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Image by Caroline Forbes

Checking Out Me History

John Agard


Checking Out Me History

John Agard


Checking Out Me History

Checking Out Me History

Dem tell me
Dem tell me
Wha dem want to tell me

Bandage up me eye with me own history
Blind me to my own identity

Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat
dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat
But Touissant L'Ouverture
no dem never tell me bout dat

Toussaint
a slave
with vision
lick back
Napoleon
battalion
and first Black
Republic born
Toussaint de thorn
to de French
Toussaint de beacon
of de Haitian Revolution

Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon
and de cow who jump over de moon
Dem tell me bout de dish run away with de spoon
but dem never tell me bout Nanny de maroon

Nanny
See-far woman
of mountain dream
fire-woman struggle
hopeful stream
to freedom river

Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo
but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu
Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492
but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too

Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp
and how Robin Hood used to camp
Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul
but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole

From Jamaica
she travel far
to the Crimean War
she volunteer to go
and even when de British said no
she still brave the Russian snow
a healing star
among the wounded
a yellow sunrise
to the dying

Dem tell me
Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me
But now I checking out me own history
I carving out me identity


from Half-Caste and Other Poems (Hodder Children's, 2004), © John Agard 2004, used by permission of the author c/o Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency.

Recordings

John Agard Reading from his poems

1Tongue

2Flag

3Checking Out Me History

4Man to Pan

5The Coin of Birth

6Anancy's Thoughts on Colours

7My Brollie

8Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Old Tie

9How Nansi Got Lead Part in Swan Lake

10Rainbow

11Limbo Dancer's Soundpoem

12Limbo Dancer's Mantra

13Limbo Dancer at Immigration

14Once Upon a Time

15Where Does Laughter Begin?

16Twinkle Twinkle Firefly

17The Speller's Bag

18The Older the Violin the Sweeter the Tune

19Rat Race

20Swimming Teeth

21Hello H20

22Moonbelly

23On First Name Terms

24Colour of Evil

25Coffee in Heaven

26Question Time with the Devil

27Progress

28Bridge Builder

29Half-caste

30Sonnet 1 31Sonnet 2

32Sonnet 21

33Sonnet 55

34Sonnet 60

35Listen Mr Oxford don