Songs of Jamaica (1912)

A Midnight Woman to the Bobby

No palm me up,[1] you dutty brute,
You’ jam mout’ mash[2] like ripe bread-fruit;
You fas’n now, but wait lee ya,[3]
I’ll see you grunt under de law.

You t’ink you wise,[4] but we wi’ see;
You not de fus’ one fas’ wid me;
I’ll lib fe see dem tu’n you out,
As sure as you got dat mash’ mout’.

I born right do’n beneat’ de clack[5]
(You ugly brute, you tu’n you’ back?)
Don’ t’ink dat I’m a come-aroun’,[6]
I born right ‘way in ‘panish Town.

Care how you try,[7] you caan’ do mo’
Dan many dat was hyah befo’;
Yet whe’ dey all o’ dem te-day?[8]
De buccra dem no kick dem ‘way?[9]

Ko[10] pon you’ jam samplatta[11] nose:
‘Cos you wear Mis’r Koshaw clo’es[12]
You fink say youts de only man,[13]
Yet fus’ time[14] ko how you be’n ‘tan’.[15]

You big an’ ugly ole tu’n-foot[16]
Be’n neber know fe wear a boot;
An’ chigger nyam you’ tumpa toe,[17]
Till nit full i’ like herrin’ roe.

You come from mountain naked-‘kin,[18]
An’ Lard a mussy! you be’n thin,
For all de bread-fruit dem be’n done,
Bein’ ‘poil’ up by de tearin’ sun:[19]

De coco[20] couldn’ bear at all,
For, Lard! de groun’ was pure white~marl;
An’ t’rough de rain part o’ de year[21]
De mango tree dem couldn’ bear.

An’ when de pinch o’ time you feel
A ‘pur you a you’ chigger heel,[22]
You lef you’ district, big an’ coarse,
An’ come join’[23] buccra Police Force.

An’ now you don’t wait fe you’ glass,[24]
But trouble me wid you’ jam fas’;[25]
But wait, me frien’, you’ day wi’ come,
I’ll see you go same lak a some.[26]

Say wha’? — ‘res’ me?[27] — you go to hell!
You t’ink Judge don’t know unno well?[28]
You t’ink him gwin’ go sentance[29] me
Widout a soul fe witness i’?

  1. Don't put your hands on me
  2. Your d---d mouth is all awry
  3. You are fast (meddling, officious) now, but wait a little, d'you hear?
  4. You think you're wise
  5. The clock on the public buildings at Spanish Town
  6. Day-labourers, men and women, in Kingston streets and wharves, famous for the heavy weights they carry, are called come-arounds
  7. No matter how you try, you can't do more than your predecessors (all that were here before)
  8. Yet where are they all to-day?
  9. Did not the buccra (white man) kick them away (dismiss them)?
  10. Look
  11. A piece of leather cut somewhat larger than the size of the foot, and tied sandal-wise to it : said of anything that is flat and broad
  12. Mr Kershaw's clothes" i.e., police uniform. Col. Kershaw. Inspector-General of Police in 1911 (when this poem was written) and for many years before
  13. A mighty fine fellow
  14. When I knew you first
  15. Look what sort of figure you cut
  16. Turned-in foot
  17. And chigoes (burrowing fleas) had eaten into your maimed toe, and nits (young chigoes) had filled it
  18. Naked skin, i.e., with your shirt and trousers full of holes
  19. Having been spoilt by the hot sun. Pronounce 'bein' as a monosyllable
  20. An editble root (Colocasia antiquorum)
  21. During some months
  22. And when you felt hard times spurring you in your chigger. eaten heel
  23. Come and joined
  24. You don't wait for the right and proper moment
  25. With all your infernal forwardness and officiousness
  26. Same like some = just as others before you did
  27. What's that? — arrest me?
  28. D'you think the magistrate doesn't know your tricks? Unno or Onnoo is an African word, meaning "you" collectively
  29. Pronounce the a 'ah,' but without accent


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This work (Poems by Claude McKay by Claude McKay) is free of known copyright restrictions.