You bring out the angoleira in me

This poem was published in Caxixi issue n. 2, in March 2001. I found a copy in the FICA archives and it is just too good not to share! This is dedicated to all the camaradas who have accompanied me on this incredible journey.

You bring out the angoleira in me
By Maurisa Thompson

Inspired by “You bring out the Mexican in me” by Sandra Cisneros

You bring out the angoleira in me
The twang of the berimbau, the shake and rattle of the caxixi
That certain crescendo of uncertainty
The ladainha, chula, and corridos in me
The born almost too late for old-school funk in me
The thunder of 15-gallon drums and dancing throngs
The samba de roda in me

You bring out the mandinga in me
The slow-swaying ginga and the queda de rins
The half-moons and hammers, the corta-capim
The corpo fechado, the chamada in me
You bring out hot sliding dendê in me
Spin me in circles like eddies in the Amazon
Me salta mandinga in me

You bring out the angoleira in me
Oshun’s grace and the knife between her teeth in me
The Dona Maria do Camboatá
Ela senta na mesa e manda botar
Idalina who calls me out walking in the morning
Spills rivers from her breasts
Rasteiras mountainsides
Oya’s spitfire in the eyes of storms
Yes, you do. Yes, you do.

You bring out the moleque in me
The one-legged malandra stumbling thorugh her own delusions
Through a forest of memories
Through fortresses of palm trees
Make me vanish into cool earth
Appear in flame, smoke, shadow
Vamo logo vadiar, mas hoje tem, amanhã não
You bring out the footsteps of Lampião

You bring out the angoleira in me
The middle passage in me, the umbilical cord
from my mother ripped and torn asunder
The sear of the lash and the blood in my mouth
The taste of my pillaged names like alkali
You bring out the strange fruit dangling
from southern trees, the midnight rider nightmares
The eu aqui não sou querido in me
Mas na minha terra eu sou
The oil wars and AIDS crisis
Disasters like strings of stolen diamonds
The disappeared and the disillusioned
My cabeçada against tyranny

You bring out the griot in me
The eternal discipulo crouched at my mestre’s feet
Where I begin and return, where I make my offering
Singing cry, Maria, cry, your love has gone away
They killed my Besouro, I’m not going to stay
I don’t know how to live in this world of trickery
But friendship’s worth more than a purse, camará

You bring out the angoleira in me
The ancient Dahomey and Ile-Ife
Palmares and marooncamps in the red hills of Georgia
The ancestors quivering my spine in me
The undeciphered texts of my history
In the reach of my fingers, the stamp of my feet
Where I thunder, where I lightning

Eu sei, sim, eu sou angoleira
You bring out the angoleira in me
Queen Nzinga and Rei Zumbi in me
The Sweet Honey Zap Mama Rafiki in me
The Zara Neal, Ella Baker, Ida B. in me
The Yoruba Bantu Fulani Twi in me
The Blackfeet grandmothers I cannot yet name
THe Pastinha, João Grande, João Pequeno in me
Yes, you do. Yes, you do.