By Ishion Hutchinson
The rumour broke first in Duckensfield.
Fitzy dropped the shutters of his rum shop.
By time it got to Dalvey there were three suicides.
The mechanic in Cheswick heard and gave his woman
a fine trashing; but, to her credit, she nearly scratched his heart
out his chest during the howl and leather smithing.
The betting shops and the whorehouse Daylights
at Golden Grove were empty; it was brutal
to see the women with their hands at their jaws on the terrace;
seeing them you know the rumour was not rumour,
the rumour was gospel: the canecutters did not get their salary.
Better to crucify Christ again.
Slaughter newborns, strike down the cattle,
but to make a man not have money in his pocket on a payday
Friday was abomination itself; worse canecutters,
who filed their spines against the sun, bringing down great walls of cane.
You'd shudder to see them, barebacked men, bent kissing
the earth, so to slash away the roots of the canes;
every year the same men, different cane, and when different men,
the same cane: the cane they cannot kill, living for this one day
of respite when they'd straighten themselves to pillars
and drop dollars on counters and act like Daylights a suite
at the Ritz and the devastating beauty queens with their gaulin
fragile attention gave them forever to live in a tickle, the whetted
canepiece, this one day, forgotten in a whore's laugh.
Suddenly these men filled Hampton Court square
demanding the foreman's head.
They were thirsty for blood and for rum.
Fitzy stayed hidden in his shop behind the shutters.
He heard one man say it was not the foreman's head they should get,
that would not be wise.
The man continued: it must be fire for fire;
the factory must be burnt down.
But the men murmured. They were afraid.
Someone made a joke, they roared,
and soon they were saying fire can't buy rum,
they were roaring money, then rum, pounding Fitzy's shutter,
shouting his name for him to set them on fire.
They grew hoarse against the shutters.
The sun had taken all motion out of their voices.
Fitzy could hear them through the zinc,
like dogs about to die, cried out children, that dry rustle
you hear after the crop is torched and the wind bristles the ashes.
No men were out there. Only a shirring noise.
That was when Fitzy opened the shutters.
Their red eyes in charcoal suits looked up at him,
and with an overseer's scorn, he nodded them in.
Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. His first collection, Far District: Poems, won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. He is an assistant professor of English at Cornell University.
This poem originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.