Buxton Spice

In her poem written in the voice of her grandfather, Lylaah Bhalerao explores the themes of nostalgia and strife. Buxton Spice won a competition judged by Daljit Nagra and has also been praised by the Afro-Guyanese poet, John Agard.


New Amsterdam, British Guyana. (Photo: Getty Images/Popperfoto)

New Amsterdam, British Guyana. (Photo: Getty Images/Popperfoto)

Me remember de slow rise of de swollen sun

As de cock’rel hoot dat de day begun.

We all go out in de clingin’ heat,

Hiding in de tropical shade as de sun rays beat.

 

Me remember playin’ cricket in de street

And stubbing me toe cos we ain’t got anytin’ on we feet.

Man, how we’d scream as we laugh an’ cry,

As de wickets Racked up and de day went by.

 

Me remember how we used to be:

Spinning in de sweltering cool, so carefree

Then collapsing, panting under de mango trees:

Long mango

Turpentine

Sand mango

Buxton Spice (dat’s me favourite, man it nice).

 

Then

Me remember when

De rains would come

And we’d run and run,

Until we reached de house. SLAM!

Goes de porch door, BAM!

Goes de lightning. Once de river banks

Give way and we rush ‘round

And play. Until mammy shout ‘Hey!

Get ya’rass back in de place!’

 

Me remember de splash when mammy drop

De chicken in de curry pot;

And through de door would travel de gentle waft:

Masala

Cardamom

Saffron.

How we’d sneak a taste as de scent

Travel up me nose, and touch me tongue.

 

Me remember de scratch of de chalk on de slate

And Missy White always using me as bait

For she ‘lessons’: Takin’ off me watch,

Cos I was too brown to have a watch.

 

Me remember dem sayin’

I could never be de same

As dem. ‘Though nobody remember

How dey came.

Cos dey gone now. Yet their hold still remain

Cos dey came.

And nothin’ will ever change, since we must remember

Dat dey came.

 

Me remember leaving home

And vowing never to forget:

Me remember de games

De spice

De rain

De strife.

And when me remember,

Me there.


Lylaah’s grandparents were born in Guyana, in South America. The country is mostly rainforest, its name meaning “land of many waters” in the native Amerindian language. Guyana, a British colony from 1814 to 1966, is the only English-speaking country in South America and is culturally closer to the Caribbean. Apart from the native Amerindians, all the inhabitants were brought by the British from across the empire to work as indentured labourers under white landowners.

Her grandfather’s family owned a mango farm along the Essequibo River. The mango which this poem is named after (Buxton Spice) is associated with the village Buxton, which was the first village bought by emancipated slaves.

In 1960, Lylaah’s grandfather came to London to train as a lawyer. He applied for office jobs and met all the qualifications, yet was always told there were “no jobs”; such was the racism. Eventually he got a job in the Civil Service. Six years after he came to England, in 1966, Guyana gained independence and this year celebrated the golden anniversary.

We are extremely proud to publish this piece in our brand new Literature section.

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Lylaah Bhalerao
Lylaah Bhalerao

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