the louderARTS Project

Photo courtesy of Peter Dressel

Roger Bonair-Agard

Roger Bonair-Agard is a native of Trinidad and Tobago, a Cave Canem fellow and co-author of Burning Down the House. He is a two-time National Slam Champion and is co-founder of The louderARTS Project. Roger's work has been widely anthologized and commissioned and he has appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam and the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour. Roger's new collection of poems 'tarnish and masquerade' is forthcoming from Cypher Books in the Spring of 2006. He teaches and performs throughout the world and keeps his belongings in Brooklyn.

Bonair-Agard is a poet who fixes his experience with memory and uses memory image as analyzer of his experience. A poet of live language mastering its literary "statement." Someone whose poetry can be entered and felt and understood. An impressive work.
ē Amiri Baraka

roger at louderarts dot com
www.rogerbonairagard.com




The devil in music Ė for Wammo and the North Stand

They say they want to have a musical change in pan
Well I didnít tell them Yes
Well I didnít tell them No

• Lord Kitchener (from ĎPan in A Minorí)

Iím telling the Texan
of the phenomenon of pan in A Minor
100-piece orchestras of oil drums
harmonizing the songs of slaves
with the twelve notes of the Western scale
in unheard-of tonics and chords

see him grin broad
acknowledge the goose bumps
as I explain the baptismal swell
of savannah dust blooming
like babiesí breath amongst the bouquet
of 100 pan men 4 flag women
and a moko jumbie

soak in the ego of my own description
like that is the source of his joy
pretend I am not a man
lost in the land of another
pretend I am not telling the Texan of this
as much to keep the memories fresh
as to share this pound of flesh
that hurts more and more every day
I move further away from home

as if my removal from the land
of cascadoo and lasí lap masí
is not itself a tearing of flesh
that neither of us is healed from

like my tattoos arenít a scarification ritual
that reminds me Iím alive
the ink one big blue-black mark
where Arouca where Cascade where the savannah
where Trinidad was ripped from me

the Texan is laughing now
as he tries to picture the bass man
spinning like a rooster in a gayelle
as he negotiates the six-drum of bass
laughing as he tries to mimic
something he has never seen
100 men jumping in unison
as they make music
as they pogo like Maasai
through the diminished fifth (diabolus in musica)
and the moko jumbie man is raised
to a fever of exultation

and flag women drop their heavy hips
down and up again to remind us
of the struggle and magic of the cane brulee

and it is 3 AM and the Texan
might as well not be listening
because I am shirtless and prancing
and for five minutes Renegades are on stage
making Jit look like the genius he is again
and a woman in the tightest shorts
between her and her God
and a gold tooth to the front
is offering me a heaping plate of pelau
from a basket to wash down the full cup
of hot rum in my hand
and the man who is still stemming
the blood from his temple from the bottle
thrown there half hour ago
is smiling again

and for five minutes the Texan
is laughing background noise
and this muggy Brooklyn summer
this four-story walk-up
this fire escape and the gunshots in the distance
are somebodyís twisted idea of a joke

and me and Trinidad are whole again
no wounds between us
no IMF debt
no West Indies losing to England
or Australia or India at cricket

me and Trinidad are whole again
no Abu Bakr
no curfew
bobol is ting to laugh at again
because Black Stalinís voice is hoarse
but the North Stand is carrying him
Peter, keep de fire blaziní

and Pan in A Minor is a climax beneath us all
Jit is pastor preacher communion
and Renegades is choir
and we are willing submittants to this cult
because Kitchener decided to explore
the minor chord
Beat Pan
before Brooklyn before Temper Bailey before hurt
Beat Pan
before gang fight before poetry before debt
Beat Pan
before kidnappings before crack
Beat Pan
before reconciliation with my father before eviction

before this rapture and this bruise this tearing
before this longing to make it up to Trinidad
and have Trinidad apologize to me
before wear red and lose to America in football
before 9-11 before cut locks before these poems
before Bush threatened to cut off aid
we never wanted in the first place

it was always the Savannah
always the North Stand
always Kitch making the pan sing
in chords it never knew it had in it
for Spree for Trinidad for the flag woman
for the pelau woman
for me and a Texan
in a hot kitchen
in Brooklyn



© Roger Bonair-Agard



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