Testimony of First of August Negroes: the Last to Be Set Free
A poem by Lorna Goodison - Poet Laureate of Jamaica 2017 -2020
I tell my friend Quasheba, stop up you ears with this beeswax,
so that the bantering song of all who get fi leave scotch free
don't mad we who still bind to cane piece. We who get left back
because spiteful Massa say: "Emancipation is like an aged white
rum so strong not every Negro can imbibe at one time, lest they
grow drunken and stagger." So him water down freedom, share
it out little little and what left in a barrel bottom is fi me and you.
I say, Don't bawl Q, we wait long already, we can wait more still.
She say: "Since them carry me come from Guinea me want go home."
Me too. But if is one thing me learn from what Saint Paul preach is: They that wait. No, is not him say that, must be the prophet
Isaiah or one other man who help write Massa bible with the lock
and key. My friend say she don't want hear no comfortable words
today. My heart string stretch out too. Me disappoint. Me tired pray.
Bend down! Full-free hurrycomeup dem a come down the road
like a Syrian wolf upon the fold. I no rightly sure what that mean,
but me like how it sound. Turn you back and bend down lower,
inspect grass hard like a cruel overseer. Bend down, chop furious
and cuss like wicked slave driver. Tell grass how it good-fi-nothing,
lazy, and no make fi flourish. Say it bad like sin that Ham commit.
Them gone? We can stand up now. Our day of Jubilee a come.
Address to the weed in the cane piece:
Pretty little grass weed, to me you are a sweet rose,
even though some don't think so. According to them,
it matters not that you bud and blossom, you do not
count as flowers, therefore you not good enough
to cut and put in a water vase and set pon table
in a big house. So them order me, a human weed,
to dig you down, and root you up, and fling you
to one side, although your roots bind the ground
together. You're as good as any other growing thing,
you are just planted where you're less counted.
To me little weed you are sweet as any roses.
Yes, is true. Some who get freedom first,
walk past and mock the first of August Nayga
the last to get emancipation. Yes sir.
We had was to bear all the commotion
and bangarang of old pan as them galang
past we out a the estate.
Some believe all the foolishness hard heart people say
bout freedom not for any and every one.
How some need to be
led with bridle and bit like mule and horse.
Not because some get let go first,
always remember this:
It matters not when you did leave.
Every single one of a we
come out a the cane piece.