Poem introduction

When I went to university I met a group of students who were very into reggae music - these were mainly white kids with dreadlocks, if you know the sort - and I started going out with one of them, and when he (and then the group) found out that my Dad was from Jamaica I got a lot of cred for that because I think they thought my Dad was like an old Rastafarian, but in actual fact you know my Dad was like a sort of colonial gentlemen: it couldn't have been further from the truth, this idea of him being a Rasta. But I didn't ever let on; I let that roll. And this poem is really about that story, but it's also about reggae music and I suppose my identity, and how I've come to love that music later in my life.

Reggae Story

My father liked the blues and Lady Day.
He left Jamaica way before the reggae
rocked all night in backstreet studios,
before King Tubby or Augustus Pablo.
But I used to love a boy who loved 
dub reggae, loved thick lugs of ganga, loved 
on Sunday nights to cross the river, take me 
to The House Of Roots and Aba-shanti
in the cobbled arches under Vauxhall
where the Lion of Judah decked the walls
and stacks of speakers pumped electric bass,
a single bulb above the smoky haze
and on the stage a little dreadlocked man
like Rumplestiltskin, shouted Jah! and spun 
his blistering tunes on a single turntable
and shut-eyed men called back over the vinyl
Jah Rastafari. Next door, the old guys 
were like wizened goats with yellow eyes
hunched over games of chess and ginger tea,
below the golden framed Haile Selassie,
king of kings. That boy didn’t know my father
was a white-haired godless pensioner
and reggae music never really got me 
until I played it on my own: Bob Marley,
U-Roy, Johnny Clark, and even then 
it came like hymns or Faure’s Requiem,
Vivaldi’s Gloria. That boy thought I had
a Rasta like Prince Far-I for a dad
not the silent island man who sat 
beyond the bedroom door I’d listen at 
to catch a woman crooning down a melody:
I can’t give you anything, but love baby


from Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013), © Hannah Lowe 2013, used by permission of the author and the publisherfrom Chick(Bloodaxe, 2013), © Hannah Lowe 2013, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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4Five Ways to Load a Dice

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6The Other Family

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9Reggae Story

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