Poem by Geoffrey Philp, November 2013

November 2013

Busha Day Done
(for Sir Hilary McD. Beckles)

Busha, hold on, hold on; make me get this straight,
for is not like we did go out on a date.
I was sitting down cool-cool on my verandah
when you rush in and grab me way from my father,
mother, sister, brother, uncle, aunty, cousin, best friend,
lock me up in a ship, sail me cross the ocean,
to work on you plantation and cut sugar cane
while you make all the profit off my pain.

And when I try to escape, run way into the hill,
you send man with dog, gun, and order to kill;
drag me back to the Great House, almost naked,
whip me with the cat-o-nine till I was almost dead.
And when I survive, you crawl into my bed
and say, “Dudus, I love you. Why you so wicked
and make me do this?” then breed me like a pig.

Three months later when my belly swell up big-big,
you wouldn’ give me a quattie to support the pickney.
Not even milk powder. You say, “Give it bush tea.”
You wouldn’ claim him; say it is a outside child;
that him black as sin, so make him run wild.
After so many fight, so many war, for so many year,
you set me and the pickney free—you say we was too dear.

And now me and the pickney, who can barely read,
set out to find you and tell you that we can barely feed
we self. I take a ship to England and come to you back door
with a note: “Busha, is time we talk. You left us too poor
to live. I believe you when you say, you is a God fearing
man. You teach me from the Bible every Sunday morning
that slave must obey they master, and then, you rape me
and beat me. But I still trust you. I not looking for charity.”

You never come to the door; send you black lawyer instead
who look straight past me, as if I was dead.
“The master of the house,” him say, “certainly, regrets
any actions he may or may not have done, but all debts
he may have accrued are null and void. You would be wise
to drop all claims immediately, for he will never apologize.
We hope this satisfies your plea, for this is all in the past,
and if you don’t mind, move off the door step, you little raas.”
I stepped off, but he was lucky I never spit in him face.
Gather up me carouchies, and put the note back in my purse.
But when I get back home, things was getting worse:
the only man making money was the driver of the hearse.

The pickney sufferin’ from pressure, sugar in the blood.
Doctor say him get it from him father. And the food,
salt pork and wash, I did think would make him strong,
only make him weak. Time show me I was wrong,
but I know that like justice, it longer than rope.
So, Busha, I not going bend: I not going give up hope.
And make me tell you plain: if you think this is ’bout money,
you wrong too. This is about Justice; your crime against my humanity.


Geoffrey Philp, an author from Jamaica, has written three children’s books, Marcus and the Amazons (Mabrak Books, 2011), Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories (Mabrak Books, 2012), and The Christmas Dutch Pot Baby (Mabrak Books, 2012); two collections of short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien (Peepal Tree,1997) and Who’s Your Daddy? (Peepal Tree, 2009); a novel, Benjamin, My Son (Peepal Tree, 2003); and five poetry collections, Exodus and Other Poems (University of the Virgin Islands Press, 1990), Florida Bound (Peepal Tree, 1995), Hurricane Center (Peepal Tree, 1998), Xango Music (Peepal Tree, 2001), and Dub Wise (Peepal Tree, 2010). A graduate of the University of Miami, where he earned an MA in English, Philp teaches creative writing at Miami Dade College. He posts interviews, fiction, poetry, podcasts, and literary events from the Caribbean and South Florida on his blog geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com.


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