"Small Boys" by Marc Matthews

Marc MatthewsMarc Matthews is a writer who was born in Guyana in the 1940s. He received, he reports, "a mid Victorian education" at Queen's College, Georgetown. He worked as an operator, producer and presenter on Radio Demerara; as a scriptwriter and documentary researcher/ presenter for Guyana Broadcasting Service as a tutor in drama at the Cyril Potter Teachers Training College.

In the 1960s he was in London as a freelance reporter, involved with the UK Black Power movement and alternative theatre productions. He was closely involved with the Caribbean Artists Movement, being, along with Linton Kwesi Johnson, one of the most prominent younger poets to come out of CAM. Unlike Johnson, Marc Matthews's pioneering role as a nation language performance poet has not been properly recognised, probably because his roots and material were always more Guyanese than Black British. Similarly, because of its nature as live theatre rather than as published scripts, his important work, first with fellow Guyanese Ken Corsbie in Dem Two, then in All Ah We, which added John Agard and Henry Muttoo, has largely vanished from the record, if not the memory of those who witnessed them. Only Matthews's record Marc-Up (1987) survives as a record of those days.

As the tyranny of the Burnham years worsened, Marc Matthews settled in the United Kingdom, though he made one attempt to return to live in Guyana after the return of democratic government in the 1990s. In 1988, he won the Guyana Prize for his first collection of poetry Guyana My Altar (Karnak House, 1987). (Kairi in Trinidad had produced an early unbound pamphlet of Matthews, Eleven O'Clock Goods, in 1974).
Around 2005 Marc, working under the pseudonym 'Tramping Man' formed a musical collaboration called 'Burn Brothers' with 2 london based producers - Jean Philippe Altier, and Adam Hoyle. They were joined by saxophonist Florian Brand and performed a number of gigs in and around London in 2007. A record named 'Fire Exit' was recorded and released in April 2008.From (Wikipedia)

Small Boys

Two lil boys bus’ an laugh an turn winter
right roun’ an deh bring me into the sun;

Out of London they transport me, to Guyana
where Carlton, Smallboy and Egbert belong.

Bu these two, I suddenly see, are Brixton white,
not like Carlton and Smallboy, black and brown.

Smallboy, fat and white jumping up and down,
excitement reds his face, egging white Carlton on

to challenge their friend, a white Egbert,
get him to come outside, mad enough to fight;

get Saturday morning start-off right, a trick-flick
the dirty mud’s off the stick in he face.

'I’ll run through the estate roun’ the back,
you go through the gate, meet up at paper shop.'

So I ask, what will they do, where will they go?
Will they like Carlton & Smallboy, black and brown,

secure and safe, watch Egbert fuming full of rage,
with vengeance in his heart, searching every place?

And should he say 'forget it', his anger’s gone,
will they be careful where they walk;

check for wasps & ants nests; keep an eye
whenever he has something in his hands;

not get between him and any trench?
Suddenly a car horn; it’s Brixton, Coldharbour Lane,

I’m comforted to know, no matter white, black or brown,
Small boys’ hearts beat to the same drum


Courtesy of Peepal Tree Press


Rethabile said…
The first two lines did that for me, too: "they turn winter right roun’ an deh bring me into the sun." And the rest of the poem followed suit.
Yeah, he has the marvelous turn of phrases that make it a remarkable poem.


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