Three Poems for National Heroes Day

Next Monday, October 21, is Jamaica’s National Heroes Day, and next week is Heritage Week. For the past two years I have posted a Jamaican poem. This year, I found three poems from a poet whom I admire greatly, Professor Mervyn Morris. His poetry is spare and simple in its elegance – and, in his case, brevity is the soul of wit. Now retired, Professor Morris has taught Creative Writing and West Indian Literature at the University of the West Indies since the 1960s. And he is a former Rhodes Scholar – so we have an alma mater in common. His poetry often holds for me a kind of wistfulness and longing, faint regret, and an ironic shrug of the shoulder. How I feel about life, sometimes.

These three poems are taken from “I Been There, Sort Of” published by Carcanet Press in 2006.


whispering ancestors

enfold me in their loving

ghostly immanence



For Janheinz Jahn

My ancestors

alive inside the daylight

close up invisible in air

float from the pages of your book.

We called their names.

Enter my father, laughing,

a substantial black.

(When I was young he died.)

Behind him his black father,

formidable, stern.

Fathers who fathered me.

My mother’s mother shuffles in,

dragging her gentleness along the glare.

She indicates her father,

who looks white.

I start to hear the irons clink.

He dissipates my terror with a wink.


Sentences for Heritage Week

Mine history

for the energy it frees.

Do not spend precious time

hanging from family trees.


Below are links to poems by two young Jamaican poets, Ann-Margaret Lim and Ishion Hutchinson, that I posted last year and the year before.

Happy Heroes’ Weekend to all! Abeng: A Poem for National Heroes Day, 2011 The Festival of Wild Orchid: A Poem for National Heroes Day, 2012

Professor and poet Mervyn Morris.
Professor and poet Mervyn Morris.

4 thoughts on “Three Poems for National Heroes Day

    1. You’re welcome my dear! Yes, I have an autographed copy of this book and really enjoyed roaming through it yesterday, as I remembered there were a couple of good poems for this weekend. I hope you are well…


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