Parang Serenade in Two Parts [Poem]

By Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming

It wasn't your song.
No Rio Manzanares did you beg,
"Dejame pasar" neither
Did you open the door
When paranderos cajoled,
"Abreme la puerta! Abreme la puerta!"

Los esposos Maria y Jose
Van desde Nazareth,
But you climbed
Onto a donkey cart,
Burrowed deeper into tall, tall,
Sugarcanes La Paille, Caroni, Morong.

Quatro y mandolin Din Din Din,
Es hora de partir,
Did not rouse you from a coir mattress
Sleep that only Cannes Brulees
Sweet smoke sugarcane fire
Could rouse you awake in Petit Careme.

Las maracas Clap Clap Clap,
Bottle and spoon Ping Ping Ping.
Daisy Voisin Parang Queen,
Sereno sereno her pagnol rhythm
As foreign as ground-beef pastelle.
You never ate sacred Mai Gaay

Nor did you speak espanol.
Your lights weren't candles at Christmas
But deyas at Divali.
El nino Jesus was no Baby Krishna blue
And Jesus' birthday went with rum,
Curry manicou and chutney.

But I have songs for you my mothers
In my blood. I take you with me
My Ajee, my Nani, my Mowsee
My Kaakee, my Daadee, my Phoowaa.
I serenade "Dejame pasar Rio Caroni,"
On my way to Chacachacare,

"Dejame pasar Rio Valencia,"
On my way to Toco,
"Dejame pasar Rio Ortoire,"
On my way to Guayaguayare,
"Dejame pasar Rio Guapo,"
On my way to Icacos.

I sprinkle your ashes on every corner
Of this Iere, Land of the Hummingbird.
I absorb parang through my pores.
I partake of pastelle and puncha creme.
I understand, "Din, din, din,
Es hora de partir."

"Din, din, din, camino de Belen,
Los esposos van desde Nazareth.
I know the Christmas story,
The gift of Baby Jesus born in a manger,
And how in his name Guanahani
Became San Salvador,

Then sugar became king.
They crossed you over the Kala Pani,
But when you cried, "Darvaza kholna prasann!"
No one understood you.
All they knew was, "Abreme la puerta!"
And they kept the door closed.

Pero ven, ven aqui mi Ajee, mi Nani,
Mi Mowsee, Kaakee, Daadee, Phoowaa.
Come, walk with me,
I have opened the doors for you,
Vaya con Dios, "Shubh Christmas,
Naya saal mubarak ho!


- Rio (Spanish): river
- Dejame pasar (Spanish): please let me pass
- paranderos: parang (Spanish-influenced Christmas music in Trinidad and Tobago) musicians and singers
- Abreme la puerta (Spanish): open the door for me please Los esposos Maria y Jose/Van desde Nazareth (Spanish): the husband and wife, Mary and Joseph, leave Nazareth
- La Paille, Caroni, Morong: names of villages in Trinidad
- Quatro and mandolin Din Din Din: Spanish musical instruments melody
- Es hora de partir (Spanish): it is time to leave
- Cannes Brulees (French): Cane Burning reenactment
- Petit Careme (French Creole): short dry period after the start of the rainy season
- Las maracas (Spanish): hand-held clappers
- Sereno sereno her pagnol rhythm (Spanish): sing, sing, her Spanish rhythm
- pastelle: Spanish-influenced ground-beef and cornmeal turnover, Trinidadian Christmas delicacy
- Mai Gaay (Hindi): Sacred Cow
- deyas at Divali (Hindi): small clay lamps lit during the Hindu Festival of Lights
- Ajee (Hindi): paternal grandmother
- Nani (Hindi): maternal grandmother
- Mowsee (Hindi): mother's sister
- Kaakee (Hindi): paternal uncle's wife
- Daadee (Hindi): father's elder sister
- Phoowaa (Hindi): father's younger sister
- puncha creme: Trinidadian Christmas drink similar to eggnog
- camino de Belen (Spanish): on the road to Bethlehem
- Kala Pani (Hindi): literally black water, referring to the dark ocean
- Darvaza kholna prasann (Hindi): open the door for me please
- Pero ven, ven aqui (Spanish): but come, come here
- Vaya con Dios (Spanish): go with God
- Shubh Christmas, Naya saal mubarak ho (Hindi): Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming is a Trinbagonian poet, essayist, and fiction and creative non-fiction writer who lives in Nassau, The Bahamas, where she is a practicing Mechanical/Building Services Engineer. Her poetry, stories, and artwork have appeared in numerous publications in The Bahamas, the Caribbean, USA, and Europe. She has won poetry, essay, and art awards in the Bahamas. Internationally, she has won the David Hough Literary Prize from The Caribbean Writer (2001) and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association 2001 Short Story Competition. Her first book of poetry, Curry Flavour, was published in 2000 by Peepal Tree Press, Leeds, England. SOURCE

COPYRIGHT 2008 Journal of Caribbean Literatures.
COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning


A Note From The Gull

Thank you, Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming for this riveting insight into the the experience of your ancestors as new arrivals in our homeland. Coming after a previous post, "Parosin," this poem stands in stark contrast. It reminds us that we have come a long way together.

In "Parosin" Heeralal is asking a descendant of our Spanish ancestors to dance with him to a music that is a melding of more than just the two cultures. Franny is full of praise for the skill of the dholak players and the sweetness of the drums. And not only that, Heeralal is also addressing her with words from the language of his ancestors..."parosin" and "ladki" without any fear that he will not be understood or denied or rebuffed.

But I am blown away by Lelawattee's beautiful poem...

"I serenade "Dejame pasar Rio Caroni,"
On my way to Chacachacare,"

They crossed you over the Kala Pani,
But when you cried, "Darvaza kholna prasann!"
No one understood you.
All they knew was, "Abreme la puerta!"
And they kept the door closed.

The exclusion and sadness is palpable but with "Parosin" ringing in my head, I want to shout back down the corridors of time to our East Indian ancestors, "Hold on! Don't give up! It will get better! Cocoa payol and East Indian will make sweet chutney/parang/soca together!"

Go forward, T&T!... never, never backward. There are many, many more miracles to be wrought in this land.

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!