If I Woz a Tap-Natch Poet

if I woz a tap-natch poet

like Chris Okigbo
Derek Walcott
ar T.S.Eliot

I woodah write a poem
soh dyam deep
dat it bittah-sweet
like a precious
memari
whe mek yu weep
whe mek yu feel incomplete

like wen yu lovah leave
an dow defeat yu kanseed
still yu beg an yu plead
till yu win a repreve
an yu ready fi rack steady
but di muzik done aready

still
inna di meantime
wid mi riddim
wid mi rime
wid mi ruff base line
wid mi own sense a time

goon poet haffi step in line
caw Bootahlazy mite a gat couple touzan
but Mandela fi him
touzans a touzans a touzans a touzans

if I woz a tap-natch poet
like Kamau Brathwaite
Martin Carter
Jayne Cortez ar Amiri Baraka

I woodah write a poem
soh rude
an rootsy
an subversive
dat it mek di goon poet
tun white wid envy

like a candhumble/voodoo/kumina chant
a ole time calypso ar a slave song
dat get ban
but fram granny
rite
dung
to
gran
pickney
each an evry wan
can recite dat-der wan

still
inna di meantime
wid mi riddim
wid mi rime
wid mi ruff base line
wid mi own sense a time

goon poet haffi step in line
caw Bootahlazy mite a gat couple touzan
but Mandela fi him
touzans a touzans a touzans a touzanse

if I woz a tap-natch poet
like Tchikaya U’tamsi
Nicholas Guillen
ar Lorna Goodison

I woodah write a poem
soh beautiful dat it simple
like a plain girl
wid good brains
an nice ways
wid a sexy dispozishan
an plenty compahshan
wid a sweet smile
an a suttle style

still
mi naw goh bow an scrape
an gwaan like a ape
peddlin noh puerile parchment af ethnicity
wid ongle a vaig fleetin hint af hawtenticity
like a black Lance Percival in reverse
ar even worse
a babblin bafoon whe looze im tongue

no sah
nat atall
wid mi riddim
wid mi rime
wid mi ruff base line
wid mi own sense a time

goon poet bettah step in line
caw Bootahlazy mite a gat couple touzan
but Mandela fi him
touzans a touzans a touzans a touzans

First published in First of the Month in 2003. Reprinted in Linton Kwesi Johnson: Selected Poems (Penguin,2006). Copyright Linton Kwesi Johnson 2006.

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