E a todos novamente desafia

A vitória do seu samba é o ideal

Chama o surdo e o pandeiro pra folia

Alegria, alegria pessoal

Carnaval, carnaval, carnaval

Volta o surdo pra folia

Alegria pessoal.

Carnaval, carnaval, carnaval,

Volta o surdo pra folia,

Alegria pessoal.


“Brasil mulato” (1969)

Pretinha, procure um branco

Porque é hora de completa integração

Branquinha, namore um preto

Faça com ele a sua miscigenação

Neguinho, vá pra escola

Ame esta terra

Esqueça a guerra

E abrace o samba

Que será lindo o meu Brasil de amanhã

Mulato forte, pulso firme e mente sã

Quero ver madame na escola de samba sambando

Quero ver fraternidade

Todo mundo se ajudando

Não quero ninguém parado

Todo mundo trabalhando

Que ninguém vá a macumba fazer feitiçaria

Vá rezando minha gente a oração de todo dia

Mentalidade vai mudar de fato

O meu Brasil então será mulato.


Nicomedes Santa Cruz: “Black Rhythms of Peru” / “Ritmos negros del Perú” – “Latin America” / “América Latina”

Nicomedes Santa Cruz
( Poeta y músico afro-peruano, 1925-1992)
“Ritmos negros del Perú” (1957)



Ritmos de la esclavitud

contra amarguras y penas.

Al compás de las cadenas

Ritmos negros del Perú.


De África llegó mi abuela

vestida con caracoles,

la trajeron lo´epañoles

en un barco carabela.

La marcaron con candela,

la carimba fue su cruz.

Y en América del Sur

al golpe de sus dolores

dieron los negros tambores

ritmos de la esclavitud


Por una moneda sola

la revendieron en Lima

y en la Hacienda “La Molina”

sirvió a la gente española.

Con otros negros de Angola

ganaron por sus faenas

zancudos para sus venas

para dormir duro suelo

y naíta´e consuelo

contra amarguras y penas…


En la plantación de caña

nació el triste socabón,

en el trapiche de ron

el negro cantó la zaña.

El machete y la guadaña

curtió sus manos morenas;

y los indios con sus quenas

y el negro con tamborete

cantaron su triste suerte

al compás de las cadenas.


Murieron los negros viejos

pero entre la caña seca

se escucha su zamacueca

y el panalivio muy lejos.

Y se escuchan los festejos

que cantó en su juventud.

De Cañete a Tombuctú,

de Chancay a Mozambique

llevan sus claros repiques

ritmos negros del Perú.




Nicomedes Santa Cruz

(Black Peruvian poet and singer, 1925-1992)


Black Rhythms of Peru (1957)



Rhythms of slavery

Against bitterness and sorrows.

Keeping time to the beat of the chains

– Black rhythms of Peru.


From Africa arrived my grandmother

Adorned with conch-shells,

They brought her, those Spaniards,

In a three-masted ship.

Marked by wax and fire – the

“carimba” scar was the cross she bore.

And in South America

To each strike, in her suffering,

The Black drums gave

Rhythms to that slavery.


For one coin

They sold my grandmother again

In Lima

And at Hacienda La Molina

She served the Spanish people.

With other Blacks from Angola

She earned for her tasks

Mosquito bites on her veins

Sleeping upon hard ground,

And nuthin’ ain’t no consolation

Against bitterness and sorrows…


On the sugarcane plantation

Was born that sad “socabón” dance

In the rum-press at the mill,

The Black man sang of Zaña.

The “machete” and the scythe

Cut his dark hands;

And the Indians with their reed-flutes,

The Black man and his tambourine,

Sang of their sad luck

Keeping time to the beat of the chains.


They died, those old Black folks…

But within the dried fibres of the cut cane

One hears the Zamacueca dance

And the distant Panalivio.

One hears the festivities they

Sang of in their youth.

From Cañete to Timbuktu,

From Chancay to Mozambique

They carried the clear pitter-patter,

The tap-tap-tap of those

Black rhythms of Peru.




Zaña: 16th-century Spanish-Colonial town in Peru – inhabited by

wealthy, pious Spanish families involved in sugar and cotton

plantations based upon African slavery and Native-Indian servitude.

Raided by English pirates in 1686 – many people were killed,

prosperous families abandoned the town, and slaves

became unexpectedly “free”… La Zaña is an Afro-Peruvian dance

originating in the town.


Zamacueca, Panalivio: Afro-Peruvian dances of the 18th

and 19th centuries – the Zamacueca was a courtship dance and

the Panalivio’s lyrics often told of the trials of slavery.


Cañete, Chancay:  Peruvian Spanish-Colonial towns – prominent in

the 17th through the 19th centuries – surrounded by haciendas

and sugar/cotton plantations.  Large African-born and native-

born Black slave populations.



*     *     *


Nicomedes Santa Cruz:

“América Latina”(1963)    /   “Latin America”(1963)



Mi cuate                                    My pal

Mi socio                                 My mate

Mi hermano                       My brother

Aparcero                                 Sharecropper

Camarado                              Colleague

Compañero                        Comrade

Mi pata                                      My buddy

M´hijito                                  My boy

Paisano…                            Compatriot…

He aquí mis vecinos.                     Here I have my neighbours

He aquí mis hermanos.                 Here I have my brothers


Las mismas caras latinoamericanas      The same Latin-American faces

de cualquier punto de América Latina:   from every corner of Latin America:

Indoblanquinegros                      Indianwhiteblacks

Blanquinegrindios                         Whiteblackindians

y Negrindoblancos                         and Blackindianwhites


Rubias bembonas                         Blondes with thick lips

Indios barbudos                            Bearded Indians

y negros lacios                                and straight-haired Blacks


Todos se quejan:                           All of them complain

-¡Ah, si en mi país                          – Oh, if only in my country

no hubiese tanta política…!         there wasn’t so much “politics”…!

-¡Ah, si en mi país                           – Oh, if only in my country

no hubiera gente paleolítica…!              there weren’t such paleolithic people…!

-¡Ah, si en mi país                            – Oh, if only in my country

no hubiese militarismo,                  there was no militarism,

ni oligarquía                                        or oligarchy

ni chauvinismo                                  or chauvinism

ni burocracia                                      or bureaucracy

ni hipocresía                                       or hypocrisy

ni clerecía                                            or clergy

ni antropofagia…                                or anthropophagy…

-¡Ah, si en mi país…!                          – Oh, if only – in my country…!


Alguien pregunta de dónde soy                Someone asks where I’m from

(Yo no respondo lo siguiente):                  (I do not answer with the following):

Nací cerca de Cuzco                                     I was born close to Cuzco

admiro a Puebla                                            Puebla I admire

me inspira el ron de las Antillas                 I’m inspired by rum from The Antilles

canto con voz argentina                              I sing in an Argentinian voice

creo en Santa Rosa de Lima                        I believe in Saint Rose of Lima

y en los Orishas de Bahía.                             and in the Orishas of Bahia.

Yo no coloreé mi Continente                       I didn’t paint my Continent

ni pinté verde a Brasil                                    the green of Brazil

amarillo Perú                                                   the yellow of Peru

roja Bolivia                                                        Bolivia’s red


Yo no tracé líneas territoriales                         I drew no border-lines

separando al hermano del hermano.              separating brother from brother


Poso la frente sobre Río Grande                                I rest by the Rio Grande

me afirmo pétreo sobre el Cabo de Hornos           I stand firm at Cape Horn

hundo mi brazo izquierdo en el Pacífico              my left hand I dip down into the Pacific

y sumerjo mi diestra en el Atlántico.                   and into the Atlantic I submerge my right.


Por las costas de oriente y occidente                           By the coasts East and West

y doscientas millas entro                                                   and two-thousand miles inland

a cada Océano                                                                       from each Ocean

sumerjo mano y mano                                                       I immerse both hands

y así me aferro a nuestro Continente                            and in this way I hold our Continent

en un abrazo Latinoamericano.                                      in a Latin-American embrace.




Translation from the original Spanish into English:

“Black Rhythms of Peru”:   Alexander Best

“Latin America”:   Lidia García Garay


Claude McKay: “The Tropics in New York”

To One Coming North


At first you’ll joy to see the playful snow,

Like white moths trembling on the tropic air,

Or waters of the hills that softly flow

Gracefully falling down a shining stair.

And when the fields and streets are covered white

And the wind-worried void is chilly, raw,

Or underneath a spell of heat and light

The cheerless frozen spots begin to thaw,

Like me you’ll long for home, where birds’ glad song

Means flowering lanes and leas and spaces dry,

And tender thoughts and feelings fine and strong,

Beneath a vivid silver-flecked blue sky.

But oh! more than the changeless southern isles,

When Spring has shed upon the earth her charm,

You’ll love the Northland wreathed in golden smiles

By the miraculous sun turned glad and warm.




The Tropics in New York


Bananas ripe and green, and ginger root,

Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,

And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,

Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,

Set in the window, bringing memories

Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,

And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies

In benediction over nun-like hills.

My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;

A wave of longing through my body swept,

And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,

I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.




To Winter


Stay, season of calm love and soulful snows!

There is a subtle sweetness in the sun,

The ripples on the stream’s breast gaily run,

The wind more boisterously by me blows,

And each succeeding day now longer grows.

The birds a gladder music have begun,

The squirrel, full of mischief and of fun,

From maples’ topmost branch the brown twig throws.

I read these pregnant signs, know what they mean:

I know that thou art making ready to go.

Oh stay! I fled a land where fields are green

Always, and palms wave gently to and fro,

And winds are balmy, blue brooks ever sheen,

To ease my heart of its impassioned woe.



Claude McKay (1889-1948) was born in Clarendon parish,

Jamaica.  His older brother tutored him – with a bookshelf

of “classics”.  In 1912 McKay published his first book of poetry,

“Songs of Jamaica”, written entirely in Jamaican Patois.

He travelled to the USA where he would become a seminal

influence on the Black cultural movement known as The Harlem

Renaissance of the 1920s.   Appalled by the blunt racism he

encountered in his adopted country he articulated Black hope

and rage.  He wrote also of the complex feelings of the Immigrant

experience – as evidenced by his three tender, passionate

“Winter” poems from 1922 – featured above.