Jamaican Independence Day, 2006

Now is not the time to repeat the lies
that once made us happy, to dismiss
the subtle messages of winds that brought
human cargo to our island and exchanged
sweat for the sweetness of sugar cane—
a man’s worth measured in bundles
of rattoons, sprouting in a field of guns
carried by boys barely awakened
to the urgency of their dreams,
but would never see home,
girls who barely understood the demand
of blood, but would never see their daughters
grow old—betrayal of the Lignum Vitae’s
ever widening rings that survived hurricanes
and drought, our birthright bartered
for a few years of peace on a sliver of sand,
our toil put to rest in the pulse of the mangrove.

Here the podcast for the poem: Jamaican Independence Day, 2006



Stephen Bess said…
your post prompted me look up Jamaican History. I didn't realize that independence happened in 1962. I love the writing. Peace~
Geoffrey Philp said…
Give thanks, Stephen. August 6, 1962. I was four years old.
So now you can understand the anger of my generation--the anger (like Langston Hughes') that was muted-yet expressed in reggae.
Jamaica, after being the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, was granted Independence in 1962 and with just enough money to run ou school system for a week.
What' also inetresting is Jamaica's history in North America--Pennsylvania (Admiral Penn) and the Louisiana Purchase.
Yet, we trod on through iration.
FSJL said…
Bundles of ratoons? It would make more sense simply to say 'bundles of cane'. Even though two crops in three back in the days of slavery were ratoons, they had to dig the roots up and replant otherwise they would have produced a lot less syrup than they could have.
Geoffrey Philp said…
Fragano, you have deciphered my method.

"Bundles of cane" would involve the unnecesary repitition of the word "cane," and as you said, "two crops in three were ratoons," so the meaning is generally understood. Also, "bundles of ratoons" with the extended "oo" vowel lowers the sound and extends the idea of burden in "bundles," whereas as "cane" is too short and lifts the sound with the plosive k
FSJL said…
I see your method. Thanks.

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