Edward Brathwaite

The Skin

First the goat

must be killed

and the skin



Bless you, four – footed animal, who eats rope,


upon  rocks, horned with our sin;

stretch your skin, stretch


It tight on our hope;

we  have killed

you to make a thin

voice that will reach


Further than hope;

further than heaven, that will

reach deep down t our gods where the thin

light cannot, where our stretched


Hearts cannot leap. Cut the rope

of its throat, skilled

destroyer of goats; its sin,

spilled on the washed gravel, reaches

and spreads to devour us all. So the goat

must be killed

and its skin



The Barrel of the Drum


For this we choose wood

of the tweneduru  tree:

hard duru wood

with the hollow blood

that  makes a womb.


Here in this silence

we hear the wounds

of the  forest;

we hear the sounds

of the rivers;


vowels of reed-

lips,. Pebbles

of consonants,

underground dark

of the continent.


You dumb adom  wood

will be bent,

will be solemnly bent, belly

rounded with fire, wounded with tools.


that will shape you.

You will bleed,

cedar dark,

when we cut you;

speak, when we touch you.


The Two Curved Sticks of the Drummer

There is a quick

stick grows in the  forest, blossoms twice yearly without leaves;

bare  white branches

crack like lightning in the harmattan.


But no harm

comes to those who live nearby. This tree, the elders say, will never die.


From   this stripped tree

snap quick sticks for

the festival. Its wood,

heat-hard as stone,

is toneless  as a bone.



Edward Brathwaite

Whose gold you carry, camel,

In this cold cold world?

Whose pearls of great price?

Whose cinnamon, whose spice?


Your world of walls, o city

Of my birth, rise so certain

So secure; the plains

Of dust surrounding us.


So kept away ,so  distant.

Whose gold you carry, camel,

On your hill-top back?

To what far land you now


Transport our wealth?

And what wealth here, what

Riches, when the gold returns

To dust, the walls


We raised return again

To dust; and what sharp winds,

Teeth’d  with the desert’s sand,

Rise in the sun’s dry.


Brilliance where our mosques

Mock ignorance , mock pride,

Burn in the crackled blaze of time,

Return again to whispers, dust

US - Africa Literary Foundation

Chimdi Maduagwu, PhD
Executive Director
US-Africa Writers Foundation
Dr. Bode Osanyin
Chairman, Department of Creative Arts
University of Lagos
Department of Creative Arts
Akoka, Yaba
Lagos, Nigeria

Website Copyright © 2002-5 US-Africa Writers Foundation.  Selected writings copyright by their authors