Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 10 December 2007

  • The Bus Driver is Accused of not Wearing Uniform

    Traffic Court, Spanish Town, Jamaica.
    11:45 am. Judge Marianne James presiding.
    How does the defendant plead?

    Your honour, I plead guilty to half
    the offence - I had on a blue cotton shirt
    buttoned up and tucked in

    to brown pants, your honour. What’s so wrong
    in that? Brown pants like the kind
    men wear on Sundays,

    the kind we travel in -
    dignified looking pants your honour
    that Gloria just iron the morning.

    Is not the navy blue Government
    tell us to wear - I know. But the material
    they give us so weak

    it always sporting holes. I won’t drive
    in rags, your honour! Mi mother raise me
    better than that.

    So I plead guilty to shame
    and good manners - splashing cologne
    on mi chest each morning and

    never boring mi ears or growing
    mi hair wild like them criminals today
    who jump on buses

    to hold knives against wi neck.
    I notice I don’t see them
    in court today, I guess

    bad bwoy never out of uniform;
    always wear the same dirty merino
    and cut up shorts, proving

    that him come from nowhere
    and answer to nobody. Your honour,
    I plead guilty

    to a pair of brown pants
    and having old time ways that say
    a man must leave his house

    in clothes that don’t tear,
    clothes he can wear proud
    on his Judgement Day.

    by Kei Miller

    Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978. His first collection of short fiction, The Fear of Stones, was short-listed in 2007 for the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. He is also the editor of Carcanet's New Caribbean Poetry: An AnthologyKingdom of Empty Bellies was his first book of poetry; There Is an Anger That Moves will be published by Carcanet in October 2007.

    The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree and to buy Kingdom of Empty Bellies, please visit the Heaventree Press website.