Four Poems by Mutabaruka

BOMB 14 Winter 1986
014 Winter 1986
​Peter Drake

Peter Drake, Black Slipping, 1985, ink on paper, sanded, 60 × 93 inches. Courtesy Deborah Sharpe Gallery.

Weh mi belang?

west indian?
den a which country i belang?
west indian?
den a which country i belang
but negroland no
but stupidland no
west yes
but i nu indian
den a which country i belang?

i affe guh trace
my original place
try fe fine out
wa mi is all about
a come ya fram de east
dat i know
an in de east
there is no negro
dat i caa figga
west indian?
a which country i belang?


a rememba a land
weh man ack like man
dem use fe call wi



juke box play
… an’ “stir it up”
in de ghetto
yout’ man
                “run fe cova”
“curfew” in a trench town
gun a blaze:
“trench town rock”

juke box playin
… ’an wi sayin
“long time wi nuh ’ave nuh nice time”
               watch yu step
mek-kase      stop
“lively up yuself”
and “come reason now”
              watch yu ways
“simma down”
                      stop frown

play music
play in a “mellow mood”
              music is food
in de ghetto
               spread out
               stop bungle
inna “concrete jungle”
               watch it
in de ghetto
        … hippies smokin pot?
wha dat?
              throw wey de
molotov bomb
                       man vex
who yu gwine shoot nex?
hey you big tree
                         “small axe”


Church II

Void of people
silent still
a vast dome of worship:
Sparklin pews of wood
cold altars of marble
crosses there crosses here
big crosses    little crosses
all depictin death

large whistles
“blown by hands”
sad bewailin sounds
all depictin death

in the house of the livin


DABADDABUNINNA (they beat me)

Never forgetting memories
of yesterday’s agonies
still lingering in my
bodies drained of their blood,
thunder sounds of whips
cracking against black flesh—
I piss/I shit

flesh seperation
lips held together
salt in blood
agony cry
souls                      dying;

Crying away love
creating new evils;
I think like the whip
I move like the whip
I piss
         in tears                  and
I hate the whip
and those who use it.

Never will I stop crying
yesterday’s memories will
always linger

I see it today in my
black flesh

Mutabaruka (formerly Allan Hope) was born in Rae Town, Kingston in 1952. After primary education he attended Kingston Technical High School, where he was a student for four years. Then he took employment at the Jamaica Telephone Company Limited. During his time at the Telephone Company he began to examine Rastafarianism and to find it more meaningful than either the Roman Catholicism of his upbringing or the political radicalism into which he had drifted.

He and his friend Yvonne left Kingston in 1974. They have settled in Potosi District, in St. James. They have two children and the house that Muta built.

Muta’s was the first well-publicized voice in the new wave of poets growing since the early 1970s. Early work by Muta regularly appeared in Swing, a monthly that gave fullest coverage to the pop music scene, and in Sun and Moon (1976), a volume of poems shared with Faybiene.
—Mervyn Morris

There is a Country in the World by Pedro Mir
Nari Ward by Lee Jaffe
Ward Nari 1

Ward’s Jamaican roots and home in Harlem have been recurring themes in his numerous installations. He speaks with Jaffe about three key works.

Nancy Morejón by Sapphire
Nancy Morejón 01

Nancy Morejón is one of Cuba’s most preeminent poets, and the most internationally successful and widely translated woman writer of the post-revolutionary period. Her work speaks of African Cubans, of women, and of the people of her local Havana.

Claribel Alegría by Daniel Flores y Ascencio
Claribel Alegría 01

Claribel Alegría is one of the foremost poets of Central America. A supporter of the Sandinistas and mentor to the young intellectuals drawn to Managua during that period, she has published over 40 books of poetry, fiction and testimony.

Originally published in

BOMB 14, Winter 1986

Roy Lichtenstein, Jackie Winsor, art by Sarah Charlesworth, Francesco Clemente, and more.

Read the issue
014 Winter 1986