Squatter’s Rites

Dennis Scott (1939-1991) was a Jamaican poet who was influential after independence. He often wrote in the vernacular. He was also a playwrite and involved in drama and dance, he even had a role in the Cosby Show.

Squatter’s Rites

Peas, corn, potatoes; he had
planted himself
king of a drowsy hill; no one
cared how he came to such green dignity,
scratching his majesty
among the placid chickens.

But after a time, after
his deposition, the uncivil wind
snarled anarchy through that
small kingdom. Trees, wild birds
troubled the window,
as though to replace the fowl
that wandered and died of summer;
spiders locked the door,
threading the shuddered moths,
and stabbed their twilight needles through
that grey republic. The parliament of dreams
dissolved. The shadows tilted
where leaf-white, senatorial lizards
inhabited his chair.

Though one of his sons made it,
blowing reggae (he
dug city life)
enough to bury the old Ras
with respect
ability and finally
a hole in his heart;

and at night when the band
played soul, the trumpet
pulse beat
down the hill
to the last post,

leaning in its hole
like a sceptre
among the peas, corn, potatoes.

Dennis Scott


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