on poetry and politics
23 August 2014
I’m getting tired of talking. Lot of people yak yak yaking but shit still the same or worse. I scale back my internet time and increase my garden time. I talk to the plants but don’t need to hear words back. Fruit and new leaves are enough for me. I’m tired of talking.
But, I want to know what people think about Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna and the massive clearcutting of the interior. Town people don’t have much of a clue about what goes on in the interior of Guyana unless they’re working there. So it’s good that the news people got that helicopter and flew over and took those pictures/video so we all can see what’s going on. The size of the trees getting cut down is massive. The amount of forest being cut down is huge. One cannot wrap one’s arms around these tree trunks or statistics; no, we must see and even then it’s hard to believe our own eyes.
Town people don’t have much of a clue about what’s going on in the interior/bush. Is Amerindian people/land mostly and town people don’t generally give two hoots about what happens on Amerindian land/to Amerindian people. Massive hundred-old year trees getting cut down in the interior but in Georgetown, gigantic new concrete boxes are springing up on every street corner. Malls, malls, and more malls; shop til you drop country coming right up.
Town life is hectic. People gotta hustle to get that bread to mind themselves and their families with. Is the same the world over- this struggle for survival. The ants setting out from the nest every day, the bees from the hive, the strays foraging among the market garbage piles, the junkies and vendors ready to kill over a basket of bananas, the boys on bicycles and CGX motorcycles- every day is sheer scramble. Empty bellies gurgle and empty minds/souls growl at others. Things, material objects, are what worth is measured by these days. The fact that it takes cutting down a tree to get paper to print money, the fact that without trees converting carbon dioxide to the oxygen that humans need to breathe to live- somehow these immutable facts of survival have gotten lost/forgotten/buried under the weight of things/products that the human brain has created. It’s amazing and terrifying and mystifying all at the same time.
It’s been a month since I last Grounded. Encountering the mob last time shook me up and I’ve kept close to home/myself for much of the past 2 weeks. But it was time again and I was going. Amaraydha had picked the spot this time- corner of Camp and Robb, outside Republic Bank. It was a wide corner, with shade and place for sitting. She was already there when I reached. I’m running out of books to give away; she’d brought romance novels mostly. We’re going to have to get more people doing this, so there are more books for people..
The first person I talked to was a young nursing student. I stopped her with a bright greeting, surprising even myself a little bit. I told her we were doing a literacy project, trying to get more people interested in reading. That was the tone of this Grounding- the reading revolution :). Amarydha had printed out multiple copies of the Martin Carter poem ‘You Are Involved’ on small slivers of paper for us to hand out- a brilliant idea. I gave one to the nurse, asked her what she thought about it. She liked it, she said. I asked her if she was had passed the nursing exams; most hadn’t- a national shame/scandal. Yes, thankfully she had, she replied. I asked her what the problem was, why so many of her classmates had failed. She thought it had to do with the new grading scheme, of grading papers 1 and 2 separately instead of together and requiring passes for both, instead of the old, other way. That made no sense to me- if you did not know the material I didn’t want them jiggering the test so you could pass- this is life and death we dealing with and you must know what you’re doing if you’re working in that field! Still, she seemed nice enough. “You’re not one of those nurses who hollers at the patients, are you?” I asked her. These were all serious questions I was asking her. No, she said, and that she does be sad when she sees her colleagues behaving that way. I tell her my background is in health as well, and that I write a column for the newspapers. I ask her what she thinks I should write about next, to inform the public about. Chikungunya, she says, and that Angola disease.
After a quick but heartfelt prayer to the powers that be to keep it so I never require medical care in Guyana, I attempt a couple other interactions. Security guard lady says, yes, you could give me a book. I tell her she could choose for herself and she pauses and looks at me. Sigh. I don’t feel like talking much today. Which is not good since that is the whole point of Groundings. I try chatting a little with one of the taxi driver guys who hangs out on that corner. I pass there/them all the time but never stopped to really look at or talk to any of them. This one guy looks young and he talks to me readily enough. He’s just come out, he said, and he’ll stay until he makes the amount of money he needs. Then he gets a passenger and our attempt at conversation ends just so. A couple of schoolgirls pass and Amaraydha and I engage them. They’re family they say- one being the other’s brother’s granddaughter. One who looks barely 15 says no, she’s not in school anymore, that she has 2 children! How old are your children, I ask her curiously. She’s got a 10year old daughter and a 3 month old son, she tell me. I am amazed. She didn’t go past primary school. The other two are still in (secondary) school, coming to town from Better Hope on the East Coast every day. They’ve never heard of Martin Carter though, and have nothing to say about the poem. They are smiley and amiable though and we chit chat for a little bit before they go off to catch their bus back home.
An older gentleman passes by then and Amaraydha gives him a poem slip. He doesn’t want to stay and read with us he says at first, but then he and I start talking and he stays for over an hour. He wants to know about the book I’m holding- Derrick Jensen’s ‘A Language Older Than Words.’ I tell him it’s about the environment and he pulls a quote from it to read. “The part of the mind that is dark to us in this culture, that is sleeping in us, that we name ‘unconscious’ is the knowledge that we are inseparable from all other beings in the universe.”- Susan Griffin. I ask what he thinks about that and he says he agrees, is true, that everything IS connected. He asks me if I know that every leaf on a plant is different. We marvel at that together for a while, then I ask him what he thinks about the Bai Shan Lin logging scandal. Eh girl, how u gone from poetry to politics so! He asks me who I work for and if I have a microphone on me, recording him. I laugh and tell him that no, I doan work for anybody and I just want to know what he thinks. He counters by pointing to the big concrete building going up directly across from where we are standing. People just care about money these days, he says, nothing else. It’s the best wood getting exported, he says, telling me that one of his prized possessions is a purpleheart table. From there we get to talking about wood ants. He tells me all kind of amazing things about wood ants, and flying ants, and ants in the savannah that make those big mounds, and then we start talking about bees, worker bees, and the fighter ones, and the queen bee. Dis man is, as they say, a real gaffologist.
I know the time passing and I should wrap it up and talk to other people but because I wasn’t feeling too sociable, I decided to just stick with him for a while since the initial contact work had been done etc. Plus, we had a nice gyaff going. Mike was well known to many it seemed like. A big woman pushing one of those water barrels stopped to swap a few lines with him, and whats his face reporter man hailed both of us up. You talking to a real sugar man there, he tells me with a smile. We continued gyaffing. Even thought Mike had no idea how it would happen, he was sure that change was coming. I asked him if he thinks he’ll see it in his lifetime and he answered yes without missing a beat. Would that I were so optimistic, I told him, even though I agreed with the inevitableness of change. “Oh, you will see it, definitely!” he assured me.
Vidya had come by then, and the books had moved from the concrete bench to the grass by the pave. There were some youth in school uniforms sitting on the bench and I decided that I would wrap things up with Mike and go talk to them. Before I could do that though, Amaraydha approached them with the poem. I bid farewell to Mike and watched her as she attempted to engage them. They gyaffed a bit, posed for some pictures, and then dispersed. A taxi driver who knows Vidya pulled up then and they gyaff about poetry. Amaraydha gives him one of the slips and he jumps back into his car to affix it to the dashboard. He’s jovial and chatty. I’m still feeling rather anti-social so am just kind of looking on from the background. Another friend of Vidya shows up- she’s actually come to use the ATM. There is a long line of people waiting (it was payday) and Vidya decides to go read poetry to them as they’re waiting in line. It takes a bit of courage but he works himself up and does it. Again, I just watch from the sidelines. I talk to a schoolgirl who is waiting for someone in line; she is in Form 4 but like the others, has never heard of Carter. Her favorite line- same as the others- is about being a hero tomorrow. I tell her mine is the one about all being involved and all consumed and go on to define consumed for her. With the educational system in its current shambles, nothing can be assumed these days.
Vidya takes me for icecream at the place in the new mall at the corner of Camp and Regent which is already getting run down. I want the sorrel but it’s too soft and the girl will not serve it to me. The banana and lemon combo I eventually decide on is not bad though. We must always have the banner/sign we decide, as well as a theme and props. We also have to ground ourselves first beforehand, Vidya says. I agree and spoon more icecream into my mouth. We are sitting right in front of the fry chicken counter and I’m not really uplifted but at least I came out of the house today. After saying bye to Vidya, I go to the Stabroek Friday night market and buy more stuff to consume, trying to fill the emptiness within.