Lynda V. E. Crawford – Drax Hall Duppies

Lynda V. E. Crawford is a poet who has lived in the US longer than her childhood home Barbados. Both “homes” sway and punctuate her writing. She’s let go of journalism, copywriting, website management, and email marketing. Poetry won’t let go. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including The Caribbean Writer, The Bookends Review, Exposition Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, and various Moonstone Arts Center anthologies. Lynda now lives in Southern California.


Drax Hall Duppies

(A reminder to Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, British MP
owner of Drax Hall Plantation, Barbados)

[I]
erasure was complete—or so we thought
individuals, names drowned along with tribes
suffocated in stench of slavery; mutilated
in the grind of sugar cane

Royal-owned enslaving ships, coining and abusing;
self-named aristocrats preening in plantation
scarring and burning alive; ash-ing our lineage

[II]
erasure was complete—or so they thought
we didn’t know of Caribs, Arawaks, Taino
severed from Fulani, Hausa, Dogon, the Igbo
medu netjer – hieroglyphs far across the sea

we were generations-of-no-eyes, silently booed
those who started to see: like George Lamming
he spoke the word African—claimed continent as kin

[III]
erasure was complete—or so we were taught
we feared twentieth century speech
at our national stadium during a day of CARIFESTA
us, Little England, raised high on false buoys of Britain’s

ancestors—those who tacked, jibed, laughed at the sound
of our folly; mumbled fools under breath as we preened
in falsehoods, ignorance, molasses, and grog bliss

[IV]
erasure wasn’t complete—and our ancestors don’t forget
we may have stiff-upper-lipped the whole: dark plantations, weighted
heavy with power: breaking bone, drawing blood, burying blood …

not anymore; we honouring forebears in public spaces
names known: Bussa, Clement Payne; some lost…
our duppies are churning under sugar cane; hundreds—roaming de place

[V]
they holdin’ history, wuking obeah, markin’ dah trail
from parliament tuh plantation—and back.
wuh is dah yuh say? “It has nothing to do with me”. All dah family history?

Your James Drax, Prince of Barbados; 600 acres, 300 Africans first time out?
hear wuh ah say Lord Richard: we comin’ fuh yuh
remembuh: you cahn rub we out. Erasure dun ….


NOTATIONS
-Drax Hall Plantation, St. George, Barbados where the first sugar cane was cultivated in 1642
-duppies: ghosts, spirits, ancestors
– Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax inherited Drax Hall in 2017
-George Lamming (1927-2022) Barbadian novelist, poet, academician
– CARIFESTA (Caribbean Festival of Arts)
-Bussa’s rebellion (14–16 April 1816) largest slave revolt in Barbadian history. African-born enslaved man named Bussa
-Clement Osbourne Payne (1904-1941), trade unionist; led rebellion against the planter class.

 

 

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