This piece was submitted by Joanne Hillhouse as part of the 2014 PEN World Voices Online Anthology.

Joanne Hillhouse’s event: A Literary Safari

Ah Write!

Ah Write!
‘cause it in me

Ah write
‘cause my spirit
Banging on its cage
Yearning to be free
Ah write because
T’ings does vex me
An’ people does irk me
An’ ah write
‘cause ah worry
An’ ‘bout more than me
But ‘bout country
An’ dis hot ass reality
‘bout where we be
We woman
We neaga (people)
Still under man
Still laka de day
Ah massa
An’ massa minions
Ah write ‘cause
Is so ah cut
Is so ah wound
Is so ah let loose
An when mah words
Come good-good
Is true-true
Ah write for me people an’ me
Ah write ‘cause is dat what set me free
… Ah write ‘bout
Lack of relief
How we grieve
How we laugh
An’ music
We music
We culture
We pride
An’ we shame
An’ we politician an’ dem game
An’, hear wha,
Ah write celebration and tears
‘bout Ivena* elevation
An’ poor people degradation
Ah write ‘cause is so ah sing an’ dance an’ bring mah art
Man, ah tell you,
Ah write ‘cause like
Sometimes dey forget we bleed
An’ have needs
Like burdensome tax relief
An’ fuh people do we right
An’ fuh sit comt’table roun’ dis table
Call life…
When ah write
Ah don’ waan’ you smile
An’ say nice-nice
Ah waan’ you get
Vex an’ rage
Fix on yuh battle face
Soun’ de conch
Beat de drum
Remember we heritage
Embrace um
Ah write ‘cause
All de people dat was
Come to me
Waan’ come to be
An’ ah g idem power
De power o’ de words widdin’ me…
Ah write
‘cause sometimes
Ah waan’ cry
Ah write
‘cause sometimes
My spirit like it waan’ die
Ah write
‘cause the hurt
Bitter like cyakkle tongue
Ah write
‘cause ah de memory o’
He an’ he
An’ she an’ she
Dis an’ dat
De trials an’ de su su
Ah write
So ah can let it go
Ah don’ write for you
Ah write
‘cause my Muse direc’ me to
An’ she tell me
Write true
All de people
Will feel it, too.


*Ivena was the reigning Calypso Queen in Antigua (W.I.), my home country, at the time this poem was written; her revolutionary/confrontational lyrics very often tapped into the anti-establishment grass roots sentiments. She’s referenced here to represent the voice that speaks for the voiceless, which is one of the roles of calypsothe folk music of the Caribbean. In the spirit of calypso, the entire piece is written in the Antiguan vernacular.

This poem first appeared in The Caribbean Writer (Volume 18, 2004; USVI).