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Poems by Janet Jagan

To Michael Forde, Who Lost His Life Defending Freedom House

(Written in 1964)

Death did not find you unprepared.
Death did not creep upon you unaware.

You strode with the package of death
Like a soldier; Like the hero you always were.

Your heroism began
Not on that dark Friday of death.
But on the day you understood
And became a revolutionary
To the depths of your soul
To the marrow of your bones.

No fear was in your eyes
No chill went through your body
When you took that death packet
And saved your comrades.

The parson who prayed
over your charred, torn body
was apologetic.
Those who murdered you
When your lacerated body passed by.
But we who love you are not apologetic.

We are proud that men like you
Are born from our struggle.
And we will still their laughter,
Yes, their laughter will be no more.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


To Alice, Also Known as Kowsillia, Who Died at Leonora

(Written in 1964)

 Alice the brave
Alice the courageous
Alice the heroic.

Your body
Mangles, ripped,
By the cruel machine
Owned by a cruel system.

The machine
Crushed out your life
As a foot destroys an ant
As a wheel rolls over
a baby lamb.

Alice, your simple
Defied the outrages
Of an iniquitous system.

Alice, you protested
with your life
Against the inequalities
Around you.

We walked behind your
poor broken body
Eating the red dust of
the road.

Hearing the angry
of an angry people
Horrified, shocked by
the heartless system
Which crushed the
prostrated body
of you our Kowsillia
Who said with your life -

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

Excerpts from Janet Jagan’s journals dated March 8, 1964

“…Rushed back to catch the 12.50 boat to attend the funeral of Alice know as Kowsillia who was killed on Friday by a tractor. What a tragic wasted life. She was protecting by way of blocking the entrance to the compound – she and other women. They were laying flat on the ground and the tractor ran over her – mutilated her – injured others. One had a broken spine, another fractured pelvic.

The body in the hearse travelled over by the 12.50 boat and the procession proceeded by car up to Cornelia --- where thousands of persons assembled to walk to Leonora for burial.

People cheered and cheered as they saw Cheddi. We tried to indicate this was not behaviour for a funeral, but it could not be controlled especially by the young men. The women were more disciplined and orderly. Those in charge had the impossible task of keeping order as the crowds saw Cheddi. Everyone wanted to be near to him – to walk as close as possible to him. During the whole two hour walk this pushing, noise, etc. went on.

We marched past the bridge where she was killed and then to her house and then to the grave.

There were speeches at her burial. Cheddi and Harry Lall spoke.

We returned on the 6PM boat.”

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Mehregan the Brave

(Written in 1988)

When will man become more civilised than the beasts?
For they, at least, kill to eat, to protect their young, to survive.

Man kills man, tortures man! When will it cease?
Even more cruel than Savak
His servants inflicted the most gruesome torture
invented by man
Mehregan, the brave, withstood the tortures of his body.
His soul, his integrity, they could not destroy!
He went to his death, defiant, refusing to reveal his comrades.

In blood he wrote on his prison wall
"The true path of struggle is the one that I chose. "

Rahman Hatefi known as Mehregan died the hero's death.
To him, and those before him, and those after, we pay homage.

But why? Oh why? Did he have to die -
to end his young life in blood and agony
When the world needs men like him to uphold justice and peace?
When will it end?

(Rahman Hatefi known as Mehregan was a top Iranian Communist leader, a talented writer and clandestine organiser who was tortured to death in the cells of the Khomeini regime in September 1988.)

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


A Poet Banned

(Written in 1972)

Who Am I?
To walk the streets of Istanbul
Nothing but a tourist
But with rights greater than
The nation’s poet Nazim Hickmet

Janet Jagan with Nazim Hikmet

They banned the great poet
From his native land
Not allowing him to set foot
In the land of his birth, the
land he loved, as a man loves his first love
And a mother loves her infant.

Nazim has been exiled
To die far away in a cold land
Far from the sun of his beloved home
And I, nothing but a tourist
Can walk freely in this land
That gave birth to Turkey’s great poet.

NAZIM HIKMET, popularly known and critically acclaimed in Turkey as the first and foremost modern Turkish poet, is known around the world as one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, and his poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages. Persecuted for decades by the Republic of Turkey during the Cold War for his communist views, Hikmet died of a heart attack in Moscow on June 3, 1963

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


On trip to Turkey - 1972

Not my eyes
But those of Nazim Hickmet
Should be seeing
These strong bold mountains
That touch the diamond seas

In exile from your beautiful land
These foreign eyes can watch
The poor, the poverty ridden children
While you, Nazim, are banned.

What right have I
Only a traveller
To visit the land that gave birth
to your wonderful words?
And you, the exile.

On the streets your books
Boldly sold
By little boys
What is their fate?

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


(Nazim Hikmet, popularly known and critically acclaimed in Turkey as the first and foremost modern Turkish poet, is known around the world as one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, and his poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages. However, in his home country Hikmet was condemned for his commitment to Marxism. His writings were filled with social criticism. In 1938 Hikmet was condemned to prison for 28 years and four months for anti-Nazi and anti-Franco activities. Hikmet spent the following 12 years in different prisons. He was released in 1950 because of international protests, and from 1951 lived in exile for the remainder of his life. He died of a heart attack in Moscow on June 3, 1963)


Not Alone Ben Bella

(Written in 1966)

 A dry leaf fell from the trees
It fell slowly
There was no breeze
I saw a man with a fez on his head.
The leaf, the fez
Reminded me of the lost man.

Where is he now
Ben Bella
What dark prison holds him
away from his people?
What bitter thoughts he thinks
Of treachery
Of lost freedom
Of his people

Not alone
Ben Bella
His prison is filled
With millions of people.

(Ben Bella was President of independent Algeria 1963-65, Prime Minister/President 1962-1965. In 1965 June 19 he was removed from office by a coup staged by his old ally, Houari Boumedienne, and placed under house arrest until 1980 October 30.)

  Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


A Baby Bird – A children’s Poem

I saw a baby bird
Sitting on a limb
All alone
All alone.  

He shivered as I passed
But held his wings from fluttering
Afraid that I would hurt him
Or take him far away.  

Baby bird
Have no fear
I will not take you
From your loving mother.  

Stay quiet, little bird
Your mother will come soon
The strangers will pass
And you’ll be safe again. 

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Fairy Flower – A Children’s Poem

I saw a tiny flower
So small you could hardly see
Like a cluster of lovely orchids
But small beyond belief  

Was this a fairy flower?
To be worn in the little queen’s hair
Or to be carried, with a fine fern lace
As the princess’s bridal bouquet?  

Near the edge of the trench
Not far from the strong paddi sprouts
With razor grass for a fortress protection
Peeped the fairy orchid clusters.  

When the sun is high
And the birds nestle in the bush
And the cows seek the shade
The fairies come out and dance around their flowers.  

Stay away!
Don't trouble their flowers!
Don't disturb their dance!
No one must see! — not even you, Nadira.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009