31 December 2006

what i see

the water comes up from the warmest seas
the temperature's been rising the whole day
spring in the heart of winter seems to tease
we've naught to gain except a certain way
but focus and desire merge in the spray
a hoped-for ending would not be amiss
we've not seen a single encouraging ray
the rain falls down on our heads with a hiss

there's little wind today a lightish breeze
the shrubs outside move little hardly sway
nature seems afflicted with a bleak ease
the muting lack of colour or display
give us a feeling just as dull and grey
as when we're closing on on the abyss
a blending of our fear and our dismay
the rain falls down on our heads with a kiss

at least there's no chance now of a hard freeze
but that thought doesn't our dim mood allay
the rain's enough to make the hardy sneeze
and colour seems completely drained away
brightness and hope both appear to decay
and life itself's bereft of joy and bliss
still some attempt at pleasure we'll essay
the rain falls down on our heads with a hiss

prince who desired that the whole year were may
be not so harsh on our desires nor miss
that we reject the dullness and the gray
the rain falls down on our heads with a hiss

new year's eve

walking the distance
a job not just a duty
ignore the rainfall

end of a sad year
next year possibly sadder
still soft rain falling

we see no shadows
the darkness enveloping
avoids all answers

the world expects

the space constricts in absence of full light
nothing remains but what we can allow
each day's completed by the fall of night

too much of anything will lead to blight
we can't prevent it with a simple vow
the space constricts in absence of full light

doing the right thing requires more than might
we'd undertake it if we knew just how
each day's completed by the fall of night

upon our shoulders no wise bird will alight
nothing our senses overcome or wow
the space constricts in absence of full light

still do we seek to announce just what is right
we will not free the ox that pulls the plough
each day's completed by the fall of night

at noon we cannot see with fullest sight
our eyes seem dimmer underneath the brow
the space constricts in absence of full light
each day's completed by the fall of night

ungod disconnecting

as the year ends we watch warm rain
fall in a steady flow for long bleak hours
the water as it washes streams and scours
does not remove the last the human stain
the reason now is one that we see plain
what we've become is far past any powers
fallen from what once were their cloudy bowers
it's too great an effort far too great a strain
but life goes on and does not seem to pause
there's nothing here but what we all have made
what we become is nothing that can pall
instead we're obedient to the same laws
that hold us to our ancient human trade
although we speak there's no one there to call

all that remains

the sight of rain does not this day depress
there's nothing to do now just simply wait
the time to come may not harm or repress
it's too late for that now far far too late
the chance to go will come again that's true
the chance to see new places and new folk
all sorts of things will soon come into view
but all of it's no more than nature's joke
the force that holds us in our proper places
is artificial it cannot prevent our choice
it cannot hide from us our proper faces
and cannot silence any person's voice
life is a jest some say and that is so
but every jest requires someone to know

what's underneath the skin

some handy hap will no doubt occur
the next arrival we hope will announce
what does not in its way end but recur
or will out of this room go with a flounce
not now but later measured by the ounce
the answer will not on this day be heard
the prognosticators have yet to pronounce
not given but earned is how we have the word

not from a notional heaven this sharp burr
but from a source that we cannot renounce
the beast within with tooth and claw and fur
upon its target will most lightly pounce
never could we this plain nature denounce
the very thought of doing so's absurd
the syllables of hate we mispronounce
not given but earned is how we have the word

our vision's not one that we can simply blur
the future we can't just now announce
but in its way the sense we have can't err
there's room to move and even more to bounce
the savage beast not only lynx or ounce
our very thoughts and secrets overheard
cannot its own thoughts and mind renounce
not given but earned is how we have the word

prince though your enemies with ease you trounce
you cannot overcome the largest herd
the delators from every side come to denounce
not given but earned is how we have the word

Laughing Water and the uglificators

Laughing Water and the uglificators
Common Sense
John Maxwell
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Uglification is an ugly word, and uglificator is even uglier, which is why I just invented it, to describe those who would destroy the Cockpit Country for a couple of hundred million American dollars.

John Maxwell

I am old enough to remember, as a very small boy, the exuberantly sparkling, splashing riotous incontinence of the acres of rushing water which was the Roaring River Falls. The falls are now simply a green hillside on the southern side of the road at Laughing Water which, of course, was named after the gloriously, uproariously gambolling, gurgling, roaring, slaphappy, carefree waters of the cataract.

It was a fabulous sight and a wonderful natural concert of sound. The only picture I have ever seen that captured the madcap mood of the falls was in a guidebook to Jamaica published by a Mr James B Stark in Boston in 1909. Unfortunately, I lent the book to somebody who never returned it. But the falls live in my memory.

Today, at the head of what used to be the cataract, you can still gather watercress, but I wouldn't do that now. E Coli pollution from unplanned human settlements make it a little too dangerous.

The Jamaica Public Service Company destroyed the Maggoty Falls to eke out another fractional increase in electricity generation, rather than put real money into building real power stations. That false sense of economy led also to the closing down of the Kingston tramway and six decades of public transport chaos in Kingston.
It was all in the name of development.


In 1953 when I had a row with the editor of the Gleaner and walked out of my job at the grand old age of 19, my sympathetic stepfather, Winston Lynch, invited me to a site for which he was the responsible engineer. It was at a place called the White River Falls, and it was being damed by the JPSCo for another minuscule electricity generating plant. That day, I drove a bulldozer, courtesy of Mr Chung, the bulldozer driver, who told me it was simple. It seemed to me to take nerves of steel to control an enormous D-6 Caterpillar earthmover with the aid of four levers and two pedals. But it was great fun. It got the Gleaner completely out of my system and wiped the White River falls off the map.

We have been making bad development decisions in Jamaica for a very long time. Slavery and the plantation economy were among the worst, exterminating the Tainos, brutalising generations of Africans stolen from their nations, which in turn were destroyed by the trade. It all made money, after all, which is what development is supposed to do. So did driving the ex-slaves into the hills, destroying the forests and producing landslides and massive soil erosion and flooding, drying up the rivers and choking the coral reefs.

The Maroons - those left behind by the Spaniards and those recruited from the plantations - didn't think so. For nearly two centuries, they fought for their freedom, managing to extract from the British recognition as an independent autonomous community.

They signed a treaty with the British as between two sovereign entities bound by duties and responsibilities on both sides. The Maroons kept their side of the bargain, the British didn't. And when the Windward Maroons, blackmailed by the British, were forced to capture the remnants of the Bogle rebellion they earned themselves ill-deserved ignominy from later Jamaicans who regarded them as traitors, without understanding why they were forced to do what they were legally bound to do.

After paying that price in reputation and solidarity, their British 'guaranteed' autonomy was snatched from them by a Resident Magistrate in the 1950s who decided that Accompong was no longer autonomous.
In one sense, it doesn't matter, because the deeds of the Maroons cannot ever be wiped from history. One of their members, Bouckman, took the revolution to Haiti and is now one of their national heroes.
In Jamaica, we are planning to destroy the living heart of one of the most potent symbols of resistance to oppression that exists anywhere.


My father was elected in 1934 to represent Trelawny as the parish's Member of the Legislative Council (parliament). My father's irredeemable blackness stimulated his wife's family to refuse to acknowledge their sister and new brother-in-law for seven years.

I made my first entrance onto the public stage when my mother took me as a nursing infant into the Falmouth Court room where powerful forces were determined to deny my father his against-the-odds election victory. In the election, he had beaten the man who had been MLC for 25 years and Custos of Trelawny for 15.

The Hon Guy Ewen was the leading lawyer in the parish and its most potent financier as head of the Trelawny Building Society. He was the attorney or owner of estates comprising one sixth of the arable land in the parish and chairman of the Parochial Board whenever he found the time. And Trelawny was, in those days, the political equivalent of Southern Rhodesia, not quite an apartheid society, but close.

My father lost the case but Mr Ewen, who won, collapsed and died shortly after. My grandmother - a Maroon was widely credited with 'obeahing' the sadly deceased plutocrat.

My father could not pay the legal fees and, though he won the bye-election after Ewen died, he was in danger of debtor's jail if the bailiffs found him before he was sworn in as MLC at Headquarters House.

My father disappeared into the Land of Look Behind after the bailiffs had seized all his furniture, including my baby crib. In this refuge from oppression, there are place names like "Me No Sen, You No Come" and "Waitabit". My father didn't emerge until the day of the opening of the Legislative Council when his friend, Arthur Benjamin Lowe, MLC for St James, picked him up at a secret rendezvous and transported him to Kingston, the last part of the journey covered by a carpet in the back of Lowe's car.

When Lowe arrived at Duke Street the bailiffs were waiting. Mr Lowe, a Baptist lay preacher was obviously a man of truth, so he was to be believed when he told the querulous bailiffs that he had last seen Maxwell near the Beeston Street (back entrance) to Headquarters House.

They dashed off to Beeston Street and my father, freed of carpet, was soon sprinting up the steps of Headquarters House, hotly pursued by bailiffs. It was as they said of another occasion, 'a damned close-run thing'!
I tell this story to partly explain what may be regarded as my intense, 'almost hysterical' attachment to the Cockpit Country - the Land of Look Behind.


The Hon Dr Carlton Davis, head of the Bauxite Institute for more than 30 years and head of the Cabinet office for almost 20, has, almost proprietorially, asked the environmentalists, to define the Cockpit Country so that he can know what it is they are making such a fuss about.
Without in the least casting any aspersions on Dr Davis, it seems to me indecent that those who intend to despoil a national treasure should be demanding that its defenders should define its boundaries and justify their case.

It is the developers who want to refine bauxite and generate millions of tons of red mud waste that will seriously endanger the Jamaican water supply and it is they who should be defending their predatory position.
The developers, not the environmentalists are the people who want to destroy the priceless biological treasure house of the Cockpit Country by excavation, by caustic atmospheric pollution, by deforestation and other destructive practices.

The developers, not the environmentalists, are the people who want to desecrate the historical and paleoontological treasures of the Cockpit Country.

The developers, not the environmentalists are the people who want to destroy the heritage of the world's first successful guerrilla war against a vastly superior and technologically advanced oppressor;
In any sane and rational democracy, it is the proponents of any violently destructive undertaking such as that proposed by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, Jamalco, Alcoa and their various transnational partners who would be compelled to present their case to the owners with all the relevant facts;

In any sane and rational democracy, it is the developers who would be required to submit themselves for rigorous examination by qualified experts and by the public so that all decisions could be made in the public interest.
In no sane and rational democracy which has signed on to the principles of the Treaty of Rio - Agenda 21 - would people contemplating biological mayhem be allowed to demand that those who oppose dismemberment and destruction be asked to justify their position.

In the topsy-turvy world of Jamaica, where rape victims are transformed by the courts into defendants, such lunacy is made to seem reasonable. In Jamaica the polluter does not pay for his pollution, the people who are damaged are made to pay. The Precautionary Principle, honoured in most civilised countries is in Jamaica regarded as some esoteric theoretical nonsense imported by 'almost hysterical' pressure groups to stop so-called development.

The developers are in for a shock. They are going to discover that there are millions of Jamaicans who are not stupid, ignorant yokels, not modern day Esaus, ready, willing and eager to trade their birthright for a mess of pottage, to exchange their patrimony for the baubles, bangles and beads produced in Pittsburgh, Geneva or Moscow.


But since they ask, let us consider the boundaries of the Cockpit Country.
If you are talking about history and resistance to oppression, the boundaries are wide and go from Kettering (Duncans) in the north almost to Nain in St Elizabeth; and from beyond Maroon Town in the west almost to Bamboo in the east.

For me, the boundaries would include all the caves from Rio Bueno to Auchtembeddie and points west, to the Queen of Spain's Valley and sites where the Taino lived before Columbus' 'doom-burdened caravels' careened so disastrously into their lives at Rio Bueno. So, if you are talking about archaeology and paleoontology, we need to define different boundaries.

If we are talking about geomorphology, we speak of an even larger area, and it is an area vital to the water supplies of most of western Jamaica. It supplies the water for the nation's largest river, the Black River as well as Dornoch (Rio Bueno), Martha Brae, the Great River in St James and others. Again it would include the Queen of Spain's Valley.

If we are talking about ecology, specifically biodiversity, we are talking about a more diffuse definition but which would probably include most of the karstic landscape of Southern Trelawny, parts of St Ann, St James and St Elizabeth. This Cockpit Country is unique in the world, a largely unexplored treasury of plant and animal life with priceless discoveries almost certainly hidden in its hills, valleys, sinkholes, caves and wild places.

If we are talking about the environment, the value of the Land of Look Behind as a spiritual refuge and a wilderness and a resort away from the world, we are speaking of an almost existential dimension.

As we look back at our unsustainable development achievements, at Roaring River, at White River, at Roselle in St Thomas, at Maggoty, Negril, Long Mountain, Pear Tree Bottom and Kingston Harbour and our near catastrophe at Hope Gardens, we can begin to understand what unsustainable development really means.

We have bureaucrats who have no compunction in disregarding public rights including prescriptive rights, in order to build the moral equivalent of freezones for processing tourists, with concrete beaches underlying illegally mined sand. Who in his right mind acres about reefs and mangroves and the habitats of loons? Who cares about public participation in development planning? Who cares about real democracy?


In her campaign for election as president of the People's National Party, Mrs Portia Simpson Miller promised to work for unity and community development by increasing the participation of people in real development planning.

If local people had been consulted about Kennedy Grove, for example, houses would never have been built in a former lake-bed subject to flooding and liable to pollute with sewerage the major aquifer in Clarendon.
If the prime minister wishes to have a second term it seems to me that she needs to get back to her own agenda, as explicated earlier this year, and put a stop to the runaway lunacies of the heavy metal developers.
Perhaps, after the "Developers" have prostituted and devastated the Land of Look Behind, they will tell you, quite correctly, and with perfectly straight faces, that the Cockpit Country then has the potential to be the skateboard capital of the WORLD!!!!

THINK !!! We just don't have the imagination to see what good some old-fashioned constructive uglification can bring. We need to wake up and smell the caustic soda!!!

Copyright ©2006 John Maxwell
Jankunnu[at] yahoo.com

30 December 2006

Comrade Jeremy

looking forward

no one has seen the light of future days
that hasn't stopped any prognostication
not one that requires the least deliberation
those are our cultures interesting ways
who cares if one man many others slays
as long as he can claim to be the nation
or provide some other fatuous declaration
we won't care in the least about what he says
these are the facts and that we think is that
there's no reason for anyone's complaint
compliance is the way to satisfaction
and put that way the bloody world is flat
for us though others may see a taint
it's just the normal stupid interaction

et nos mutamus in illis

the calm rain marks the dying of the year
with dying light to complement and show
that somewhere beyond the sky's pale glow
are places where the light is very clear
but right now when we hold each other dear
and seek in dreams the future times to know
the music in our hearts has time to grow
and these are moments full of praise and cheer
we won't need drama nor any great noise
to show how change continues without pause
or give us reason to announce this stage
completed and what's coming needs a voice
to speak its words and announce its just laws
for now we smile and meekly turn the page
When we do it, it can't be a crime;
when they do it, they're all evil men.
We're the ones who will win every time
(Excluding Vietnam which won't occur again).
So one bad man's dead, you should not rebuke
for one way trips to Gitmo are just fine;
we know our hypocrisy just makes you puke,
and we don't care however much you whine.
Only a traitor would call this act dumb,
for we know best and we know we will win;
to all humanity we've become numb,
and we can't tell the virtue from the sin.
It's good we hanged him, now he can't conspire
as we sink ourselves deeper in the mire.

29 December 2006

The sonnet as a form

The sonnet begins when a fine man of law
devised the structure of a little song;
a genre that, while definitely not long,
could say a lot -- indeed entirely more
than any ballad sung by troubadour.
Journeys to far lands have made it strong,
and many fine companies it has been among;
its makers are the ones who know the score.
Shakespeare and Milton, Wordsworth and Millay,
Longfellow, Whittier, that transcendental lot,
a host of other poets have used the form;
it's a surprising, yet quite lovely way
to take some flowers, fit them in tiny pot,
and in this way create a wondrous norm.

Ending 2006

Another year draws at last to its close,
what's been completed and what's left undone
will see another year's first ray of sun,
but little will be different I suppose.
The sun illuminates some painted rose,
but not a live one. If this were plain prose
I'd say it longer, make some vulgar pun;
instead I find myself drawn here to write,
about imagined flowers in this grey season.
I'd want to say otherwise but that would be wrong.
Rather, I look outside at the pale light
and wonder on this day at time's subtle treason,
yet still I hear a bird uttering song.

ballade of higher education

the journey which we've taken heretofore
has been one which demanded that we wait
and learn some of the long-time walkers' lore
before we put ourselves in the hands of fate
and yet as it befalls i must now relate
that someone who had yet to mark the map
felt obliged to set the more experienced straight
and insist that we had reached the final lap

now someone who thinks they know the score
might turn out after all to be quite sensate
but those who've been on the road before
have in their turn each come upon a spate
of eager beavers whose small minds conflate
entering the trials with achieving the cap
who think that they could set the going rate
and insist that we had reached the final lap

in the distance we might descry some more
foolish adventurers hurrying to reach the gate
not knowing if they ventured on peace or war
the glittering prizes their imaginations inflate
into who knows some giant pile of gold and plate
each would believe their preceptor is a sap
conceive that on thin ice it's safe to skate
and insist that we had reached the final lap

prince we've learned we cannot habituate
apprentices to see where lies the trap
they'll think that fortune's already in a crate
and insist that we had reached the final lap

the savage wars of peace

when hell's unleashed and on every height
we see the flash of guns and hear bombs blast
we're thrown as it were into unburied past
when all that mattered was just simple might
excused as being a bringing towards the light
of savage folk who'd been in darkness cast
now breathing in clean freedom's air at last
freed from their long and horrid years of fright
and yet the dogs ungrateful for the gift
resist in every manner their new liberation
and to their earlier state seek to revert
between them and us is an eternal rift
demon-driven they want to reject salvation
we'll master them so what if they are hurt

kingston october 1980

the sound of gunfire on the empty street
it comes from miles away and yet you quake
it's been too quiet if you'd made a mistake
the answer and the shock could both be fleet
but right here right now there's no one to greet
all sensible folk the public ways forsake
if they fear a stray shot their lives might take
and they can't trust as single soul they meet
what happens is they venture out a while
and see that everyone's coccooned at home
while isolate police cars roam the roads
i found this out i walked alone many a mile
and i seemed the only one who chose to roam
while others squatted fearful grim as toads

28 December 2006

ballade of the neo con warrior

we must have courage in these troubled times
beard our islamist enemy in his noisome den
make him account for all his loathsome crimes
ensure he's got no chance to spread his slimes
threaten to make all of his cities glow
and celebrate his fall with jingling rhymes
i'm all for battle as long as i don't go

i know that victory can be as sour as limes
but that won't mean that we can't win again
just as the pump a little water primes
we have to take the lumps of life sometimes
that's just the nature of the vicious flow
none of our actions will qualify as crimes
i'm all for battle as long as i don't go

we make no errors we'll face no hard times
we'll bear adversity like stubborn men
we soon will hear the victory bell's chimes
as our success higher and higher climbs
and we overcome the evil so-and-so
the cost will be some other fellow's dimes
i'm all for battle as long as i don't go

prince george you may not remember when
you had a change to grapple with the foe
you vanished like a very fearful hen
i'm all for battle as long as i don't go

one thing i can see

poverty means always knowing the price
of each essential having each day to choose
between harsh needs knowing that to lose
one day of work means nothing at all nice
there is no flavour to this bowl of rice
earned after what seems unlimited abuse
not even death provides a fair excuse
the corporate soul's a solid lump of ice
what keeps you going isn't very much
what keeps you begging is just simple need
the hope is that one day struggle will cease
meanwhile you try a truly human touch
knowing that you've got other mouths to feed
and hoping for justice as well as peace

revolutionary duty

you are supposed to put both heat and light
into each poem make each one a living sign
of what you are part human part divine
ancestry and heritage must be in all you write
you must repay the anger hate and spite
that have been given all along the line
must make your readers pay the complete fine
for all the things that have been done and said
for centuries by those who laughed and sneered
at all who went before and sought fresh life
and now that they're forgotten and quite dead
you must repay those who stood and jeered
by showing them the proper price of strife


in the end it matters what you do
not who you are or where you went
to school or work nor what your bent
was or whether you had flu
that year or just went through
puberty and with all good intent
failed to make your gains all permanent
because back then you just had no clue
the margin for error gets smaller
as the years accumulate and grow
ever shorter while the workload
seems ever steeper and taller
and spirits never climb above the low
but still the feet continue on the road

Crossing the road

There's nothing that conveys a sense of fear
as when you see a fast car bearing down
on you, and it becomes startlingly clear
the driver's not much better than a clown.
You may get angry, you might even frown,
but you know, with a growing sense of dread,
there's every chance that you will wind up dead.
But, as in every chance, what seems to count
is what you think, what's inside your small head;
and that is not the Sermon on the Mount.

What you find at such times you cannot bear,
is thoughts about whether you hang or drown;
you're rooted to the spot, you cannot tear
yourself away; your trousers will turn brown
and you'll express yourself with vulgar noun,
and all of life will hang on by a thread.
You'd give up every particle of street cred
if you could somehow this terror surmount.
But nothing works, you're paralysed by dread;
and that is not the Sermon on the Mount.

The vehicle, with luck, will halt in its career;
the driver might have learned his art in town.
Still, even as you express thanks you jeer
at someone who deserves a dunce's crown,
who lacks, indeed, any type of renown.
What you demand is that he pay you bread,
or you'll be calling the police instead.
And he'd better do this before you count
to ten, and call down anger on his head;
and that is not the Sermon on the Mount.

Austin Princess, you have gone on ahead
the news and information for to spread.
This fool of money's a veritable fount.
His mind is stone, his foot is made of lead;
and that is not the Sermon on the Mount.

vagrant ideas

at night it seems easy words almost slide
through the mind shaping the sonnet's turn
the images that come are ones you learn
as you lie tossing there from side to side
but like the later dreams they won't abide
enough to let their shapes with new light burn
into the solid record instead with stern
features they fade as each new concern
replaces them in thought with urgent claim
to sleepy self's attention and the night
insists upon its due and active cerebration
itself turns into dreams which are not tame
but urgent in themselves until the light
proclaims another day's fresh iteration

an edge to the page

the view that changes but remains the same
the angle of vision that provides the view
enough each day that we know will ensue
what fills the field will barely fit the frame
yet this is not a simple children's game
but life itself the marker of what's due
to all who stayed as well as those who flew
beyond our reach beyond the reach of shame
the sounds we hear are different every day
sufficient in themselves to please the ear
but not to wake in us the stern resolve
that should in time propel us to the way
beyond the margins of the fading year
as we around the castle would revolve

27 December 2006

heraclitus was wrong

the way up is not the same as the way down
the view is different nothing seems the same
looked at from the reverse angle no blame
can light on you when you've won the crown
but all falls on you when you're just a clown
at the top no thought or sense of shame
at bottom not even the memory of fame
your self forgotten gone all your renown
the landmarks all are smashed no path is clear
a thousand backs now confront you with a bland
indifference worse than active disregard
yet once there was not a single thing to fear
all came with ease into your outstretched hand
life's barriers seemed neither difficult nor hard
nothing appeared too onerous to bear

holding on to time

entranced the moment seems to last a while
no flash of light no avian passing by
can interrupt it give its truth the lie
this is a matter of more than merely style
the cars that pass by here in single file
are all dressed up to deceive the glancing eye
darkness broods here yet the city lights the sky
against this fact all normal minds resile
yet here we are in the encircling dark
not given much to know nor yet to see
a sign of passage would be welcome now
yet everything seems simplified and stark
as if not certain it was meant to be
and waiting for some divine being's vow

cantiga de amigo

o dearest one please walk today with me
down to the beach beside the risen sea
to sit a while and watch the surging waves

o dearest one do not deny me this
by the seashore a single long-sought kiss
as we sit here watching the surging waves

o dearest one let us go at once this day
down to the shore to watch the ocean play
and sit a while and watch the surging waves

o dearest one i bid you come with me this night
down to the shore in the bright moonlight
to sit a while and watch the surging waves

walking to the mailboxes

a gentle breeze that barely moves the leaves
afternoon sun that dapples the porch wall
who could guess on this day that the year grieves

pine needles piled up on the roof almost in sheaves
what set them there over the months of fall
a gentle breeze that barely moves the leaves

in this gloriousness of light one almost believes
that there's a power here that's far from small
who could guess on this day that the year grieves

one's tempted to say that the weather just deceives
what charms us now and keeps us here in thrall
a gentle breeze that barely moves the leaves

time and change we know that they're plain thieves
they'll leave us with nothing they will take all
who could guess on this day that the year grieves

the past looks on and catches our loose sleeves
we may smile now but latter we will bawl
a gentle breeze that barely moves the leaves
who could guess on this day that the year grieves

the need for patience

the colour and thickness of the georgia clay
an orange red that sometimes seems to glow
betokens things that we can't clearly show
and that seem odd in the sharp light of day
the softness which is much harder to display
betokens that one day something will grow
though right now it just makes it hard to go
though there are stones here to mark the way
no matter how we look the sky's the frame
of what's built here and shape just how we see
the structure of our dreams evolve in time
each week observing things are not the same
we think of things that we desire will be
and set our hopes down in this faltering rhyme

brilliance in december

the light on the broom tells an attractive lie
it is not warm though everywhere is bright
above us there's a vibrant deep blue sky

the birds that flutter on the porch seem shy
they're pausing here to rest for further flight
the light on the broom tells an attractive lie

more beauty than this day none can supply
the cold's just trivial in this sharp light
above us there's a vibrant deep blue sky

the chirping birds are poised quite soon to fly
they've been quite patient all the long night
the light on the broom tells an attractive lie

though yesterday it rained the ground is dry
the naked tree seems enveloped in spite
above us there's a vibrant deep blue sky

no other signs of hope can we descry
yet the clear sunshine here has banished fright
the light on the broom tells an attractive lie
above us there's a vibrant deep blue sky


again the clarity the deep harmonious blue
bigger than all the trees and houses here
we march down to the ending of the year
dominated by this mediterranean hue
i feel too tired this morning to pursue
the metaphor that's tugging at my ear
or to a single doctrine strictly to adhere
each dogma should this day receive its due
it's chill and clear the train is heading south
bearing its dreams and purposes elsewhere
and all that's going to come is preordained
the same words are uttered the same mouth
gives forth the message that we cannot bear
unless we face the morning unconstrained

26 December 2006

The sacred number 419

You're been chosen with very good reason
to act as conduit for a nice pile of cash.
You need do nothing dangerous or flash,
merely reflect that this is the right season
for it; some banks have put the squeeze on
you for spending that was somewhat rash.
So you know that this very desirable stash
of Nigerian funds is yours for a small treason.
If you believe this, I'll just need to know
your back account, your password, and all that;
you'll soon be rolling in a glorious pile.
Of course, you realise, you might have to go
to Lagos, but you can get there in nothing flat;
you might, however, stay there a long while.

the problem with nostalgia

as winter slowly brings us to our knees
as metaphor if not in actual fact
we do not think of all the things we lacked
long years ago back in the west indies
our minds roam freely to those sunlit seas
with figueroa we seek the flower tacked
to the lush tree and as we're daily packed
in metro train forgetting as in we squeeze
the harder times we recall only the ease
of walking on those warm december days
and not the hardships nor the myriad pains
of having the hardest of masters to please
nor of the sun's harsh and blistering rays
we think only of the light and the warm rains

the spirit of past decembers

blossoms coming from far warmer places
sit on our table with their enriching grace
bringing with them more than a simple trace
of the sunshine that we want upon our faces
the joy of summer that this winter graces
beyond this moment far beyond this place
we know the sun is warming a merry face
as through the sky it takes its daily paces
but here it's winter grey and wet and chill
yet we are buoyed by thought of warmer climes
and sunshine on the fresh december flowers
where on the hot lowland and the cooler hill
we longed for other more interesting times
and did not think those then our finest hours

Ballade of ancient thought

The story begins, or so we've been often told,
with efforts to turn old wisdom into common sense;
so Heraclitus, Confucius, Qoheleth all were bold
to tell us how to behave without the least pretense.
Yet they found their disciples somewhat dense,
who took their sayings as wise as well as true,
who didn't get the message, nor the immense
significance that they sought speech to imbue.

When it continues, the trail's no longer cold
for many have passed what was the border fence;
Plato, Aristotle, Xunzi, Master Meng the very old,
each of them sought to make a large difference
and bring new concepts to traditional sense.
Each now receives the respect that they were due
when living, for we now see the intense
significance that they sought speech to imbue.

But others taught things that were still more bold,
showed ways that led to other forms of sense,
and taught us that the new is as clear as the old.
Brhaspati, Zhuangzi, Epicurus, and hence
we tear the veil from all forms of pretense,
and know that there are better things yet to do.
For each thinker still has power to dispense
significance that they sought speech to imbue.

Prince, we know that you have sought to fence
in philosophy that we all know to be true,
but still you cannot dismiss as mere nonsense
significance that they sought speech to imbue.

boxing day 2006

no warmth today but not either bitter cold
there was no snow although it was announced
the morning's lacking in true solar gold
but the old demon has we know been trounced
up the hill we know now will climb the sun
in six long months to reach its summer peak
but for this moment the year is almost done
and we look towards the new one next week
beyond the grey we know the sun still shines
the times will change and once again we'll see
the fresh leaves fresh shoots and the new vines
and body and soul will once again be free
winter has its value we have not the least doubt
but wish each year that it could be left out

25 December 2006

Ballade of dreams

There's naught so good as having one last drink
before the short march to the nice warm bed,
enough to make you stop a while and think
of how the whole process should make you dread,
as every time on pillow you set your head
you've no idea what will happen when you sleep
Still, your eyes are heavier than rooftop lead
so off to dreamland you go, and fall in deep.

And no sooner than into warm sleep you sink
than into life pop many you've known dead,
their doings seem to have you on the brink
of throwing off the warmth of your bedspread
and freezing as in the dream you've fled
from one evil to another faster than a bleep.
Your body wakes, your eyes are heavy and red,
so off to dreamland you go, and fall in deep.

The dream at once takes you to a pool of ink
from which arises a large disembodied head,
which expands then vanishes in a swift eyeblink.
You're somewhere you know quite well you think,
but there's no originality, everything's a retread,
and as your body turns and tosses upon the bed
you wake and find yourself counting green sheep
as wakefulness once again you seek to shed,
so off to dreamland you go, and fall in deep.

Again you dream, and as you dream you swink
harder than at work that keeps you fed;
the scenery changes in ways that do not link
each with the other so that they stay in sync.
Instead the characters seem somehow to dread
that they'll be laughed at inside your own head,
as they each become like smoke hard to keep
in place, but each carrying a sort of dread,
so off to dreamland you go, and fall in deep.

Prince, as you lie awake in your warm bed,
do not attribute all these thoughts to drink;
we know that waking brings feelings of dread,
so off to dreamland you go, and fall in deep.

les belles dames du temps jadis

Where's Juliet, that Italian dame,
whom Shakespeare gave immortal fame?
Where's Gloriana, the bard's great Queen?
It's a long time since ever she was seen.
Where's Ninon whose memoirs seem to burn?
None of these ladies now will ever return.
Where's the Armouress? And, as I wend,
where are the snows of last week-end?

Where's Aphra Behn, who once so fine did write?
Where's Milton's wife, who the great poet did spite?
Where's Lady Winchelsea? I must enquire.
It seems that all have gone into the fire.
Where's Fanny Burney, who though rather short,
gave finest service to the King at court?
Where's that barmaid? And, as I wend,
where are the snows of last week-end?

Where's George Sand, who disguised as a man,
seduced both women and that chap Chopin?
Where's George Eliot, who, and it's a loss,
covered up the name of Mary Ann Cross?
Where's Harriet Stowe, who thought slavery a sin
and told us all in Uncle Tom's Cabin?
Where's that hot whore? And as I wend,
where are the snows of last week-end?

Where's Hanna Arendt, who against the night
looked to the ancient Greeks for proper light?
Where's Beauvoir, who continues still to vex
all sexists who must read The Second Sex
Where's Angela Carter, she who lightly wrote
such things as many men would blush to quote?
Where's Anaïs Nin? And as I wend,
where are the snows of last week-end?

Princess, who sits and watches at the gate,
keep us from falling into most ignoble fate.
We wish we'd known great ladies such as these,
but Dame Nature has set us as she must please.
Where's dear Mae West? And as I wend,
where are the snows of last week-end?

listening to the radio

the day's a sort of magic time-machine
in which a host of memories appear
an ancient sort of dance perhaps beguine
appropriate for this chill time of year
outside the grey continues unrelieved
not shadows form on any of our walls
but somehow we know all undeceived
that we are on the path to fairy halls
let rain fall spirits will not be damped
nor ills and fevers reach us on this day
instead unease will be here firmly clamped
and there'll be time enough for fun and play
let us now in this fine moment pause
listen to the pleasant music give applause

25 december mmvi

in time the rain will halt the golden sun
return to brighten both the sky and mind
what we do this day though is remind
ourselves of all the good that we have won
the course of the year we know is nearly run
but we do not yet look at what's behind
nor recollect for now each tiring daily grind
for now our tasks are completed and done
to rest to take our ease is not a simple job
we want to do to act in some way to create
the things that remind us that duty's ever near
but today it's different we should not play hob
with matters of our destiny we must leave fate
to her own service but for now put off all fear

24 December 2006

for gail at yuletide

in demanding that we answer those who ask are not being kind
for the journey that we've taken requires first that we unwind
over all the the high and lowlands we have come to talk and eat
this is now the proper season all our friends and kin to greet
in the days when we were younger all our journeys ended well
now that we are somewhat wiser it's become quite hard to tell
all the days of our long travel we regret the choice to roam
but the evening lights are calling soon we'll see our little home
days and nights of work and thinking give us pains this we agree
but the season is the right one to pile gifts beneath the tree
all the days that we've been granted by the mistress we call life
are the better when we've taken time to be just man and wife
all the days that we've been working we've not made a giant pile
still we have got some good reason for content this little while
rhymes and such i've got quite good at this at least can't be denied
for such things make life the happier and are a true source of pride
but the thing that really matters really makes this life so sweet
is the fact that i have known you that at last we got to meet
long the time we have together this the hope this my desire
for the times are growing colder and i seek your love's sweet fire

The latest development

a prison of the heart

in shape or form the art's all in the eye
to make the sight deceive or apprehend
in ways that although we can comprehend
make common sense amount to a plain lie
the reason's that we want the mind to fly
beyond what would be the normal trend
the boundaries of thought it must transcend
and make our hearts in purest rapture cry
those who won't hear must learn to feel
the blind must be brought at last to see
what we can make is better that we are
to bring the senses all at once to heel
we'll need the truest maker to decree
and bring to us what once was kept afar


the year to come will in its normal course
bring recollections in most great variety
including some that in strictest propriety
should be proclaimed by rider on swift horse
the names of clarkson and of wilberforce
will be repeated with all due sobriety
but they are not all not indeed the moiety
of those who used their eloquence with force
to end the trade in humans to do the work
that others deemed too hard or mean to do
and suffer that some others could have light
not to commemorate them would be to shirk
our obligations we have to get through
to where our thanks will just reflect our right

another december day

the sky today's a watery pale blue
not the bold colour it had yesterday
when warm sun brought us out to play
but a restrained and wintry hue
the season will it's clear have its due
and none the cold winds can gainsay
it's time to set aside our projects to lay
our offerings at each other's feet
in hope that this time we'll get it right
and love will win out as it truly should
the day to come is one that we must greet
as bringing the renewed sun's strong light
with joy as we walk through the piny wood

23 December 2006

the pines (after pondal)

what say those who whisper upon the coastal height
their bent pine-branches by the soft wind shaken
for clear words we have their murmurs taken
illumined by the pale rays of the deep moonlight
their essence shines through darkly green yet bright
we hear their speech we are in no way mistaken
they summon a hero's heirs at long last to waken
and for their noble heritage in proper time to fight
the good and generous their urgent talk will hearken
and eagerly will gather to hear even harshest sound
while the miserly and submissive still bend to the yoke
their dull spirits should not our stout hearts darken
we must now stand and cherish our own ancestral ground
the wise bards now are praising a free and honest folk

looking forwards

there's nothing here that we could really need
the surfeit of good things does not mean much
reality's far more than we could hope to touch
and nothing's less necessary than that we feed
on anything that could even just subtly excite greed
but equally unlike a rabbit in its warm hutch
on a cold rainy day we cannot merely clutch
close to ourselves what might be in its turn the seed
of something better something that's true gold
though it look drossy thin wasted or still tired
yet will surprise us with what was hidden power
we need to take it up need urgently to enfold
it into our selves to remember that the fired
energies stored in us also wait their proper hour

Government and Environment

Government and Environment

John Maxwell

Before I go any further, I want to thank most sincerely all the leaders and the supporters of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group for their achievement so far. We still have a long way to go to guarantee the protection of the Land of Look Behind and we cannot afford to think that we have managed to protect this priceless national asset.

* * *

Most of us have only the foggiest meaning of the word "Environment" and understand even less of the so-called environmental movement.

To many, "The Environment" is some mystical abstraction "out there' with no relevance to them

Since I want to use a definition accessible to anyone with access to the Internet I am choosing Wikipedia's definition:

"Environment refers to a complex of surrounding circumstances, conditions, or influences in which a thing is situated or is developed."

I use this definition because more people have access to the internet than to my preferred source, the Shorter Oxford Dictionary.

Our environment is everything around us and includes ourselves. It starts at the limits of the universe, if there are such limits, and includes besides us, the plants and animals seen and unseen, the living cocoon of earth, water and air, which allows us and the plants and animals to exist, and even includes the bacteria in our guts, our world leaders and our Governments.

The bacteria in our guts have just been identified as one probable factor in the tendency for some of us to be plump or overweight, even fat, or, God forbid, obese. The human digestive system is home to between ten and 100 trillion bacteria – at least ten times the number of human cells. Excrement is largely composed of dead bacteria, and the 1 thousand tons of topsoil in the top 9 inches of an acre of land is probably more than half bacteria.

Why should bacteria make us fat? Our gastrointestinal tracts, from our throats to our anuses, contain two dominant groups of beneficial bacteria. They are bacteriodetes and Firmicutes and they break down things like fats, sugars everything we eat, converting them into forms the body can use for energy.

In people with a tendency to be fact, bacteriodetes are a smaller proportion of the bacteria than in leaner, slimmer people. And, as people lose weight, the proportion of bacteriodetes goes up.

No one know why this is so, but in mice, bacteriodetes transplanted from lean mice help obese mice to lose weight.

Obesity is just as much a form of malnutrition as is kwashiorkor – what we used to call ‘bang belly’ in children.

It seems that the good bacteriodetes are losing out to the not so good Firmicutes. The result is that though two of us may eat exactly the same things in the same proportions, the one with more bacteriodetes will stay slimmer, more svelte, the other will add fat.

The question in my mind is this: I wonder if the epidemic of obesity in the western world over the last twenty-five years may not be partially due to a changing environment in our guts due to the increasing use of chemical additives and bactericides in the diet fed to the livestock we slaughter for food?

If that is true, we have made an environmental connection of great importance.

Sand-mining and the Norman Manley Airport

Fifty-two years ago, the Governor of Jamaica, Hugh Foot, took a leaf out of the then opposition PNP's Plan For Progress, inaugurating the Agricultural and Industrial Development Corporations and later, Land Authorities which were made responsible for the management of agricultural land and watersheds in the Yallahs and Christiana areas.

For thirty years or so the watersheds were reasonably well cared for, and flourished and by the 90s, the Yallahs river again flowed strongly enough to give some people the idea that it could provide millions of gallons of water for water-starved Kingston. The result: farmers in the lower Yallahs were gradually starved of water, abandoned their farms to soil erosion and more sand was borne towards the sea.

Fly over Jamaica today and the scene is very different from even ten years ago. The Yallahs and Johnson Rivers are huge slashes of barren sand miles back from their estuaries.

This has created a bonanza for sand-miners, who every day mine thousands of tons from the river beds. The mining is now so extensive that, in my opinion and without scientific evidence, I contend it is causing the destruction of the Palisadoes peninsula and threatening the integrity of our major airport.

Beaches are never stable, they are continually changing with wind and weather. Sand moves along the coast with currents – littoral drift – here today, gone tomorrow, but usually replaced by sand from somewhere else. The Palisadoes sand travelled all the way from the Plantain Garden, Yallahs, Johnson, Hope, Cane and Dry rivers and all the other rivers on the southeast coast.

We are now told that we need groynes, rock or concrete structures to stabilise Palisadoes.

They will not work.

Groynes slow down the 'littoral drift' – they don’t produce sand, they simply interrupt and slow down its progress. Since there is not an unlimited amount of sand the predation in the river estuaries steals the sand that would normally buttress the ancient coral reefs on which the airport is built. Port Royal, in my opinion, is in serious danger and may disappear beneath the waves long before global warming gets a chance to drown it.

Government and the Environment

Both the bacteriodetes and the sand are governed by natural processes and by the government. Regulations governing the kind of additives, chemicals and drugs in the food you eat may determine whether you die of heart disease, stroke or hypertension.

Since the UN’s Stockholm Environmental summit of 1972 and the Rio Summit of 1992, Governments have increasingly erected regulatory frameworks to govern our environment, from what we eat and where we live to where our excrement is deposited.

Increasingly, governments like Jamaica’s bought into the idea that regulatory authorities tend to interfere with free trade and are a bad thing. If they are not abolished, they should be made to work more like private sector entities.

The end effect of this philosophy in practice, is to remove distributive politics from the lower classes and put it where it properly belongs, according to the flat earth economists of this world.

The rich get richer and the poor get even more miserable, desperate, suicidal and murderous.

Mining and The Cockpit Country

Some of the arguments about the intended rape of the Cockpit Country are derived entirely from the flat earth (level playing field) philosophy: Corporations should have the same rights as human beings, no matter that in the case of Alcoa, General Electric and most transnational companies, the minor shareholders’ and workers’ interest has been hijacked by the managers and the institutional investors, banks and brokerage firms, and have no responsibility whatever to any democratic process anywhere.

ALCOA was welcomed by certain Jamaicans when it played 'poor-mouth' and asked for a ‘bly’ — an ‘ease-up’ on the picayune taxes it paid even after Michael Manley. We gave it to them, to a company whose CEO earns the equivalent of one million Jamaican dollars a day and whose express aim is to reduce labour cost and human accountability to the barest minima.

The government of Jamaica and Alcoa both know exactly how much bauxite is in the Cockpit Country. Each of them separately, ALCOA directly and the government through the JBI, paid an American company named Hatch Inc. to find out.

Hatch was engaged by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute in 1993/1994 to manage the preparation of a preliminary environmental impact assessment of the design, construction, operation and closure of the proposed North Coast Bauxite/Alumina project. Three alternative project development scenarios were assessed.

Hatch was also engaged at more or less the same time, by Alcoa for more or less the same purposes. According to Hatch The JBI study entailed :

"Development of a proposed greenfield bauxite mine site, one million tpy [tons per year] alumina refinery, port and infrastructure within the Trelawny and St. Ann parishes of Jamaica.
Scope of Services: Develop a phased environmental impact assessment study program.
Project Highlights:
• First planned use of geographical information system (GIS) tools for Environmental Impact Assessment in Jamaica
• Preparation of study funding from the Canadian International Development Agency
• Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment study team integrated Canadian, Caribbean and Client specialists
• Local resource training incorporated into study program
• Program preparation included a review of industry practices and site visit to all active Jamaican bauxite mining and alumina refinery sites
Project Cost:
$1.5 Billion US (1992 dollars)"

Hatch are not tyros at this game, they are a huge company and acquired Kaiser Engineers Inc., a few years ago and 600 Engineers with it. Less than a year earlier they acquired another army – of 900 engineers, consultants, support staff and the offices of BHP Engineering from the Broken Hill Pty group, one of the largest mining organisations in the world. They appear to have been the supervisors of the Jamalco 1.5m tpy refinery expansion in Clarendon

Hatch's skills are considerable, and they boast that " One of Mining Resource Evaluation Unit (MREU)'s core strengths is in Geological Resource Evaluation, including data assessment, geostatistics, computerized geological modeling and resource estimation. MREU also have the in-house expertise required for the geological aspects of bankable feasibility studies, due diligence studies, project audits and technical reviews.

One imagines that the feasibility study of The Cockpit Country was 'bankable" since Alcoa planned to build a 1.5 million ton per year alumina refinery on the basis of that evaluation.

You can find all over the web reports on the research work already done in the Cockpit country.

There are even tutorials on the web using the Jamaican bauxite information as the baseline. One, by Mike Price of Estrada/San Juan Inc says that " the data used has been generalized from real data that describes bauxite in Jamaica."

The tutorial is accompanied by a map which shows Jamaican bauxite mining sites and one of them is in the centre of the Cockpit Country. The map's caption says: "Jamaica produces nearly one third of the primary aluminum ore bauxite consumed in the United States.

Incidentally, The JBI’s Dr Lyew Ayee’s postgraduate degree is in GIS technology.

Pollution and Mining

A few years ago there was in Jamaica, a Central European scientist, Dr Jasmino Karanjac, who retired as Professor Of Hydrogeology at UWI, Mona. While he was here he carried out several studies with the cooperation of the Water Resources Authority and its head, Mr Basil Fernandez, who like him is an authority on bauxite refinery contamination.

In a paper prepared for a Conference "Water Resources & Environmental Problems in Karst " in September last year, Professor Karanjac said, inter alia

“About 60% of Jamaica is underlain by the White Limestone Formation. Jamaica is also well known for its “Cockpit Country” – an easily recognized pattern of round-top hills and depressions with internal drainage. White Limestone is in many places karstified, its aquifers are covered with thin soil layers that do not offer much of protection against surface pollution … from agricultural practices , seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers … and by the processes of refining bauxite into alumina.”

Karanjac concluded his paper by noting:

“ Today, it appears that Jamaica, which has the size of 10,991 sq.km, may have problems developing enough good-quality water for its population of just over 2.7 million.… ground water in Jamaica is very vulnerable. There are no feasible sites for surface water storage and ground water remains the major source of water supply. Along the coast aquifers are overabstracted and in the interior explorations and drilling are prohibitively expensive.…

“In spite of sufficient ground water resources and relatively low level of its utilization (less than 30%), due to distribution of population, seawater intrusion …industrial, urban and agricultural pollution, and irregular rainfall Jamaica will have to introduce reverse osmosis on a reasonable scale. Rainwater harvesting will be another alternative, same as waste water treatment and reuse.”

I quote Dr Karanjac at length to contradict the impression given by some others that the destruction of the Cockpit Country would not be a disaster for Jamaica’s water supply

If, as Dr Karanjac says, we may have to go into reverse osmosis – the qualitative equivalent of distilling sea water, we are obviously in trouble. And this is before the Cockpit Country is despoiled.

The government has announced that it is setting up yet another ministerial subcommittee to study the problem.

I would suggest to the Prime Minister that matters have gone way beyond that: she needs to order a public inquiry into the whole mess.

And I would recommend to her and to all who love this country, read Clifton Yap’s speech to the Montego Bay Rotary Club which was published in last week’s edition of the Sunday Observer. It is the clearest exposition I have seen of the real reasons behind our calamitous state.

You can find it here:Jamaica's development - cause for much concern - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
Meanwhile, this is my 555th column for this newspaper which may mean nothing to anyone else but gives me a great deal of ‘almost hysterical’ satisfaction.
Copyright©John Maxwell

unintentional community

distances disappear the friends that we make
are people we may never meet nor see
we'll never have a drink nor have some tea
but at a distance each our thirst will slake
yet over time the bond we have won't shake
it will be far firmer than the stoutest tree
a bond that holds us even though we're free
not of the body but of minds that take
the time to recognise who's worth the thought
and who is not who makes the finest sense
and who's a waste of time and space and air
with those we choose we find ourselves just caught
in a relationship that lacks all pretense
but which provides us with a friendship clear

Season's greetings

To all who read this, greetings of the season.
We're here to commemorate the most noble birth
of Mithras, Jesus, Sol, each the true master of earth,
and other gods and goddesses, though only within reason.
The gods, this time of year, of our land take seisin,
but still encourage us to feats of joy and mirth
as long as we pause to proclaim their worth,
as doing otherwise would be the highest treason.
And other days there are that we should mark:
Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi, Sylvester, the New Year;
or if we don't acknowledge at the least mention,
and thank the gods or heroes for their presence.
So I ask all, for this time cast off all fear,
abandon all hesitations or apprehension,
instead for this short time praise effervescence.

Observing some progress

another vision lights the winter day
we see the changes take photographs
the time's propitious for smiles and laughs
things seem to be steady underway
we're almost done this act of the long play
now to encourage the reluctant staffs
or think of the amusing wooden giraffes
that make us for a moment pause and stay
in time we'll see this as a short rough phase
annoying but in the end we have a home
and that's the thing that matters for us all
these are the changing the slow-creeping days
as back and forth to view the change we roam
the process tires but seems never to pall