Abeng: A Poem for National Heroes Day

A poem for National Heroes Day from the young Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson.

This helped me to reflect on Jamaica’s sad history, and the sacrifices of our ancestors.  It has been in my mind all day, above the platitudes of the politicians and the post-colonial pomp of the National Awards Ceremony at King’s House – this beautiful, bright morning.

The colonel’s face turns to mist,                                                                                              the tasselled-horn trembles in his hand                                                        

before he raises it to his lips                                                                                                        and hears a goat’s faint wail –

thin like straw grass he blew as a child                                                                               at the foot of the Blue Mountain.

They will come soon, the old people,                                                                                  to the village centre, with no memories,

mist in their eyes, their mouths parched                                                                         at the once-a-month ceremonial meeting.

This is how culture dies, the colonel sighs,                                                                   watching as smoke goes through the leaves,

joining the horn’s call, all one echo;                                                                                   nothing from Cudjoe, or Queen Nanny,

neither long-head Accompong;                                                                                               the smoke is just smoke,

but a flight of blackbirds                                                                                                               burst from the treetops.

He lowers the ranking ram’s horn,                                                                                       and says, At least some still runaway.  

From Ishion’s first full-length collection of poems, Far District, published by Peepal Tree.  Available from Bookland/Novelty Trading in Kingston.       

With permission from the author.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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Ishion Hutchinson
Ishion Hutchinson

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