Tanya Shirley

Image by Author photograph © Arlene Brown.

Matie Shall Not Conquer

Tanya Shirley

Matie Shall Not Conquer

Tanya Shirley

Poem introduction

In Dance Hall culture, Matie is the name given to the mistress or the woman on the side.

Matie Shall Not Conquer

Matie Shall Not Conquer

You know all men are weak.
You see the way she watches him, you imagine
she has a basket of red apples and a snake
coiled around her belly
but this is the man who made you come
more times than you could count,
you are willing to use the wisdom of women
long dead to keep his eyes in your skin.

Light three blue candles
the flickering will taper
the conflagration in your blood;
fight big fire with small fire.

Write his name and your name on a piece of paper.
Write her name on another; if you do not know it, be patient,
he will whisper it, as all men do, in his sleep.
On the third piece of paper, write three positive wishes
for your rival, all the time wishing the bitch well.
Negative thoughts are returned to sender.

Place one drop of clove oil on each piece of paper.
Fold papers and put in an envelope, it should be white
like the dress you’re wearing.
Keep it under your mattress for seven nights.
On the eighth night when only the owl’s eyes are upon you,
burn the envelope in a big, glass bowl.
Do not set your house on fire.
Scatter the ashes outside, far away from your dogs;
like ganja seeds, it will drive them crazy.

In the morning, he will come to you
with a rose in his mouth,
and her name will be mud on the soles of his feet.

Copyright © Tanya Shirley and used by permission of the author.


Tanya Shirley

Tanya Shirley reading from her Poems

1What I Learned in Grenada

2To The Man Who Tends My Grandmother’s Grave

3Let This Be Your Praise

4Montego Bay

5Standing Outside the Circle

6Dining at Customs


8A Chant Against Fear

9Breathing Art

10Where is God in All of This?


12The Distance Between Us

13Out of Body

14Upon Meeting a Woman by the Name of Melba

15My Christian Friend


17A West Indian Poem

18Roll Call

19Grandpa in the Departure Lounge

20Colour Me Dis, Colour Me Dat


22The Power of Prayer 23Some Lessons You Never Learn

24Waiting for Rain


26Victorian Romance

27Sunday Ritual

28The Shifting Ground

29Matie Shall not Conqueur

30A Long Story