“Song for Almeyda,” II.

In these caverns, Almeyda, are the 
waters that heal and a man-of-
many-names who claims
That you are safe
With the wise woman Zibatra, an old
friend of his and
Wise men and women know each
As if they were drops of the
                       Same water.
These leaves I chew and 
dream of you
Or see you in waking.
You oil me with healing oil. The
man-of-many-names says that these
wounds are
                      Not deep,
Shoulder wounds,
And that I’ve come here not
                      For the wounds but
for the spirit’s
Zibatra, who is this
A wise woman, he says, an old
acquaintance, though they’ve 
never met.

But wise men and women know
each other, 
As if they were
Seeds from the same pod. Are
you somewhere in
Are you hidden in the
But you oil me with healing oil.
Do I dream?
I do not dream; I look
Upon you with favor,
Com bons olhos.
Here, to talk of love is
                     Improper, to
kiss is impropriety. We are
Africans, says
And war and love don’t mix. But I
must call you Amante
Almeyda, Amante. Is this
The man-of-many-names is
scandalized by kisses.
Only Europeans caress with
In this New World,
You oil me with healing oil, and
kiss the wounds on my 
But they are not deep



Do you hear the congadas? We
coronate a king.
But here we are all kings and
all servants too.
I do not make spears as in 
Or make the poison to tip
                     Them with, though
there are others who
                     Make spears
Repair muskets.
In dreams, I return to
To search for you.
But Ovimbundo, our leader
Says that for now,
It is best we both stay
For Jorge Velho’s regiment
                     Of petitioners is
still scattered, hunting
                     Us, the
And searching the Barriga
The war is not ended. And
so I keep to this

For it is best not to even
inadvertently lead the enemy
So keep to your stronghold,
They are still searching for us, even
along the frontier.
I dream you have been
                     Captured, and
Angola and Cabinda,
Palmaristas who have also
Given refuge here
Confirm the wisdom of
the wise man and so I
Keep to this stronghold. It
would be rash, he says,
To seek you now, Amante, so keep
to your stronghold, and I’ll keep to
Am I drugged?
There was a time I’d not have
listened even to King
If he gave me such an order. I’d have
searched every
Of the Barriga range. Am I
not a free man?
Eu não sou um homem livre?
But by now, he says, they
know that I’m a 

But by now, he says,
The petitioners have revoked
                     My free
Using freedom, they say, to
facilitate conspirators
                     Against the 
And is not the king a
                     Against us?
       Would not the king trade
                     Anyone of us 
For a keg of English brandy?

Ovimbundo prophesies a time of no
slave traders
No slave peddlers, no
slave merchants, bartering
us for Sugar

Dried meat
Imported carpets
And when we Africans
Build our own cities
Not hidden in some forest or the
Barriga range
But cities in the open even
along the frontier from
Bahia to Rio from
Pernambuco to 
                      Jigonhonha from
Piaui to Maranhao from Para to
Rio Grande from Minas Gerais
But between now and then,
More slave agents
And more Captain Velhos than we
can count on all our
O quilombo dos Palmares.
And not just the chalked
Even pretos.
If color’s not contagious, then
slavery is.
Do I dare tell you of
King Adarunga?
But the collaborators and

Always have the same faces. Here, I
do not plan war
                      Strategems. In
Palmares, I knew King
But here I do not know the
Perhaps they think it’s
easier not to have
If everyone thinks that
                      Everyone’s the
So when they coronate the King,
They coronate us all!
And Bacongo and 
Quimbundo, Pedro
And Nascimiento
And Honorio,
And Ioio, and
Here, I do not make spears or
repair firearms,
I grow yams, and
And Indian pepper, and

(Should I dare call it
The African love-flower?) And
I tend the king’s
Horses are better than 
Says Ovimbundo. Better 
than firearms. Though I
don’t know who the king
Or what the horses are for.

You are rubbing me with
                     Healing oils,
And I am planting
And we are in that New
Building our own city, our
own free city. 

From Song for Almeyda & Song for Anninho (Beacon Press, 2022) by Gayl Jones. Copyright © 2022 by Gayl Jones. Used with permission from Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts.