Poem introduction

Sonny’s Lettah

Sonny's Lettah

(Anti-Sus Poem) [Sus, short for ‘suspicion’: the Vagrancy Act, a revived piece of nineteenth-century legislation that led to disproportionate arrests of black youths. Repealed 2000.]

Brixtan Prison
Jebb Avenue
Landan south-west two
Inglan

Dear Mama,
Good Day.
I hope dat wen
deze few lines reach yu,
they may find yu in di bes af helt.

Mama,
I really don’t know how fi tell yu dis,
cause I did mek a salim pramis
fi tek care a likkle Jim
an try mi bes fi look out fi him.

Mama,
I really did try mi bes,
but nodules
mi sarry fi yell yu seh
poor likkle Jim get arres.

It woz di miggle a di rush howah
wen evrybady jus a hosel an a bosel
fi goh home f idem evenin showah;
mi an Jim stan-up
waitin pan a bus,
nat causin no fus,
wen all af a sudden
a police van pull-up.

Out jump tree policeman,
di hole a dem carryin batan.
Den waak straight up to mi an Jim.

One a dem hol awn to Jim
seh him tekin him in;
Jim tell him fi let goh a him
far him noh dhu notn
an him naw teef,
nat even a butn.
Jim start to wriggle
di police start to giggle.

Mama,
mek I tell yu whe dem dhu to Jim
Mama,
mek I tell yu whe dem dhu to him:

dem tump him in him belly
an it turn him to jelly
dem lick him pan him back
an him rib get pap
dem lick him pan him hed
but it tuff like led
dem kick him in him seed
an it started to bleed

Mama,
I jus coudn stan-up deh
an noh dhu notn:

soh mi jook one in him eye
an him started to cry
mi tump one in him mout
an him started to shout
mi kick one pan him shin
an him started to spin
mi tump him pan him chin
an him drap pan a bin

an crash
an ded.

Mama,
more policeman come dung
an beat mi to di grung;
dem charge Jim fi sus,
dem charge mi fi murdah.

Mama,
don fret,
don’t get depres
an doun-hearted.
Be af good courage
till I hear fram you.

I remain
your son,
Sonny.


From Linton Kwesi Johnson: Selected Poems (Penguin, 2006), copyright © Linton Kwesi Johnson, 2006, used by permission of the author. Recording taken from LKJ a capella LIVE (LKJ Records, 1996)

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