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I wish those tall ships at Africa's shore
Had dropped anchor to plant crops there:
Sugarcane, tobacco, cotton and coffee.
Instead they filled the hungry bellies
Of hulls with Africans and set sail
Wanting nothing from that big place
That wasn't diamond, gold, ivory, flesh.
I wind the clocks back and turn the ships
Around, not a single bullet, whip, or cutlass
Sound to deafen our ears for centuries.
No Atlantic road of bones from people
Dumped into the sea to form a wake.
From The Rose of Toulouse by Fred D'Aguiar,
Fred D’Aguiar’s dozen books of fiction and poetry have been translated into a dozen languages. His first novel, The Longest Memory, won the Whitbread First Novel Award and was made into a film by Channel 4 (UK). His essays and poetry have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Guardian, Wasafiri, Callaloo, Best American Essays and elsewhere. His play, A Jamaican Airman Foresees His Death, was produced at the Royal Court Theatre in London. His radio play, Days and Nights in Bedlam, was broadcast by the BBC, along with several recent short stories. Continental Shelf, a U.K. Poetry Book Society Choice, was shortlisted for the UK’s T.S. Eliot Prize in 2009. His latest poetry collection is The Rose of Toulouse. His latest novel, Children of Paradise (HarperCollins, US; Granta, UK), is inspired by the events at Jonestown. Born in London in 1960 of Guyanese parents and brought up in Guyana and London, he teaches at Virginia Tech.