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|Grabs all for self
- the oppressors'
I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
leaping from the oppressors' hate
and the scorn of myself;
from the agony of the dark hut in the shadow
and the hurt of things;
from the long days of cruelty and the long nights of pain
down to the wide streets of tomorrow, of the next day
leaping I come, who cannot see will hear.
In the nigger yard I was naked like the new born
naked like a stone or a star.
It was a cradle of blind days rocking in time
torn like the skin from the back of a slave.
It was an aching floor on which I crept
on my hands and my knees
searching the dust for the trace of a root
or the mark of a leaf or the shape of a flower.
It was me always walking with bare feet,
meeting strange faces like those in dreams or fever
when the whole world turns upside down
and no one knows which is the sky or the land
which heart is his among the torn or wounded
which face is his among the strange and terrible
walking about, groaning between the wind.
And there was always sad music somewhere in the land
like a bugle and a drum between the houses
voices of women singing far away
pauses of silence, then a flood of sound.
But these were things like ghosts or spirits of wind.
It was only a big world spinning outside
and men, born in agony, torn in torture, twisted and
and the uncomfortable morning, the beds of hunger
like the world, big and cruel, spinning outside.
Sitting sometimes in the twilight near the forest
where all the light is gone and every bird
I notice a tiny star neighbouring a leaf
a little drop of light a piece of glass
straining over heaven tiny bright
like a spark seed in the destiny of gloom.
O it was the heart like this tiny star near to the sorrows
straining against the whole world and the long twilight
spark of man's dream conquering the night
moving in darkness stubborn and fierce
till leaves of sunset change from green to blue
and shadows grow like giants everywhere.
So was I born again stubborn and fierce
screaming in a slum.
It was a city and coffin space for home
a river running, prisons, hospitals
men drunk and dying, judges full of scorn
priests and parsons fooling gods with words
and me, like a dog tangled in rags
spotted with sores powdered with dust
screaming with hunger, angry with life and men.
It was a child born from a mother full of her blood
weaving her features bleeding her life in clots.
It was pain lasting from hours to months and to years
weaving a pattern telling a tale leaving a mark
on the face and the brow.
Until there came the iron days cast in a foundry
where men make hammers things that cannot break
and anvils heavy hard and cold like ice.
And so again I became one of the ten thousands
one of the uncountable miseries owning the land.
When the moon rose up only the whores could dance
the brazen jazz of music throbbed and groaned
filling the night air full of rhythmic questions.
It was the husk and the seed challenging fire
birth and the grave challenging life.
Until today in the middle of the tumult
when the land changes and the world's all convulsed
when different voices join to say the same
and different hearts beat out in unison
where on the aching floor of where I live
the shifting earth is twisting into shape
I take again my nigger life, my scorn
and fling it in the face of those who hate me.
It is me the nigger boy turning to manhood
linking my fingers, welding my flesh to freedom.
I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
leaping from the oppressor's hate
and the scorn of myself.
I come to the world with scars upon my soul
wounds on my body, fury in my hands
I turn to the histories of men and the lives of the
I am pleased with the glories and sad with the sorrows
rich with the riches, poor with the loss.
From the nigger yard of yesterday I come with my
To the world of tomorrow I turn with my strength.
Poems by Martin Carter, edited by Stewart Brown & Ian
McDonald, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., UK, 2006.
Poem first published in Poems of Resistance from British
Guiana by Martin Carter, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1954.
I COME FROM THE NIGGER YARD
MARTIN CARTER was
born in Georgetown,
Guyana (then British
Guiana), to middle-
class parents of
As a member of the
party, founded in
1950, Carter's early
poetry reflects his
concern for the
oppression and call
Gains towards self-
shortlived. In 1953,
British troops are
landed. The British
Together with other
political leaders of
the party, the poet-
politician is arrested
and interned for
In 1954, after his
Poems of Resistance.
His poems reflect the
anxiety of the times:
oppression, fear, and
"I Come From the
Nigger Yard, is part
of this collection.
In 1955, with the split
of his party into East
Indian and African
responded with his
Poems of Shape and
In 1963, the strikes
and racial violence in
the early 1960s
Jail Me Quickly.
1966, he became
the Minister of
he resigned his
Poems of Succession
(1977), Poems of
Affinity (1980), and
1989 - Guyana Prize
1994 - Order of
Roraima for his
tion to literature
1996 - Gabriela Mistral
for Culture for
What we have is enough to prove, if proof has been
needed... that Martin Carter is, without reservation, one
of the finest poets to have emerged in the Caribbean
region. And the varied subtlety and strength of his poetry
carries him without any doubt into the first rank of world
poets. Long after the politics which prompted a number
of his poems have been forgotten, and long after the
society which he often so scathingly indicted has been
changed utterly the poetry will continue to strike a chord
among new generations.
~IAN McDONALD, TRINIDAD-BORN POET AND WRITER AND CLOSE FRIEND
OF MARTIN CARTER
|LOVE FOR HUMANITY
|THIS IS THE DARK
TIME MY LOVE
& PERFORMED BY
DURATION: 2:47 MINUTES
DURATION 7:14 MINUTES
ART OF MARTIN