This fair land was young
Small to grand to small once more
The history we forget.




by Denyce Blackman

Manaus is bread baked at night and put down for tomorrow

Manaus is a bus without shocks either right on time or one hour late

Manaus is a woman that either brings joy or brings sorrow

Manaus is a mendigo sitting among all he owns in a gutter of spit and piss

Manaus is a thick-calved woman who thinks you’re Haitian

Manaus is her young son who thinks you’re Haitian

Manaus is the taxista who thinks you’re Haitian.

Manaus is the terminal vendor who asks where you’re from


“Barbados, hein?”

No Caribe.

“No Caribe, hein? Que chique.”

Manaus is the mother who smiles after realizing you’re not Haitian

Manaus is the young son who will never smile at you after hearing what his mother said about you

Manaus is a black carioca you met on a bus

Manaus is a black carioca you met at a pagode

Manaus is a black carioca you met online

Manaus is a tearful drama where all the black actors are outsourced

Manaus is a 24-hour clock of church services and BBQ’s

Samba parties in the roads

Loudened by motos against buses weaving with descendents of Indian tribes

Hair bleached, brown highlights, English t-shirts

Nirvana. Pink Floyd. Keep Calm and Exercise. I Love Beach.

Manaus is a hot walk to the main road; litter at the bus stop

Litter on the road.

Litter on the bus.

Little Children throwing litter through a window

Scrambling off buses

Walking through their fathers’ spit

Sitting on the ground in Centro

Playing with the garbage in a box outside their house

“Take off ya shoes when ya go outside so ya don’t get them dirty.”

Resting their sandwiches on a dirty public table. Mother watching.

Manaus is a boy who’s a man at 8

Manaus is a girl who’s a man at 8

Manaus is a full-time job for the unemployed

It’s a wake up at 5 with carts of scissors, extension cords and nail files

ABC books for children

Trying to get something sold before the sun slows you.

Children, with sneering eyes and wrinkled paper ask you for money to help their mother

Crippled with 4 children in a crumbling house

She needs help.

8 year old men with no shoes and chocolate-stained fingers and mouths

Snatch back the pleads of paper

And disappear into another crowd

Men in Jesus shirts hopping on and off buses

Peddling containers of sweets, treats –

Meant to heal sore throat, back ache, painful joints, relationship worries

And if you take two, they aid digestion

5 for 1 real

15 for 2 reais

God bless you sir, ma’am, have a nice day.

Manaus is a vest made in Taiwan with a Parisian price tag

Manaus is a city of hustlers doing their best

Manaus is a city of hard workers doing their best

Manaus is a city of Haitians doing their best

Manaus is a heat you get accustomed to

Manaus is a foot black from dust

Manaus is churrasco com farinha

Manaus is small talk with the family of vests and slippers

Manaus is a long way from home.

Fan Mail

by android jonesIf you had been a musician

I would’ve been the one

Lying awake while you practiced

Smiling and writing about the loud clarinet

Wondering about his hands

And his way of making worlds change with his art

What he must be like on the stage

If his passion already overpowers the peeled bedroom walls

And the light seeps light kitchen doors

Without knowing

You keep throwing diamonds to the circumference

Your music expands into the street

Housing dreams of already sleeping children

And here you are, awake. Always wake

Making your type of music with your life

That makes people write late into the night


outerspace by darkrainspirit_deviantart

by Denyce Blackman

What a beautiful creature
must be lying there
underneath her clothes
her layers of flesh
her humanness
as divine as it is
it hums as she breathes
her music is tangible.
But her underneath
the restless spirit
pulsing and rising
produces good works
raising her with the sun
and pulling her towards God
every time her heart swells.
What a mighty force
must be at work
look how beauty finds her
I wonder if she knows
with each step
that she is love
that pulls her upwards.
And the sleeping body
genius and intricate
is the protector of light
an armour
of the grandest type
an awake disciple
watching a sacred garden
as her spirit stretches above it.

Mercado de Quarta

by Denyce Blackman

Today I went straight instead of turning right

and there were tents that I’d never seen seeping onto the streets like thick honey

Their bounty lay spread open and vulnerable

Tiny mangoes were prodded then bought and sold

in bright plastic bags

I saw fruit with wrinkly faces

watching my saunter

They sat in their stands as spectators

Skin hard and hot in the sun

and steam from roasted corn

Vendors’ perspiration and red faces told the time in the market

where cars slowed and parked to buy cheaps sweets paraded on platforms

A woman with red tips and white roots hunches over a pile of plastic wrap

stretched over the breasts of small triangular fruits

pinned to a flat piece of Styrofoam

Red, purple, orange and pink revealed age and sweetness

“Pode escolher o seu, senhora.”

Old eyes peered and counted change

I saw young boys in tall white hats

shouting into the air as they pressed the bodies of fat, white blocks

against a giant sieve

Powder delicately falling like cocaine

Brothels of speckled nuts shattered in boxes

handpicked by a girl with no regard for time

The best of them catching the glances of the hungry

Curly hair and straight slinked by tables of fish

Eyes and mouths gaping

Bodies lying naked on their sides

Butchers’ hands fondle and slice

Their eyes stare at girls who wander past

Music from the ribbon of bars battled for attention with the voices of blazing eyes

selling pasteis

“Diga, meu amor!”

Menus of options, fillings, flavours and sizes

The sweetest, the softest and the sexiest food

“Pra viagem?”

“Pra levar, sim.”

I took my prize in a paper bag and found my old road

passing the people buying coins with their mangoes

Small, round and shiny.

Mercado de Quarta


by Denyce Blackman

The farm has been ravaged.

The wheat has been razed

as I sat sleeping inside, with your breeze humming its comfort

although I smelt the smoke as it danced in charming billows

concealing the broken doors

of our escaping flocks.

All our gains galloping

Our barrels burnt.

And you did not ring one bell

And you did not call for help

And you did not pull me from the fire as I dreamt out loud.

And as the birds screamed for an escape

The brightest sunrise saw you dance behind the fleeing maiden

Her with a cry of rejoice

And you holding the torch.