Last words for a stranger

To the man-who-works-with-hands

I dreamed of the old you nights ago. In it, you found me and you told me that it wouldn’t hurt for long, that it would be okay. I placed my cheek against your chest and listened. I could hear your heart beat strong like it does in life. It anchored me, brought me peace and after a long, long time, I felt safe again.

But then I came back to this world where I couldn’t breathe, where your cruelty has become my most familiar friend, where you’d rather cast me away because it’s easier. And yet, I’ve remained near you because I know which is worse between your absence and presence.

Today is a sad day for me. It is the last time I will write to you and for you. I have said all I’ve had left to say. I ripped the words from the deepest parts of me and had them flung back at me repeatedly. I’ve been buried in the weight of my own love, my own loss, my own sorrow.

We do not choose love. It chooses us. But we do get to choose the moment we throw in our white flag. And so, you have mine, finally. While I’ve given up on the dream that you’ll come home again one day, I have not given up feeling the way I’ve felt from the moment I first saw you. You are wrong. There are things that last.

With deepest regret and unwavering love,

the girl who waited until there was no hope left.

The Nameless Thing

Stef and I
Stefan and I at the UG School of Medicine’s Award Ceremony for the Class of 2015. He was awarded for being the Best Student in Paediatrics, the Best Student in General Surgery and for graduating with a Distinction.

Life was not made to be rushed through. I try to savour the minutes and hours and days because I know that when they become months and years I won’t be able to remember them all. We don’t remember days or anything in its entirety. We remember moments that touch us in some way.

Yesterday I was in a rush. I burnt a dress I’ve been wanting to wear for a long time and ended up wearing something that I hated with a passion. Usually, I don’t fuss much about clothes. But last night was special. Last night I watched my partner get coated. So now I’m stuck with introducing him as Dr. Stefan Hutson.

I am extremely proud of this man because of where he’s come from and what he’s endured to finally make the dream real in the end. I see he’s been posting that the best dreams happen while you’re awake. He’s right. Dreams don’t magically happen. We’ve got to be awake, conscious and constantly working until the dream becomes real. Dreaming is hard work.

When I first met him, we had an exchange (I won’t call it an argument because for me arguments are spectacular and beautiful things) about me meeting his mother and the nature of our relationship. Here’s part of what he said to me: “What? You need a contract to make it official?” (See why I like him?)

You see, I think this is something we’ve all been guilty of at some point. We try too hard to define everything all the time or rather to give it a name. I’ve found that the most genuine things, the things that will see us through our entire lives are not so easy to name and definitely don’t need a contract.

Sometimes I think that love is not love anymore because of how it’s portrayed in popular culture. So when we begin to feel those unexplainable things, the things that reach deep inside us where we never let anyone see, then sometimes it’s good to just feel, to just let it be and not worry about the what or why or after.

Last night was about him, not me. My dress didn’t matter. And because my dress didn’t matter in any way, I’m the luckiest woman alive. Because when I looked at him, the only thing I looked for was the happiness in his eyes. And I know that when he looks at me, he doesn’t see the dress, he sees me.

Signature 2

Dear Nana

This poem was first performed on March 25, 2014 at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport’s World Poetry Day 2014 event – An Evening of International, Regional and Guyanese Poetry. I dedicated the first performance to Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony. The poem itself is dedicated to my nana, those Guyanese of Indian heritage who have had their hearts broken, to all Guyanese fighting the blindness and anyone who wishes to see beneath and beyond the mud. Perhaps now, I should replace “Without Wax” with “Without Riva Mud”.

Moonlight bright, bright tonight
Suh bright, riva mud na hide dem rakshas face.
Ah de same moon yuh lef nana.
Same, same moon yuh lef.
Suh how come me ah see and you na bin see?
Ah de same moon yuh lef nana.
Same, same moon yuh lef.
Same moon mek dem same coolie
tun nyam man and nyam woman.
Dem ah nyam everything nana.
Everything dem ah nyam.
Ow nana, dem ah nyam dem mattie
and dem mattie pickanee tuh.
If yuh tink me ah lie,
mus ask Nagamootoo and Ramkarran.
Ask dem when dem come dah side.
Ask dem if na truth me ah talk.
Dem guh tell yuh
dat if dem coolie dah,
if dem same coolie dah
coulda find yuh ash weh e deh
Den dem woulda nyam dah tuh.
Moonlight bright, bright tonight.
E bright, bright tonight nana.
Suh bright, me ah see dem
dutty skin unda dem nice cloth.
Ah de same moon yuh lef nana
Same, same moon yuh lef.
Same moon dat glad, glad yuh done dead
because now, yuh na gah geh moonlight
fuh see dem rakshas face.
Now, yuh guh see wa dem bin ah hide
with all dah riva mud dem bin ah dig fah.
Ah de same, same riva mud dem use, nana
Same, same riva mud dem use
fuh bruk yuh heart.
Bruk yuh heart when yuh done dead nana.
Dem bruk yuh heart, nana. Ow! Dem bruk am!
Dem na know how fuh love ah land
like you bin love am.
Dem na know nothing bout love.
Moonlight bright, bright tonight nana.
E bright, bright, bright nana.
Suh bright riva mud cyan hide nothing nah mo.

(Without Riva Mud. Bharrat 2014)

Amerindians – The “Othered” People of Guyana

Leeland Clarkian is an Amerindian elder native to St. Cuthbert’s Mission. He has done much work in educating Amerindians and creating awareness of their culture. On January 24, 2014 I visited St. Cuthbert’s Mission where I met Clarkian for the first time. We spoke of his life, his decision to return to his village, the fate of the Arawakian language and the “othered” state of the Amerindian people in Guyana. In this article, I discuss the “otheredness”.

What do we see when we look at an Amerindian? Do we see a fellow country man or woman? Do we see an equal? Or do we see a “backward buck”? How funny is the “buck joke”? What does the Amerindian man, the Amerindian woman feel when they hear us tell someone “yuh behaving like a buck”? Do we think of these things?

Beneath the “buck joke” there is a tragic story. It is a tragic story of blindness. It is a story of how an entire nation has overlooked the humanness of an entire people. It is a story about the Amerindian people and their otheredness in a land that is home, that feels like home but that does not treat them as a home treats those who dwell in it.

“What do you think they see when they look at Amerindians?” I asked Leeland Clarkian in January.

“They see us as second class citizens,” he answered. There was no hesitation. His eyes met mine, his voice was steady and I recognized truth along with the pain which accompanies it.

Clarkian believes that the use of “buck”, its meaning and the effect of both these things upon the Amerindian psyche will not die any time soon. “(In such situations), gradually there is a standoff. In any minority group this is what happens,” he explained. He insisted that if Guyanese of Indian or African ancestry exchanged places with the Amerindian then they would suffer the same fate.

Recounting an incident from several decades ago while he was in the army, Clarkian told of how he became aware of his “othered” state while still in his teenage years. “I’ve heard this in the army. They said ‘He can’t be one of us’…Yes, we (Amerindians) have been othered. The Indo and Afro band together and then they other the Amerindian. I’ve seen all of that in the army. I got so angry about these things,” he said. But anger is far from what Clarkian feels now. He recognizes that the only way to “rebuff” such things is by sharing his own experiences.

As Clarkian spoke, I could no longer meet his eyes. His truth was a live thing, a thing so real that I could not hide from it. What could I tell him? Could I tell him I was sorry that I too have been guilty of participating in the othering of him and his people, of our people? Was I to be blamed for the socialization process which taught me to see the Amerindian as alien to Guyana and Guyaneseness? Was I to be blamed for a culture that teaches us to treat our indigenous people as exotic creatures with a vaguely interesting history who are here but who are not really a part of here?

Yes, I could tell Clarkian these things, these truths. I could share these things with him because just as I have come to see his plight, he too is able to see mine. This is how we can help each other and rid ourselves of the things that separate us: by sharing our own truths, our own experiences; by seizing to be afraid of the truth.

Does the story end here? No, this is only one layer of the blindness, of the problem. Another layer is embedded within the Amerindian psyche. It is the Amerindian’s inability to see his or her own self. Clarkian said: “I think Guyanese in general and Amerindians, they don’t know their history. How many Guyanese or Amerindians know about the greatness of their people? How much do they know?”

The history of the Amerindian people, like any other people, is riddled with greatness and inspirational stories. It is history, Clarkian believes, which can teach us all to value the Amerindian. But more so, it is this awareness of history and self which is needed to awaken in the Amerindian the feeling of self worth. Unfortunately, the treatment of history in Guyana is another sad story to be told.

And in all this, do Amerindians have a voice? Is there a clear, strong, ever present voice which speaks for the Amerindian? No, there is none. Clarkian hopes that in speaking openly about these things we Guyanese like to hide beneath jokes, a voice will be awakened. He hopes that young men and women will wake up and care about people and country. He hopes that young Amerindian men and women will recognize their worth, teach their country men and women to see that worth and in so doing learn to own the Guyanese identity which belongs equally to them.

Change is not something which will come or happen easily, Clarkian said. The problem goes “deep down” and the change has to start from within. “Let us get up now, bathe, change and get it done. We have to stop making excuses,” he declared.

Where have Guyanese gone? What has happened to our integrity? What has happened to our morals? What has happened to our values? What has happened to these things? Are we really lost? Are these things irretrievable? These are questions Clarkian advises we all ask ourselves.

“We must not forget our morals, our values, our sense of dignity. We must ensure we don’t become haughty. This is a human problem. It happens within,” he said. “Many of our leaders are educated and yet they do not lead. It is because they suffer from this human thing, this human thing that happens within.”

So what do we do in the absence of steady leadership? What do we do when we find ourselves banding together only to other our brothers? We must first admit that we are guilty of the actions which have resulted in our present state. Taking responsibility for our actions translates to a casting off the fear which stifles us and signals that we have embraced truth. This is what we do. We share our truths, inspire our youths and awaken new voices, new leaders.

To Ian McDonald

Dear Ian McDonald,

As I sit here this cold, grey morning in Craig Old Road my mind and heart and soul wander through the moments you’ve remembered these past decades. I see now, Ian, if I may be so bold, that there comes a time when a girl must rise and burn the leeches from her skin so that she may forge a sword of metaphors.

Swords, I’m sure you must know, are not only meant for blood. No Ian, some swords have been created to carry flames; flames from the same fire which has kept your dear Martin, our dear Martin burning until now. It is the same fire, Ian, which I have seen in the soul of my Martin.

I have witnessed much more than the man Ian McDonald in A Cloud of Witnesses; I have witnessed my country and region and world. But more importantly Ian, I have been taught by you to see so much more than I’ve been willing to see. And even though, I may not agree with some of what you say, I am honoured that I could drink from this reservoir of yours. Knowledge is never enough. It seems that I have been condemned to thirst until death.

In some ways Ian, I envy you. I am not jealous of Martin, no, I have my own Martin, but I am sorely jealous that you have been able to experience that thing which died long before my birth. You are right though, not all ages can be golden. I am certain that this is an age of lead.

But still, hope is an eternal friend (or foe) of man and so once my Martin lives I have hope. I await the day when the nation recognises that my Martin is really our Martin. You see Ian, men like my Martin (and even your Martin) and maybe one day I may be able to say women like me were not conceived in a womb but in the university of war.

Eternal Gratitude,
Sara Bharrat.

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.