On today’s show—the third in a series of four—Alabama poet, visual artist and musician Jake Berry discusses his life-poem, Brambu Drezi. In a letter Berry described the phrase’s origin: “I had planned to call the entire lifelong series UNNON with the first book being BRAMBU DREZI, but now I’m rethinking that because BRAMBU DREZI seems so natural and earthy—like a totemic word or something—it feels more and more like my word, or maybe I’m its poet. Or both. I was wondering, have you ever heard the word or words before. BRAMBU DREZI—I don’t actually know where it came from, it came out one day when I was playing with my cat—I always make up words when I’m talking to him—when these words came out it was like words of power—resonating in the spine—but it almost seems there is actually something called BRAMBU DREZI, but I don’t know what, other than my poem….
“BRAMBU,” Berry told me, referring to the poem as a whole, “is not projected but merely occurs—I don’t drive it or shape it, I allow it.” This statement parallels others Berry has made: the opening words of his first book, The Pandemonium Spirit (1986), for example: “In these writings and collages some ‘other,’ the ‘rawspirit,’ does the speaking.” BRAMBU DREZI is not so much a planned poem as it is an event in Berry’s life—something which seems to have some kind of “objective” status, which seems to be issuing from a place outside himself: “it almost seems there is actually something called BRAMBU DREZI, but I don’t know what, other than my poem….”
These are the concluding lines of the second Book of the poem—a passage read on the show by Jake and Jack. The “Papa” referred to is Papa Legba, in Haitian Vodou “the loa who serves as the intermediary between the loa and humanity. He stands at a spiritual crossroads and gives (or denies) permission to speak with the spirits of Guinee, and is believed to speak all human languages. In Haiti, he is the great elocutioner. Legba facilitates communication, speech, and understanding” (Wikipedia).
The dream has murdered the dreamer
with a key of tongues,
her fingers manipulating the seabed,
and the necklace between her breasts sobbing,
12 trees in the wound,
thunder in the west,
I study the heart of Brahma
and hear voices
when they tore her from the tree
the branches sighed,
down at the crossroads, down at the crossroads
they say he comes smelling of graves.
hey Papa, please let me pass
see, I bring sweet tobacco
and doves for stew
bury her heart beneath the roses
her eyes beneath the Oak
and she will rise again someday
he wrote until dawn and received the third baptism of Spirit,
he clutched the adversary’s thigh, and refused to
release his hold,
for a name, for a deal in blood,
to bear the mark
to bear the mark
out of nothing
Part Three of Four. Recorded in Florence, Alabama.