The arrival of Brighteye – an extract


My mommy gone over de ocean
My mommy gone over de sea
she gawn dere to work for some money
an den she gawn sen back for me

one year
two year
tree year gawn

four year
five year
six year come

granny seh it don’t matter
but supposin I forget her
Blinky Blinky, one two tree
Blinky Blinky, remember me

Mommy sen dis dress fah ma seventh birthday. Ah born de day
before chrismas, an she sen de shoes and de hat to match.

Ah wear it to church dat very chrismas Sunday, an wen ah come out
into de square, on de way to church wid Granny, all de ole
man dem laughing and chanting

Brighteye Brighteye
red white an blue
Brighteye Brighteye
yuh pretty fi true

an Granny seh don’t walk so boasy, mind yuh buk up yuh toe
an fall down an tear up de dress pon rockstone because ah
going to fold it up dis very evening an wrap it up back in de crepe paper wid
two camphor ball an put it back in de suitcase, dis very suitcase,
dat yuh going to carry to Englan.

Crass de sea, girl, yuh going crass de sea, an a likkle water fall
from Granny eye which mek er cross an she shake mi han aff
er dress where ah was holding on to make sure dat ah don’t
fall down for de shoes hard to walk in on rockstone, an she
wipe er eye wid er kerchief.

An ah looking up in Granny face, ah know Granny face good.
She say is me mi madda an grampa put all de lines in it, an
ah wondering which lines is mine, an ah tinking how Granny
face look wen sun shine an de flowers bloom, an wen rain full
up de water barrel, an wen drought an de bean tree dead, an
wen Grampa bus a rude joke, ah know Granny face good but now
she wipe er eye an lock up er face tight, an someting
tight lack up in my troat, fah ah can’t remember mi madda
face, ah can’t remember mi madda face at all.

An all de time after dat, Granny finger in de silver thimble,
flashing, sewing awn de red, white an blue lace she buy at
market, sewing it awn to de church hat to mek pretty bonnet
to go wid de dress. She say ah mus put awn de whole outfit
when ah reach, so mi madda can see how ah pretty, an how
she tek good care of mi, an then she pack de cod liver oil pill dem
in mi bag and say to rememba to tek one every day on de boat so
mi skin would still shine when ah reach, an when we leaving
de village in de mawning all de ole man dem singing

Brighteye, Brighteye,
going crass de sea
Brighteye, Brighteye
madda sen fi she
Brighteye, Brighteye
yuh gwine remember we?

an de children, playing ring game an clapping

Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream
merrily, merrily, merrily, merrrily
life is but a dream

an de bus to town, an Granny crying, an de boat, an de woman
dat Granny put mi in de charge of, an day an night, day an
night, an it getting cole, all de way, in a dream, to Englan.

from The Arrival of Brighteye (Bloodaxe, 2000), copyright © Jean Binta ‘Breeze’ 2002, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books Ltd

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