The old ones stood in the market place
Scars of rites on each withered face.
Called to celebrate liberty,
They chose to take the death toll bitterly.

“Ilé, Ilé”: the voices wailed.
Like the haunting moan of a conch shell
Wafting across winds and waves
To the land of the baobab trees.

“Wam bilé, Massa bilombilé,
Wam bilé.
One bwoy, one gal.
Wam bilé, Massa bilombilé.
Wam bile.”

What rites of passage were recited
To the sweep of faces tattoo cleansed?
Through the torturous tribal tongue,
The old took up the ancient death song.

A history was being passed on
As they sang, shuffling to and fro.
One bwoy, shaken and branded,
One gal, torn and tormented.

Bleeding villages, life-force sucked,
The inflamed womb of Ifa
Pestles pounding, burning palisades,
Tribes pursued one thousand years.

Staggering troops, waterless,
Hungering with thirst;
The muted hum
Of tongues made dumb.
The voiceless cry for Home.

Prime manhood castrated,
Gelded and branded calves.
Virgins initiated
To serve in eastern harems,
Their faces heavily veiled,


The king ascends his throne of Gehenna –
The Sumerian beaded crown upon his queen –
Washed in the blood of innocence,
His oracles, incensed visions dream.

Possessed of the gruesome,
Searching seers leap...
In swirling flames and heat,
Begging for the drums to speak.

Black death in the pale, blue eyes,
Let the white guns be pacified!
Rival lords, concubines must be exiled
An iron bar paid for each man.

How could a handful chase a thousand?
How could a few bind a legion,
Except they had been ransomed,
Sent to build a commonweal?


“Ilé, Ilé”: the captives groaned,
Shackled in the putrid rows
Afraid of the unknown,
Yearning for a glimpse of home,
As darkness coiled and yawned
O’er the reeking labour sloops.
Igbo, Ibibio, Ijebu, Coromantyn
Warriors, helpless, in face of threat

Call to their women, huddled in groups.


From the slave market of Bimbé
To the auctioneers of Bim,
Sold in lots, labelled,
Manacled and thin.

In the markets of spoil,
A new world allots them toil.
Here is where the birth cry begins,
The anchoring of the navel strings.

Gone, were the tribal enmities,
Gone, the power of necromancy,
Gone were the spirits of the night,
Gone, the tattoos of divide.

Slavers and enslaved in time,
Wed and became welded,
Yet burdened with shame,
Each, shelving blame

Even as Joseph’s brothers recalled
His scotching over the burning sands
When silver passed from hand to hand
And men bought a “nobody’s” boy.

Yet when the sold gained freedom
In the might of Joseph’s God,
Then began true liberty
Casting off false ideologies.

For the soul gains freedom
When bitterness is lost,
When it seeks a purpose –
No matter what it costs.


Footnote: In the early 1900s the people of Grenada celebrated Emancipation Day with the enactment of
the Ile song in the marketplace.


home | contact | about | WWW.Creolelinks.com © 2010