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Cruising at thirty thousand feet above the endless

green 1.the island seems like dice tossed on a


casino's baize, some come up lucky, others not.
Puerto Rico takes the pot, 2.the Dallas of the West
Indies, 2.silver linings on the clouds as we descend
are hall-marked, 1.San Juan glitters like a maverick's
gold ring.
All across the Caribbean we'd collected terminals 1.airports are like calling cards, cultural fingerprints;
the hand written signs at Port-au-Prince, Piarco's
sleazy tourist art, the lethargic contempt of the
baggage boys at 'Vere Bird' in St. Johns ....
And now for 5.plush San Juan.
But the pilot's bland you're safe in my hands drawl
crackles as we land, 'US regulations demand all
passengers not disembarking at San Juan stay on the
plane, I repeat, stay on the plane.' 3.Subtle Uncle
Sam, afraid too many 6.desperate blacks might reenslave 4.this Island of the free, might jump the
barbed
electric fence around 7.'America's back yard' and
claim that vaunted sanctuary ..... 3. 'give me your
poor .....' Through toughened, tinted glass 8.the
contrasts tantalise; US patrol cars glide across the
shimmering tarmac, containered baggage trucks
unload with 9.fierce efficiency. So soon we're
climbing,
low above the pulsing city streets; galvanized
shanties overseen by condominiums polished
Cadillacs shimmying with pushcarts and as we
climb, San-Juan's 10.fools-glitter calls to mind the
shattered innards of a TV set that's fallen off the
back of a lorry, all painted valves and circuits 1.the
road like twisted wires,
the bright cars, micro-chips. 11.It's sharp and jagged
and dangerous, and belonged to some-one else.

LITERAL MEANING
The persona is travelling in a plane, looking down at
San Juan, Puerto Rico, as the plane descends. He is
saying that this island is the wealthiest in the
Caribbean because it has won the jackpot, it has
come up lucky. He then points out that he, and
others, had travelled to many Caribbean islands and
received a hint of the flavour of each island through
it's calling card, - its airport - all of which fail when
compared to plush San Juan. As they land, they are
instructed to stay on the plane if their destination is
not San Juan. The persona takes offence and states
that America does not want blacks in San Juan,
implying that they might be a disruptive force. He
notes the efficiency with which things flow, enabling
them to take to the skies once more. During the
ascent, the persona notes the contrast between the
influences of the Caribbean and America. He likens
San-Juan to a broken TV, it Iooks good on the
outside, but broken on the inside.

Brown, S. 'West Indies, U.S.A' in A World of Prose.


Edited by Mark McWatt and Hazel Simmonds
McDonald. Pearson Education Ltd, 2005.
LITERARY DEVICES
1. SIMILE

Line 2: Puerto Rico is compared to dice that is tossed on a casino's baize, it can either come up with
winning numbers, or losing numbers. Puerto Rico comes up with winning numbers in the game of chance, as
reflected in its wealthy exterior, which is supported by America.
Lines 7-8: San Juan's glitter is compared to a maverick's gold ring. The word maverick implies nonconformist, an individualist. This implies that San Juan, Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean, but not a part of the
Caribbean. It belongs to America.
Lines 10-11: Airports are compared to calling cards. This means that, like a calling card, the quality of the
airport gives you an idea of the island's economic status. The airport is also compared to a cultural fingerprint. A
fingerprint is an individual thing, therefore the airport gives the traveler an idea of the island's cultural landscape.
Line 39: The road is compared to twisted wires. This means that the roads, from above, look both plentiful
and curvy. This does not carry a positive connotation, but implies confusion.
2. ALLUSION

Line 5: Dallas is an oil rich state in America. Therefore, many of its inhabitants are wealthy, and the state
itself, is wealthy. By stating that San Juan is the Dallas of the West Indies, it implies that it is a wealthy island in the
West Indies.
Lines 5-7: An allusion is being made to the well known cliche; 'every cloud has a silver lining'. It means
that behind everything that is seemingly bad, there is good. In the context of this poem, it means that the good, the
silver lining, has a mark, or stamp, that authenticates its good quality; it is hallmarked. This implies that it will
always have its silver lining showing.
3. SARCASM
Line 20: This statement means the exact opposite of what is stated. The persona is disgusted that Uncle
Sam (America) would have such a regulation. This regulation bars anyone from stepping a toe on Puerto Rican soil,
if it is not your intended destination. You just have to remain in the air craft, no matter the waiting period, until it is
time for takeoff. The persona believes that the Americans are being blatantly discriminatory, and are attempting to
camouflage it through the use of regulations. He does not believe that they have achieved their goal of subtlety.
Line 20: The statement, 'give me your poor...' is particularly sarcastic because it is a direct quote from the
New Collossus, which rests on a plaque on the statue of liberty, and signifies that the disenfranchised of the world
are welcome. The persona, as a member of the 'disenfranchised' masses, clearly feels unwelcomed.
Line 26: The persona implies that America is all talk and no action. They really do not want the poor
because they bar them from entering and expediently sends them on their way when they enter their airport. The
statement is sarcastic because it is loaded with an alternate meaning, due to the contrast in statement and action.
4. PUN
Line 17-18: The pun is placed on 'land of the free', it becomes 'Island of the free'. This pun emphasizes how isolated
Puerto Rico is from the rest of the Caribbean islands. It belongs to the U.S.A. This state of belonging to, or being
owned by the US is asserted through it's insertion into the Star Spangled Banner.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
5. 'plush'
This word implies soft, like a teddy bear. It also implies luxury. So San Juan is all of these things.
6.'desperate blacks might re-enslave this Island of the free'
These 'desperate blacks' to whom the persona is referring are the poor people of the Caribbean. If they converge on
the glistening San Juan, sucking up its resources, then it might become re-enslaved by poverty.
7.'America's back yard'
A backyard means one of two things for people. It is a haven where you relax, therefore you decorate it and invest
time and money in it. Or, you ignore it and spend all your time indoors, not investing any time, energy or money in
it. America viewed Puerto Rico as the latter, a prize in which it saw value. Therefore, when the persona uses this
phrase, he is implying that while it is valued, it is still at the back. Slight sarcasm is being used here.
8.'the contrasts tantalise'
When something, or someone, is tantalising, it implies that it is intriguing. The persona, by using this phrase, is
trying to draw the readers attention to to the jarring contrasts by stating that he finds them intriguing.
9.'fierce efficiency'
The word fierce, used to describe the level of efficiency with which the people worked to get the plane off the
ground, shows the extent to which they were not wanted on the island.
10.'fools-glitter'
This implies that the flashiness of San Juan was not authentic.
11.'It's sharp and jagged and dangerous, and belonged to some-one else.'
This implies that San Juan is not safe. The cultures are not melding, but jarring against each other. The reason for
this is because it belongs to someone else.
CONTRAST
The contrast in this poem is found in stanza 5. The American cars etc, against the pushcarts. The American culture
versus the Puerto Rican culture.
MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE
The mood of the poem is sarcastic.

TONE
The tone of the poem is slightly bitter, which is fueled by the sarcastic atmosphere.
THEMATIC CATEGORIZATION
Discrimination, oppression, places, culture.
BROWN, STEWART
Born 1951 in Southampton, Stewart Brown is a poet, editor and critic. He studied art and literature at Falmouth
School of Art, the University of Sussex and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He spent periods teaching in
schools and universities in Jamaica, Nigeria, Wales and Barbados. Since 1988 he has taught in The Centre of West
African Studies at the University of Birmingham, where he is now Reader in African and Caribbean literatures. He
has travelled widely through West Africa and the Caribbean in relation to both his research and creative writing, and
lectured for the British Council in both regions. As a poet he received a Gregory Award in 1976 and has
subsequently published four collections of poetry. In the 70s he had several onemanshows of paintings in Jamaica
and the UK, and he continues to make visual images. He has edited or co-edited several anthologies of African and
Caribbean writing and critical studies of the West Indian poets Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite and Martin Carter.
In this poem, the poet records his impressions of the Islands from a view, thirty thousand feet above. He sees some
of the islands as more prominent than others. Some are more culturally and economically developed as can be seen
in his impression of Puerto Rico, with silver linings in the clouds and the glitter of San Juan. But to him, each
country has its own distinctive features and characteristics, which are highlighted at its terminal.
Against these islands, the poet sees the influence of the United States on Puerto Rico: he sees Puerto Rico as a
representation of the United States - Americas backyard. Stringent laws are enforced at its terminal to prevent
passengers from entering without legal documentation. The fear of foreigners who sneak into the island and tarnish
the image of the land is well noted by the poet. He notes the influence of American culture and lifestyle in Puerto
Rico. The glitter of the cities pulsating with life is well captured in the polished Cadillacs and Micro chips.
This poem is written in Free Verse and speaks to the presence of the United States in the West Indies as seen in San
Juan, Puerto Rico. The poem is written from a first-person point of view and tells of the travelers`experience of
different countries in the West Indies through their airports (stanza two). Nature is a major theme in the poem. Other
themes include poverty and imperialism. Literary devices include similes (line 2), metaphors (line 9) and allusion
(line 18).
Line 2: `baize`is the soft velvet like green material used on pool and card tables
Line 3: `pot` short for jackpot, reefrs to the most outstanding amount to be won in a casion game
Line 4-6: `Dallas...maverick`s gold ring` refers to the basketball team in the USA which would have been and
possibly still is one of the most valuable and high earning basketball teams. Championship rings received by the
winning team are made of the highest quality gold and worth thousands of dollars.
Line 8: `Calling card` literally identifies the bearer and istraditionally presented for introduction when making a
social visit.
Line 10: `Piarco`is Trinidad`s national airport
Line 14: `Drawl`the lengthening and slowing down of speech
Line 17: `Uncle Sam` is a national personification affectionately used to refer to the United States
Line 18: `Re-enslave...island of the free`is an allusion to the Spanish conquest and colonization of the island.
Line 20-21:`America`s backyard...give me your poor`. America`s backyard is a direct reference to countries like
Puerto Rico, Guam and the Phillipines who were under US rule in some way. `Give me your tired and poor` is an
allusion to Emma Lazarus`famous poem about the Statue of Liberty. It also symbolizes a time in the decades after
US occupation (1898) where Puerto Ricans were allowed to seek refuge in New York City after being hit by a series
of natural disasters and the Great Depression.
Line 22: Introduces a series of contrasts visible in Puerto Rico as a result of the US presence. It is symbolic of the

partial nature of the benefits from Puerto Rico`s affiliation with the US.
Line 29: `fools glitter`...Expresses the author`s cynical tone towards the relationship between the US and Puerto
Rico. It is an allusion to the saying `All that glitters is not gold.`