Lyrics taken from a letter for Bistonath's "Why We Fight" project. The letters are written from one person, addressed to Guyana as another person. This letter was striking to me with its imagery of a lush, wild, delicious childhood.
My only reference, in my own memory of my trip to Guyana, were the Amerindian children we spent the day with. After dinner, they went jumping off an old pier (dangerously in disrepair) into stormy opaque brown waters, laughing in the warm sea, never feeling safer. As the sun set, as we foreign adults tempered our fear against their youthful immortalness, the green bank was never greener, the whitecaps of the ocean never more beautiful, the grey sky never sweeter, herding us home, the frightful pier never more natural, its creaking never gentler. Their laughter. The laughter of the 2 girls, the 2 boys, the grandmother, the little silly dog, still ringing in my ears. My final picture? the smallest one on his bicycle thanking us for visiting and riding on, the dirt path breaking up as he raced ahead, driving in circles, aimlessly delaying the end of the day.
Back to the letter. In this woman's memory, she describes similar feelings of childhood safety amongst rainstorms, and wind, and amongst adults who graciously obliged the children with fresh food grown from the earth underneath their feet. She wonders, was it youth that made her feel safe? Or has the country changed so much?
She thinks of the poorly installed door locks of her childhood and how they protected them against wild gusts of wind. She thinks of the locks that the people have now, to protect them from dangerous people.
And when she writes that it was alright to seek shelter under a stranger's roof, I wonder why, when others are at their most vulnerable, we are often at our worst. I can't help it, when I read those words, my mind drifted to the Syrian refugees who are seeking that same shelter and that we would not only refuse them, but pour money into preventing shelter, we physically restrain them from shelter, we deny it, and we begin to accuse them of terrorism so that with one stroke, we can ignore them and feel morally righteous about it.
But with those 4 words, one woman's most cherished memories/ideas, takes every argument and blows it away like dust. For others who are suffering, and for ourselves, it's alright to seek shelter.
There is now a bridge across the Demarara river, my love
And it's alright to seek shelter
always oblige the young boys who try
Walk now gently on the earth
just like in my memory, a forest in birth
a flimsy latch holding the door against the wind
and not your neighbour
It's nothing to ask for a few peppers and veggies from the vine
running around catching iguanas
crabs in a basket and coconut oil
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