Back Words

Topher Allen

At the age of 14, Dwayne ‘Gully Queen’ Jones was forced out of his family home by his father. In 2013, at 16, the young Jamaican was killed by a violent mob in Montego Bay, after he attended a dance party dressed in women’s clothing.

bad words can walk backwards
into the belly of the scornful.
we can put words like battybwoy 
to rest in eternal peace 
between treble and bass; 
a lump in the throat.

in this New Testament,
no mouth can contort to utter spite.
see how wrong letters are strewn
like wreaths on a coffin. 

fish doesn’t swim to the surface
of a mother’s taunting tongue
to flip a salty prophecy.

bullets have boom bye byed back 
into the barrel of guns. 
once slit skin now joined,
praying and applauding 
the retreat of knives from flesh.

Montego Bay mob converted 
to congregation, 
brings a boy back to his father.

to force his hand down the man’s throat,
to sieve through violence and vitriol
and pull up a freshly christened tongue
that drips new words like love.

Vows

I place this ring 
            of adjustable muscle – lips
around your dick, 
            as a symbol of my undying love.

I vow to, each morning, 
            open your legs like curtains, 
let sunlight gild 
            your dust particles into sugar,
to taste and be content. 

To spoon you, 
            spew my semen in swirls
of white smiles 
            against your back 
and hope that you may one day 
            carry children.

I will hold your hand, free, unafraid
            and feed you faith sweet
as cornmeal porridge
            in sickness and sanity, in wealth 
and war, from this day onwards, 
            and in death – I do.

Cane Piece Road

This poem begins on a Sunday night,
with the tender turn of a key in a back door.
It wants to spotlight the secret 
of a boy – me – and a road
long and looping without lamp posts. 

There is a man like mist loitering 
in the shadows of sugar cane 
waiting to roll himself into a spliff
for me to puff, blow and be blown. 

He clouds his car, reclines the front seats,
pounds me into the sprawled out blackness
of a spilled barrel of molasses.

The car tyres sink in a soaked crack
in the earth – it starts, stalls, it is stuck.
I duck in the dark between lances of cane
that slice my feet – numb and half-naked.

Patrick invites help from passing cars 
and four masked men respond 
with butts from a gun-grip and a frisk for wallet.
They tie him in the trunk, 
tyres still stuck in the damp earth. 

But I want to begin the poem again,
to reveal a new truth, a fresh Sunday night 
with no gun or passing headlights, 
no scent of sugar. 
Just ropes, handcuffs, chains, whips,
our mouths open,
men gasping smoke out of each other.

Topher Allen is a Poet from Clarendon, Jamaica. He is reading Spanish at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Not only has his poetry appeared in Montreal Writes, but Mr. Allen is also the recipient of the 2019 Poet Laureate of Jamaica: Louise Bennett-Coverley Prize for Poetry.

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