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Saturday, December 08, 2007


by Ray Templeton

At one time, we made do with slum,
a single syllable we used to think
could say it all. Trust another culture
to enrich our language – so we got ghetto
with its special connotations: systematic
separation, malice gone municipal.

Then there’s favela – carnival and colour,
fireworks drowning out the thump of bullets.
From the barrios, such vicarious excitement,
such picaresque sensation, that we lift
the rhythms, tunes, street fashions,
leave all the other stuff behind us.

The piquant flavours of each word:
quilombo, colonia, bidonville;
not mentioned in the travelogues
as much as in the headlines on the news –
today the banlieus, tomorrow the palenque ,
next day some far-flung shantytown.

Expanding lexicons, exploding populations –
new terms kick in to spell out shifting facts
of demographics, changing geography.
We can add another one, year on year:
ishish, jhugi, kibera – the different names
to call the places we don’t live in.

Ray Templeton was born in Scotland , and has lived many years in the south of England . His writing, including poetry and short fiction, has appeared both in print and on the web, most recently in Eclectica, Loch Raven Review, qarrtsiluni and Antithesis Common. He is a regular contributor to Musical Traditions and a member of the editorial board of Blues & Rhythm.