Cyril Dabydeen (Towards Visibility)

Cyril Dabydeen



Thumb stuck out,

And nothing will do,

Nothing to persuade anyone--

The cars going by, too quickly,

Hoity-toity British types, you see,

Or don’t really see, speeding along--

No-one turning back, if only for

A short while to see the black-bearded

Hippie-looking man, from America--

Oh, America. Let him howl!

Then it came to him in a flash

To be Buddhist, real Asia now, 

Hands held together, clasped,

Prayerful indeed, asking with

Spiritual aura or bhakti yoga--

His supplication, indeed,

Blessed, so let him be--

And quickly one car stopped,

Ready to pick him up, driving him

Beat-generation style--

Peace-loving, tantric oh,

“The heart is your guru,” said

The swami, reminding him

Of his metier, verse only,

In America, far-out!

*Adapted from Poets at Work: The Paris Review Interviews (1989).


MY DARJEELING TEA PLANTATION                                                              

He wanted me to know how

tea is grown, the sprawling

plantation set up near villages,

and the women who must pick

the leaves; oh, such drudgery.


Real painstaking work, you see,

believe me, about women

who must accept their fate,

to grow the best tea

--only the world knows.


This Canadian diplomat--

telling me how one grower

with compassion spotted

an intelligent girl here

--among the peasants.


He suggested to her parents

that she should be trained

to become a nurse to escape

her fate, you see--

    his story retold to me


Like from yesterday, more 

than once upon a life-time,

as the tea plantation grew

bigger, a continent far away

--I must really know.




(or Getting to Know Tigers Better)


Rukmin, one of the cubs,

had several tastes of Mrs Walker

in accidental bites and scratches

but showed no tendency to develop

a taste for human flesh.


While Mrs Walker agrees that tiger cubs

cannot resist attacking a bending

or squatting human being--“I’ve experienced

numerous attacks of this kind,”

she says--she certainly wouldn’t


be willing to offer herself for an experiment

of this kind with a full-grown tiger,

the above is borne out by

reports of tigers attacking people

bent over while gathering wood


or grass, or simply squatting--

the victims naturally scream or struggle,

then the true natural instinct

of the tigers to what they

bite is incited!


Mrs Walkers avers, “Once a person

is dead, he’s just meat and fair game

for dinner; the law of the jungle

allows little sentiment really

you must know.”


Cyril Dabydeen-- “a noted Canadian poet” (House of Commons, Ottawa), short story writer, novelist, and anthologist. His recent books are My Undiscovered Country (Mosaic Press), God’s Spider (Peepal Tree Press, UK), and My Multi-Ethnic Friends/Fiction (Guernica Editions). Other titles include: Jogging in Havana, Black Jesus and Other Stories, My Brahmin Days, North of the Equator, Imaginary Origins: Selected Poems, and Drums of My Flesh (IMPAC/Dublin Prize nominee and Guyana Prize winner for best novel. He won the Okanagan Fiction Prize and the Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for fiction. Cyril’s work has appeared in the Oxford, Penguin, and Heinemann Books of Caribbean Verse, as well as Poetry (Chicago), The Critical Quarterly (UK), The Fiddlehead, Prism International, and Canadian Literature. Ottawa Poet Laureate Emeritus, he taught Writing for many years at the UofOttawa. 

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