James Berry

Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

This poem is about my birth. My grandmother, my mother's mother, was at my birth - she gave me my name after her husband who had recently died in a sudden accident.

My Arrival

My Arrival

Showing the creature I landed
I slipped from my mother's womb
flesh connected, laced in a blood-spatter.

My father waited with a bottle of rum.
The moon floated somewhere.
The sea drummed and drummed our coastline.
Mullets darted in wooded steams.

A good night to end our labour - Saturday.
The country-midwife held me up,
'Look. Is yu third boy child!'
My mother asked, 'Him all right?'

'Yes - all eyes, all ears.
Yes - all hands, all feet.'
My mother whispered, 'Thank God.'
My granny said, 'My Jim-Jim.
My husband! You come back?'

I slept.
Roosters crowed
all around the village.

In the sun's hot eye
my umbilical cord was dressed
with wood ash, castor oil and nutmeg
and buried under a banana-sucker.
There, a tree made fruits, all mine.

from Hot Earth Cold Earth (Bloodaxe 1995), copyright © James Berry 1995, used by permission of the author.


James Berry

James Berry Reading from his poems

1Folk Proverbs Found Poems

2Rough Sketch Beginning

3Just Being

4Spirits of Movement

5My Arrival

6Night Comes Too Soon

7Chain of Days

8A Schooled Fatherhood

9Early Days Thinking Is Only So Much

10Defendant in a Jamaican Court

11Villager's Independence: 2

12Haiku Moments: 1

13Flame and Water


15Ol Style Freedom

16Words of a Jamaican Laas Moment Them

17Words at My Mother's Funeral

18Haiku Moments: 3

19In God's Greatest Country, 1945

20Old Man in New Country

21In-a Brixtan Markit

22Lucy's Letter

23Thinkin Loud-Loud

24It's Me Man

25Starapple Time Starapple Trees

26On an Afternoon Train from Purley to Victoria, 1955

27New World Colonial Child