HIS BROKEN GROUND: Edward Brathwaite’s trilogy of Poems

The time looks peaceful and promising but the European influences are still at work – the hurricane, we remember, symbolized European cultural aggression in the fourth section of “The Cracked Mother”. The “black [Negro] eye” of the poet is travelling as far as the eye can see; but also, the eye of the poet has travelled to the brink of seeing a (specially powerful or real, new) vision. The poet declares his faith in the importance of art; and, through the images, of the particular kinds of work he has chosen to do:

it is the bird that sings,

the green that wavers, wavers, wins

the slave rebellion of the rot

of dust


that matters;

it is this that glitters

in the salt



that crusts the coral

with foundation stone, that

stirs the resurrection out of

Tacky’s bones.


“So on this ground,/ write.” Those writers who follow the rituals of respect for the gods will be mounted by them, as at a Voodoo ceremony,


the hooves will come, welcomed

by drumbeats, into your ridden head,


and the writer will receive a holy African inspiration:


the graven Word


from Olodumare

from Ogun of Alare, from Ogun of Orure

from Shango broom of thunder and

DambaUa Grand Chemin.


This very tine selection closes:


For on this ground


trampled with the bull’s swathe of whip

where the slave at the crossroads

was a red anthill

eaten by moonbeams, by the holy ghosts of his wounds


the Word becomes

again a god and walks among us;

look, here arc his rags,

here is his satchel

of dreams; here is his hoe and

his rude implements


on this ground

on this broken ground.


Brathwaite is saying that Caribbean man will benefit from closer contact with the ground, and from remembering the suffering of slavery. The slave at the crossroads is dead, at a moment of choice. Through our vicarious experience of his suffering (“by the holy ghosts/ of his wounds”) we may achieve creative power: the Word (creative force) becomes a god and walks among us (the little “g” mocking the Christian allusion). The god turns out to be Legba (he has his crutch) who may open for us the gate to other gods. He has his satchel of dreams but also his hoc and rough implements. Both arc necessary; the imagination must be grounded.