King David’s High Mas’ Played at 65,000 Hz, 1998

In TnT dogs patrol immaculate yards,
& there’s only one breed: bad. viz.,
don’t go past that house, a bad dog living there.
or eh, that pothound mad, breds.

These mad bad dogs secured second mortgages
for headpieces, glitter, and cooler fetes.
Later they will wear regret like mange,
& this maddens them more.

But island cats only rent &roam the Savannah
in packs tight as jouvert blue devils—
smoking Du Mauriers down to grim filters,
& psssst every tail that twitches past.

These cats grasp las lap as fearless as pirates,
& fire one more grog before ashes
scratch their foreheads. It’s the pothounds
that dread 365 degreed dog days of repayment.

For the cats, there’s only one anxiety
when the bills come due:
that next year the mas gets cancelled,
and that this year Tuesday falls on a Wednesday.


Gruff Speaks, 1838

Observe the island’s new star boy:
Gruff the free-flying macaw, whose guardians refuse
to clip his wings in 2022. Let him experience freedom’s fullness,
they declare without irony. Surely, they’re not native Trinis
since some of these wretches would steal water from the gutter.
Pirates have already kidnapped Gruff once, touch-typed
his feathers for weakness, then sliced his wing muscles
like an African’s hamstring. Gruff bided time then escaped,
returned home, took flight like a Dahomey runaway.
Afterwards his stewards never discussed his ability for speech,
an odd omission where ol talk is supreme currency.
Still, his buried memories scratch across time’s telephone line:
Oh god, but why you so wicked?
Oh god, boss, I ever do you anything?


Tomatoes, 1949

Behold Couva’s Sam Manning,
audio farmer and Caribbean spy,
splicing honey into singers’ mouths
throughout the Americas.

Sly Sam pollinates one throat
then the next, his lyrics a butterfly’s silent
aria, a protest hymn that fructifies
this then that singer’s throat.

Josephine Baker’s turn has GIs tapping
their fingers in jaunty time to the under-
ground dispatch. That’s sharp!
They say. That’s really something.

Cedella Booker notes that Bob
the clairvoyant, threw away his seer ways,
picked up a couple of drumsticks,
and sang this song long before arraigning pirates.

But it’s Phyllis Dillon from Linstead
who delivers the dead drop exchange.
Hear the haunt in her delivery: no good time
girl here, mister. Not me pumpkins nor potatoes

The larger message sent to American GIs
stationed down in Chaguaramas:
The war’s over, partner. Take this song for the road
And don’t make us pelt you with fruits.

Justin Haynes is from Trinidad and Tobago.  His writing has been published in various journals including Caribbean Quarterly and Caribbean Writer.  He has previously published fiction in PREE’s second issue, Pressure.