Uncle Boysie’s Speech

At the Nine Night celebration for Papa’s death
people were busy eating and drinking
and mourning and gossiping—not exactly
in that order—when Mama said solemnly,
“Boysie, your one brother dead. It only fair dat you give
de speech to remember him by.” And then someone said,
“Speech.” And everybody said, “Speech! Speech!”
So Uncle Boysie stood and rubbed his belly
and belched Red Stripe Beer and the people thanked him.
Then he started slowly, speaking in his throat, like Pastor
invoking the Lord’s blessing on the day’s tithes
and offerings: “Two pot o’ rice, and one black ram. De night
before Nine Night de goat did a walk. And pon Nine Night
de goat throat cut off.” Penny Dreadful rubbed his chin
and looked thoughtful: “Look at dat…look at dat.”

Uncle Boysie continued: “We kill him put ina pot,
wid banana boil soft, and de people come tonight
and everybody eat it off.” People stood and waved
and stamped their feet: “Yes! Amen Boysie! Preach it me brother!”
But Mama stopped him: “Boysie! You suppose to say
something ‘bout your dead brother, not ‘bout your belly.”
And Aunt Girlie was angry: “Damn idiot.”
And Uncle Boysie looked confused and the people looked guilty
that they had been so happy and Uncle Boysie sat down quietly.

But that’s when I decided to become a poet.

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