David Dabydeen, “Song of the Creole Gang Women”,
from Slave Song. Denmark: Dangaroo Press, 1984.
Wuk, nuttin bu wuk
Maan noon an night nuttin bu wuk
Booker own me patacake
Booker own me pickni.
Pain, nuttin bu pain
Waan million tous’ne acre cane.
O since me baan – juk! juk! juk! juk! juk!
So sun in me eye like taan
So Booker saach deep in me flesh
Kase Booker own me rass
An Booker own me cutlass –
Bu me dun cuss ... Gaad leh me na cuss no mo!
Caan in me finga, caan in me foot-battam ...
Dosay an mittae, dosay an mittae,
Booker put e mout on me like pirae.
So wind a howl from de haat o bush
Like bird mesh, tear up on twig.
Hear, hear how e’ya cry, cry, how e’ya bleed on de air,
An bruk up over bud aweh hooman, sickle in haan,
Sweep an sway all day to e saang
Babee strap like burden to we back.
Dutty-skin, distress, shake aff we babee
When we reach wataside shake aff we patakee.
Is true everyting stall, gape, bleed,
Like crappau foot squash kess as e’ya leap?
Everyting tie up, haat, lung, liva, an who go loose me caad? –
Shaap, straight, sudden like pimpla, cut free
An belly buss out like blood-flow a shriek?
Or who saaf haan, saaf-flesh finga?
Or who go paste e mout on me wound, lick, heal, like starapple suck?
Look a de sun how e fix in de sky like taskmasta eye,
A de coconut-tree dat watch over we like overseer
Treaten fo spill e load on we maiden head ...
Me tust, dust an vinega choke me mout, sweat leak over me
Heat a hatch louse in me hair...
Le we go sit dung riverside, dip, dodo, die –
Shade deep in cool deh.
(They move off, repeating these lines with mournful voices,
that gradually fade out. A deep silence.)
TRANSLATION: [also by Dabydeen]
Work, nothing but work/Morning noon and night nothing but work/ Booker owns my cunt/Booker owns my children/ Pain, nothing but pain/ One million thousand acres cane/ O since I was born – stab! stab! stab! stab! stab!/ So sun in my eye like thorn/ So Booker searches deep in my flesh/ Because Booker owns my arse/ And Booker owns my cutlass/ But I’m done with cursing, God let me not curse any more/ Corn in my finger, corn in my foot-bottom.
Dosay and mittae, dosay and mittae/ Booker puts his mouth on my like piranha.
Kiss-kiss-kidee! Kiss-kiss-kiss-kideee!/ So wind howls from the heart of bush/ Like a bird meshed, torn upon twigs/ Hear how it cries, cries, how it bleeds on the air/ And broken over buds we women, sickles in hand/ Sweep and sway all day to its song/ Babies strapped like burdens to our backs/ Kiss-kiss-kidee! Kiss-kiss-kiss-kideee!
Dirty-skin, distressed, shake off our babes/ When we reach waterside shake off our wombs.
Is it true everything stalls, gapes, bleeds/ Like frog foot squashes just as it is about to leap?
Everything tied up, heart, lung, liver, and who will loose my cords?/ Sharp, straight, sudden, like pimpla, cut them free/ And belly bursts out like blood-flow shrieking?/ Or whose soft hand, soft-fleshed finger?/ Or who will paste his mouth on my wound, lick, heal, like starapple suck?
Look at the sun how it’s fixed in the sky like a taskmaster’s eye/ At the coconut-trees that watch over us like an overseer/ Threatening to spill his load on our maiden heads .../ I’m thirsty, dust and vinegar choke my mouth, sweat leaks over me like gutter-water/ Heat hatches lice in my hair.
Let’s go sit down riverside, dip, sleep, die/ Shade deep in cool there.