Ode to Caribbean Calypso

1

Have you heard

What the calypso stirred

Up in the head

Of the West Indian vagabond, politician, street man, and dread?

With words that cut like a knife,

Fomenting strife in life

Wounded by its painful twists.

Or, unable to resist

The rhythm and pulse flooding your hips,

You surrender to sweet, sensual lyrics.

 

2

I hear it now, and it transports me

To a place of euphony.

No urn’d deities cavort here,

Or plaintive nightingale notes by which other poets swear.

Only the unique style

Of Sparrow’s delightful guile

Sparking thoughts and images carnal,

While Rudder requests

Mercy for indulgent bacchanal

During public abandon at carnival.

Scene from Trinidad carnival
Scene from Trinidad carnival

 

3

From kaiso and canboulay,

When slave laws held sway,

This revolution genre survives today―

Evoking passions and evolving along the way.

And, the passions always come,

Whether in rural village or suburban town,

Fuelled by song and steel drum

That highlight the path of our history,

Which gave birth to this legacy

Following hundreds of years of forced captivity.

Scene from Trinidad carnival -  Parade of the Bands
Scene from Trinidad carnival – Parade of the Bands

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Do you feel it? Do you feel the fire

Of Sandra’s

“War” lament arousing your ire?

Or, Rudder’s genius reflecting the dream

Of returning glory to our cricket team?

You begin to tap a conservative foot,

Then the fire takes root,

And it burns you up, so

You just let go.

 

5

Soft, soft, the night

When the mood’s just right

For Baron’s tantalizing croon

Beneath the magic of a full moon.

Where it’s not palsy that shakes the aged or young,

But Baron’s melody sung

In dulcet sweetness

Of words that caress belly and chest.

 

6

Has Morpheus beguiled my senses

So I see through sleep-tainted lenses?

Is this a dream

Which I must forsake

When I awake?

No! It’s the calypso black magic in my blood,

Releasing a flood

Of hormones in my mood festive,

Making me a willing captive.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Ode to Caribbean Calypso”

  1. Oh, gosh. What a wonderful, evocative poem — and what wonderful music! I first heard steel drums in London, for heaven’s sake, and that’s also where I first heard reggae.So much of the music I heard in West Africa had clear echoes of Calypso. Just listening to what you’ve posted here takes me back there, and it’s pure enjoyment.

    1. Thanks, Linda.
      According to Wikipedia, West Indian calypso has its roots in West Africa, so the similarity is not surprising. I decided to write this poem a couple of weeks after Trinidad’s carnival. (West Indies calypso originated in Trinidad.) I wanted to do something special with it, so I googled “ode” and came across Keats’ “Nightingale” and “Grecian Urn” – hence the lines “No urn’d deities cavort here,
      Or plaintive nightingale notes by which other poets swear.” and “Where it’s not palsy that shakes the aged or young,
      But Baron’s melody sung
      In dulcet sweetness
      Of words that caress belly and chest.”

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I plan to do the same thing with reggae later this year.

      Andrew

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