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Here is “In The Ghut”

A celebration of  Premier Don Romeo’s Birthday

Edgar Nkosi White

By Edgar Nkosi White

As we all know there is no such thing as poverty in our Montserrat (praise God).

There are, however, two classes of people on island:  the Men of Cars and the men of foot.  The Men of Cars can be easily identified.  They all have big bellies which they follow behind.  The men of foot have no belly.  They are too poor for bellies.  There’s a certain arrogance to the Men of cars.  There is a clear understanding that all Montserrat roads belong to them and they have right of way, always.  And let’s not forget the women.  The same big belly rule applies.  Women in Montserrat are more deadly behind the wheel than men in Montserrat.  Not that they can’t drive.  Every driver is a good driver though.  I say that because in Montserrat you are either good or dead.   There is no middle state.  The roads are so treacherous that the weak or the uncertain perish.  The same rule applies to pedestrians.  You cannot be double-minded in Montserrat.  If you start to cross, then cross; don’t change your mind in the middle of the street (like a politician) or you will lose your life.

The only time I‘ve been struck by car in Montserrat, it was a woman behind the wheel.  Fortunately, she wasn’t traveling at speed.  The funny thing is that she paused long enough for me to cross and then hit me.  It was a slow, erotic and intimate strike.

I must ask my favourite woman on Montserrat, Dr Clarice Barnes—who is an expert on psychology and the trauma of displacement, I’ll have to ask her what that driver was trying to communicate to me.  It was Clarice who made the big breakthrough in the fact that post-traumatic pain still exists in Montserrat.  It did not only affect those who left here so hurriedly with their cheap suitcases (all bought from Arrows Man’s Shop).  It remains with us still here.

Understand it was night at the start of a workday week.  Christmas was done and Montserrat put away her dreams in a box and slept the sleep of the Blessed.  Not even the Jumbies were out.  I wanted to celebrate the eve of Don Romeo’s birthday but no one would join me.  I cradled my Shak-Shak in my arms like a lover and walked with nothing at my side but my fife.  And I thought to myself what a peculiar place this Montserrat be.

Montserrat is that strange place where no Rum-shop owners drink.  Not Fred Warner (who makes the best bush-rum in Montserrat hasn’t taken a drop in fifteen years).  Not Richard Samuel who has the only Rum-shop that stays open all night in Montserrat.  Not Murphy (Roots-man).    Not Silcott of The Rising Sun (now he’ll take a drink, but never his own stock unless of course you pay for it).  The two most profitable professions on Montserrat are: Rum-shop owner and undertaker.  They always have work.

I was lonely so I thought of searching for the late Premier Reuben (the only man in Montserrat whose mood matches mine when it comes to rum. Rum is the only area of his life which is honest).  Unfortunately, he was off island and perhaps it was for the best as we two would agree on little else.  I couldn’t very well ask him to come and celebrate the eve of Don Romeo’s birthday with me– that would have been too cruel.–  so I walked alone instead with my spirits and laughed because sometimes in Montserrat it’s best to laugh than kill.

I walked to Carr’s Bay the one place in Montserrat that I feel safe, the Gun Battery.  I kiss the cannon where I once made my bed.  It never betrayed me.  I bent and give it kisses three.  Then I played my fife for the sea. If you catch her just right, then she gives you all her foam.  The sea is the one woman in Montserrat who never lies or tries to holds you hostage if you make her come.

Now there’s a constant dispute in Montserrat as to which village contains the most Jumbies.  Some argue for St. John‘s because Masquerade started there.  Some argue for Baker Hill because it’s long and dark at night.  The truth though is that Brades and Banks have the most.  This is a fact.  The record for accidents is the road leading to Carr’s Bay, long, twisting and guileful.  That road is filled with Jumbies and Jumbies in waiting.  I see them always.  The young boy on his bicycle who was run over by his own uncle.  Cars both kill and carry. (There’s worse things in life than death. The worse thing in life is life itself and having to live in guilt).

There is something about Brades which encourages cars to speed.  Perhaps it’s because it’s the only bit of smooth road in Montserrat (because it crosses Government Headquarters.  The Men of Cars feel safe and entitled to speed and so they’re easy prey.

As Fred Warner says:

“You life long but you carless with um.”

The Jumbies I see in Brades all come from the ghaut where cars suddenly found themselves airborne.  The Jumbie faces all have the shocked expression of sheep.  I saw the same expression of shop owners after the eruption as they fled the volcano.  When men of Cars have to suddenly become men of feet.

The pain of displacement?

“Montserratians are resilient,” people say.  This is always said by people who now abide elsewhere.  Like the Farewell speeches of pastors as they try to explain to their bereft parishioners why God suddenly call them to seek residence elsewhere.  They either plead their families or health as the reason for their hasty departure to England or America.

The real resilient ones  though are the ones who really stayed and watched as ash fell slowly on their houses daily.  The women who tried to do  laundry  only to have to repeat the process hours later as the ash would wait them out.

And men like Devon Watts with his restaurant Harbour Court with his folded napkins and a towel over his shoulder trying to beat away the ash like Don Quixote and his windmills. Until even he realized it was hopeless and finally shut down his restaurant where you had to enter with your shirt buttoned.  Undefeated he resurrected himself selling ice cream from his car.

“People still eat ice cream, eruption or no eruption.  Man must live”

That’s resilient!  The ice cream men of Montserrat:  First there was John Dublin, then  Chico’s ice cream.  Then the barber/Taekwondo expert who sold ice cream from a truck.  Then Wilson and Watts.   Warriors all!

But to get back to the Jumbies, only  foot people  see them.  You can’t see jumbies from a car.  It’s a foot thing.  It’s only when you walk slowly you can see them moving behind the dancing leaves of trees.  First they try to frighten you but when they hear the Shak-Shak they dance.  It’s then they miss their bodies.  You see, Jumbies can’t feel.  Only the living can feel.  That’s why Jumbies grudge us.  They can want a woman but they can’t feel her.

Speaking of not feeling, it came to me as I walked from Brades into Banks, what a good job the British has done on the Montserrat man and woman both.  They emasculated the men and lobotomized the women, between the Church and the education system.  There are women on this Montserrat who go through their entire lives without ever experiencing one orgasm; not one.  Don’t have a clue as to what it is.  Even those who have had babies.  To tell you just how well Britain has done its job on us, there are still people on this island who have never seen their wives naked.  Ever!

“I don’t like to see my wife naked. A lady shouldn’t do that.”

“But you have five children!”

“And so?  It’s better to leave it to the imagination”

Montserratians have vivid imaginations and many children.  That’s why prostitution does so well here.  This is a prostitute’s Paradise.  They arrive in droves here because the word has long gone out that Montserratians are the most hypocritical and repressed people in the Caribbean.  That is why both prostitution and the Church flourish.  After all, you can’t tell your wife what you really want her to do to you (she is after all the mother of your little girls.  We have no desire to tie up our wives, however when it comes to tying up our neighbour’s wife, we can become extremely creative).  Sex with the wife is a duty (the women certainly treat it as such).  Whereas with a prostitute she pretends in earnest she really enjoys what you’re doing to her, and of course with her there is no nonsense about not taking off all her clothes.  Then there is the added benefit of being able to learn Spanish at the same time.

Over educated women can’t move their backsides if their very life depended on it.  Only the Masquerade can overcome this.

The rhythm of Montserrat Masquerade is Rhumba.  That is the rhythm which takes us into Trance.  Why is this?  Because the rhythm originally came from Ghana which is where most Montserratians came from as slaves (whether we want to admit it or not).  When the real Rhumba starts, women have to move their backside. PhD or not.  Accountant or lawyer or not.  There’s no defence against the drum and fife.  They must move what their mothers gave them.  (For some, this is the only real gift their mother ever gave them!)

When number 5 Quadrille start:

“Swing High, swing low

Even though you knock me to and fro.

No matter still me go.”

When I started to play fife for Masquerade I thought the purpose of the fife was to make the dancers dance.  Then I found that it’s not the dancers you must play for; it’s the drummers.  If the drummer doesn’t become possessed then the dancers can’t.  And so the Fife-Man must stand at the left side of the drummer (like the thief on the left side of Christ on the cross).  Then you bend close to the drummer’s ear, low and close like a lover.  It’s the fife that keeps him in time.    I prefer the Women Masquerade to the Men.  The movements are more erotic and it’s the Rhumba  rhythm that frees them from themselves finally. The more educated the girl, the more she needs Masquerade in heavy doses, to help them heal.

Unless you understand Masquerade you can never hope to understand Montserrat because everything    which is Montserrat comes from it.  When you hear Masquerade music you forgive Montserrat anything.  Even not loving you back. It’s the one thing the British haven’t managed to take from us.

So now here am I walking the road to Banks my head full of Quadrille and Trance and I’m shaking my Shck-Shak and driving the dogs crazy (which I love to do because of all the animals in nature I hate dogs most.  Especially Montserrat dogs which are cowards).  Give me a cat any day.  They at least are graceful and cunning.  Only the wise know how to use cats as guard-dogs.

“Vicious Pus no easy.  Trust me!”

And of course there’s no lack of pussy in Montserrat.

One thing I love about Montserrat:  there’s no stupidity about letting pets in the house.  Only ex-pats do this (and into their beds as well).

So here I am disturbing the dogs with my Shak-Shak and Quadrille when all of sudden a thought came into my mind that once upon a time all of Banks was owned by a single person.  Nice days ago.  And again I stopped and laughed.  But then my foot began to slip on the gravel.  And the next thing I know I’m falling over edge of the road and rolling into the ghaut.  That’s when I realize that I’m not Scriber!  I try to regain my balance and at the same time hold on to everything:  my cane and my bag with my fife, my Shak-Shak and my pride.  The more I struggle to regain balance the further I slide until I tumble right into a Cusha tree.  And now I wonder, what is this warm liquid I feel running down my face?  Blood! So I surrender, shut my body down  and fell into this deep dream  and saw the face of Jackie Fire.

“Am I a Jumbie too?” I asked him.

“No, you life still long but you careless”

 “I fall.”

He laughed. “Me a see you. Pappyshow you be!” 

”Tomorrow  Don Romeo birthday, I was just celebrating.”

 “You should’nt try play at big people party. Didn’t me teach you about ghaut?”

I felt ashamed then because he did teach me how to navigate the ghauts when we’d sneak into the Forbidden Zone.  He warned me to always follow the tracks of the goat.

“Only follow the Goats not the Sheep. Sheep too foolish.  They would stand in rain and drown they self waiting for somebody to lead them.  They like Montserrat man, dumb and dumber.  Don’t bother with them.  Sheep them be when they live.  Sheep they be when they dead.  Check for the Goat.  Eat what them eat.  When them  nyam Noni plant, you nyam it.  Can’t go wrong then.”

“But goats could eat cusha; I can’t,” I said.

“Maybe you come to have to eat Cusha ,too”

I remembered a poem.

In Montserrat where not even Cusha free

I saw a man and I watched him cry.

He had was to sell his donkey

Just to buy an eye.

You could tell me why?

I was glad to see Jackie Fire and to see him move the same way that he did in life.  He could move quick –quick like lightning when he was ready. Even with the bullet in his leg where Montserrat Police shot him

“So what happen, you not getting up?” He asked me.

I didn’t want to move.  It felt nice inside this dream with Jackie.  He had carved a house of dreams.  But then it fell over on him.  And now I wanted to join him.  He just stood over me laughing.

“Montserrat man too foolish  Them have diamonds beneath they feet and them too lazy to even bend pick it up.  Slaves they be and them love it.  The Tourist Board should just advertise: Come to Montserrat.  We love White People more than any island in the Caribbean, more even than Barbados. (And that’s saying something)  Come Montserrat, let we love you.”

I didn’t want to argue with him about how Montserratians love their slavery. We’d had that same argument so many times before when he was alive.

“What you mean diamonds at they feet?” I asked.

When the volcano blow it wasn’t just ash it send down on we.  It send down diamonds too and you let the Englishman take them away and say he going study it.  And you sheep, you let them take it and you never ask no question. How me could take people like you serious? You don’t see is slavery still? And then you a look to these same people for help you.  You don’t see is madness, that? Get up man, stop sleep!”

But I didn’t want to get up.  I had to decide if I wanted to live or not.  I tried to think of something I wanted to live for.  My son Markhus?  No he was alright.  He had his own son now (Kairo).  Now he could become the father I never was to him.  I was too busy searching for my own father.  I tried to find him everywhere in Montserrat.   Tried to find him in the eyes of Richard Samuel.

Richard is damn scamp and a thief.  But there is only one thing he loves more than money and property:  Music.  When he hears the fife he goes into Trance and he must find something to knock on.

So I tried to find my father in him.  I tried to find my father in Murphy of Carr’s Bay, but Murphy has no time for sons; he has daughters enough. I even tried to find my father in Port (Black Sam’s son) Black Sam was the best  fife man in Montserrat. They called him Black Sam so as not to confuse him with Sam White (Vernon White’s father who played saxophone  and form a group Sam &Pam which was the favourite group on Montserrat).

Edgar Nkosi White

Edgar Nkosi White

If anyone tells you he loves his father, he’s a liar.  No son can ever really love his father.  There’s too much contest.  A father is either too much or too little to love. And fathers are so easy to hate.  Only daughters can love a father (like my own sister (Rita Dyer) did our father, Toomer Dyer).  She needed someone to love, like my daughter, Nicole, needs me.  Like I needed my mother. Phyllis White, of Cork Hill.  But my mother was never raised to be a mother.  She was raised to be someone’s daughter, eternally.

I found myself walking to the sound of barking dogs and in the darkness I heard a voice coming from somewhere above me in the dark:

“You alright down there?”

“I’ve been better,” I said.

Wait there; Me will get a rope.”

“Don’t worry man, I’m not going nowhere.  Trust me”

Then I saw the light of a flashlight and this piece of yellow robe descending, a rope more beautiful than a sixteen year old girl at dawn with her nipples standing.  I tried to gather up all my things but it left no hand free to climb.  Again I fell, embarrassed.

“Look, leave the damn things them, man, you could come back for them when morning come.  Don’t worry man, nobody a trouble them. Leave them man and come!”

I had to leave everything.  Not even my fife could I take.  I had only one good hand because the other (my left) was full of the thorns from the Cusha.  Slowly, so slowly I pulled myself up. “

Dawn came up so slowly, so slowly.  Then there I was sitting  in my torn clothes and shame.  I watched Montserrat reveal herself to me and me to myself.

The farmer showed me the best passage around through the ghaut.  I walked on bruised feet and picked my way through the cusha.  I found my bag and one by one my instruments and there she was, hidden beneath the Cusha :  My fife.  I plucked thorns from my hands and picked up my bamboo fife hoping against hope that she was not cracked,   still whole, still pure.  There’s no recovery for a cracked fife.  She has only one life. If anything happened to her there is only one man in all of Montserrat who could make another for me, John Jones.  But he’s behind prison walls, which means I would have to go and steal some wild Bamboo from Blakes Estate and Roy Lee.  It would take a year before it would turn from green and be ready for me and only Jones could carve her to just the right pitch.  I put it to my lips and my hand were shaking from the pain . Then I heard it play.

Morning Cock a crow

Morning Cock a Crow.

I just stood there crying.  Then I heard the voice of the Rasta boy who drive bus.

“What happen is mash up?’

I felt violated, exposed.  I don’t like people sneaking up on me and catching me crying.  That I do alone.

“No, is all right,” I said.

“So what you a cry for?”

“Just God, man. Just God.” I said, wanting him to go away. But then I remembered he didn’t have to go away, he lived there. It was me who had to go.

A man only has two hands and one of them is full of Cusha.  Which leaves you but one.  So you have to leave everything behind if you want to crawl out from the ghaut.  If you want life, you must leave everything, family, women, friends, even Knighthoods behind.  If you really want to climb out the ghaut.  Leave everything. Return back alone at dawn for them.

“Fife still sound sweet man, wha you a bawl so for?”

“It’s Don Romeo’s birthday,” I said.  A good excuse for tears.

Morning Cock a crow my darling

And morning comes too soon

Morning Cock a crow

Much too soon

Much too soon.

Stay a while and have another drink.

Stay a while and have another drink

Stay a while and have another drink.

Because Morning a come too soon.

Jackie Fire said,  never travel anywhere in Montserrat without a rope.

Now I’ll listen.

The End

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

A celebration of  Premier Don Romeo’s Birthday

Edgar Nkosi White

By Edgar Nkosi White

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As we all know there is no such thing as poverty in our Montserrat (praise God).

There are, however, two classes of people on island:  the Men of Cars and the men of foot.  The Men of Cars can be easily identified.  They all have big bellies which they follow behind.  The men of foot have no belly.  They are too poor for bellies.  There’s a certain arrogance to the Men of cars.  There is a clear understanding that all Montserrat roads belong to them and they have right of way, always.  And let’s not forget the women.  The same big belly rule applies.  Women in Montserrat are more deadly behind the wheel than men in Montserrat.  Not that they can’t drive.  Every driver is a good driver though.  I say that because in Montserrat you are either good or dead.   There is no middle state.  The roads are so treacherous that the weak or the uncertain perish.  The same rule applies to pedestrians.  You cannot be double-minded in Montserrat.  If you start to cross, then cross; don’t change your mind in the middle of the street (like a politician) or you will lose your life.

The only time I‘ve been struck by car in Montserrat, it was a woman behind the wheel.  Fortunately, she wasn’t traveling at speed.  The funny thing is that she paused long enough for me to cross and then hit me.  It was a slow, erotic and intimate strike.

I must ask my favourite woman on Montserrat, Dr Clarice Barnes—who is an expert on psychology and the trauma of displacement, I’ll have to ask her what that driver was trying to communicate to me.  It was Clarice who made the big breakthrough in the fact that post-traumatic pain still exists in Montserrat.  It did not only affect those who left here so hurriedly with their cheap suitcases (all bought from Arrows Man’s Shop).  It remains with us still here.

Understand it was night at the start of a workday week.  Christmas was done and Montserrat put away her dreams in a box and slept the sleep of the Blessed.  Not even the Jumbies were out.  I wanted to celebrate the eve of Don Romeo’s birthday but no one would join me.  I cradled my Shak-Shak in my arms like a lover and walked with nothing at my side but my fife.  And I thought to myself what a peculiar place this Montserrat be.

Montserrat is that strange place where no Rum-shop owners drink.  Not Fred Warner (who makes the best bush-rum in Montserrat hasn’t taken a drop in fifteen years).  Not Richard Samuel who has the only Rum-shop that stays open all night in Montserrat.  Not Murphy (Roots-man).    Not Silcott of The Rising Sun (now he’ll take a drink, but never his own stock unless of course you pay for it).  The two most profitable professions on Montserrat are: Rum-shop owner and undertaker.  They always have work.

I was lonely so I thought of searching for the late Premier Reuben (the only man in Montserrat whose mood matches mine when it comes to rum. Rum is the only area of his life which is honest).  Unfortunately, he was off island and perhaps it was for the best as we two would agree on little else.  I couldn’t very well ask him to come and celebrate the eve of Don Romeo’s birthday with me– that would have been too cruel.–  so I walked alone instead with my spirits and laughed because sometimes in Montserrat it’s best to laugh than kill.

I walked to Carr’s Bay the one place in Montserrat that I feel safe, the Gun Battery.  I kiss the cannon where I once made my bed.  It never betrayed me.  I bent and give it kisses three.  Then I played my fife for the sea. If you catch her just right, then she gives you all her foam.  The sea is the one woman in Montserrat who never lies or tries to holds you hostage if you make her come.

Now there’s a constant dispute in Montserrat as to which village contains the most Jumbies.  Some argue for St. John‘s because Masquerade started there.  Some argue for Baker Hill because it’s long and dark at night.  The truth though is that Brades and Banks have the most.  This is a fact.  The record for accidents is the road leading to Carr’s Bay, long, twisting and guileful.  That road is filled with Jumbies and Jumbies in waiting.  I see them always.  The young boy on his bicycle who was run over by his own uncle.  Cars both kill and carry. (There’s worse things in life than death. The worse thing in life is life itself and having to live in guilt).

There is something about Brades which encourages cars to speed.  Perhaps it’s because it’s the only bit of smooth road in Montserrat (because it crosses Government Headquarters.  The Men of Cars feel safe and entitled to speed and so they’re easy prey.

As Fred Warner says:

“You life long but you carless with um.”

The Jumbies I see in Brades all come from the ghaut where cars suddenly found themselves airborne.  The Jumbie faces all have the shocked expression of sheep.  I saw the same expression of shop owners after the eruption as they fled the volcano.  When men of Cars have to suddenly become men of feet.

The pain of displacement?

“Montserratians are resilient,” people say.  This is always said by people who now abide elsewhere.  Like the Farewell speeches of pastors as they try to explain to their bereft parishioners why God suddenly call them to seek residence elsewhere.  They either plead their families or health as the reason for their hasty departure to England or America.

The real resilient ones  though are the ones who really stayed and watched as ash fell slowly on their houses daily.  The women who tried to do  laundry  only to have to repeat the process hours later as the ash would wait them out.

And men like Devon Watts with his restaurant Harbour Court with his folded napkins and a towel over his shoulder trying to beat away the ash like Don Quixote and his windmills. Until even he realized it was hopeless and finally shut down his restaurant where you had to enter with your shirt buttoned.  Undefeated he resurrected himself selling ice cream from his car.

“People still eat ice cream, eruption or no eruption.  Man must live”

That’s resilient!  The ice cream men of Montserrat:  First there was John Dublin, then  Chico’s ice cream.  Then the barber/Taekwondo expert who sold ice cream from a truck.  Then Wilson and Watts.   Warriors all!

But to get back to the Jumbies, only  foot people  see them.  You can’t see jumbies from a car.  It’s a foot thing.  It’s only when you walk slowly you can see them moving behind the dancing leaves of trees.  First they try to frighten you but when they hear the Shak-Shak they dance.  It’s then they miss their bodies.  You see, Jumbies can’t feel.  Only the living can feel.  That’s why Jumbies grudge us.  They can want a woman but they can’t feel her.

Speaking of not feeling, it came to me as I walked from Brades into Banks, what a good job the British has done on the Montserrat man and woman both.  They emasculated the men and lobotomized the women, between the Church and the education system.  There are women on this Montserrat who go through their entire lives without ever experiencing one orgasm; not one.  Don’t have a clue as to what it is.  Even those who have had babies.  To tell you just how well Britain has done its job on us, there are still people on this island who have never seen their wives naked.  Ever!

“I don’t like to see my wife naked. A lady shouldn’t do that.”

“But you have five children!”

“And so?  It’s better to leave it to the imagination”

Montserratians have vivid imaginations and many children.  That’s why prostitution does so well here.  This is a prostitute’s Paradise.  They arrive in droves here because the word has long gone out that Montserratians are the most hypocritical and repressed people in the Caribbean.  That is why both prostitution and the Church flourish.  After all, you can’t tell your wife what you really want her to do to you (she is after all the mother of your little girls.  We have no desire to tie up our wives, however when it comes to tying up our neighbour’s wife, we can become extremely creative).  Sex with the wife is a duty (the women certainly treat it as such).  Whereas with a prostitute she pretends in earnest she really enjoys what you’re doing to her, and of course with her there is no nonsense about not taking off all her clothes.  Then there is the added benefit of being able to learn Spanish at the same time.

Over educated women can’t move their backsides if their very life depended on it.  Only the Masquerade can overcome this.

The rhythm of Montserrat Masquerade is Rhumba.  That is the rhythm which takes us into Trance.  Why is this?  Because the rhythm originally came from Ghana which is where most Montserratians came from as slaves (whether we want to admit it or not).  When the real Rhumba starts, women have to move their backside. PhD or not.  Accountant or lawyer or not.  There’s no defence against the drum and fife.  They must move what their mothers gave them.  (For some, this is the only real gift their mother ever gave them!)

When number 5 Quadrille start:

“Swing High, swing low

Even though you knock me to and fro.

No matter still me go.”

When I started to play fife for Masquerade I thought the purpose of the fife was to make the dancers dance.  Then I found that it’s not the dancers you must play for; it’s the drummers.  If the drummer doesn’t become possessed then the dancers can’t.  And so the Fife-Man must stand at the left side of the drummer (like the thief on the left side of Christ on the cross).  Then you bend close to the drummer’s ear, low and close like a lover.  It’s the fife that keeps him in time.    I prefer the Women Masquerade to the Men.  The movements are more erotic and it’s the Rhumba  rhythm that frees them from themselves finally. The more educated the girl, the more she needs Masquerade in heavy doses, to help them heal.

Unless you understand Masquerade you can never hope to understand Montserrat because everything    which is Montserrat comes from it.  When you hear Masquerade music you forgive Montserrat anything.  Even not loving you back. It’s the one thing the British haven’t managed to take from us.

So now here am I walking the road to Banks my head full of Quadrille and Trance and I’m shaking my Shck-Shak and driving the dogs crazy (which I love to do because of all the animals in nature I hate dogs most.  Especially Montserrat dogs which are cowards).  Give me a cat any day.  They at least are graceful and cunning.  Only the wise know how to use cats as guard-dogs.

“Vicious Pus no easy.  Trust me!”

And of course there’s no lack of pussy in Montserrat.

One thing I love about Montserrat:  there’s no stupidity about letting pets in the house.  Only ex-pats do this (and into their beds as well).

So here I am disturbing the dogs with my Shak-Shak and Quadrille when all of sudden a thought came into my mind that once upon a time all of Banks was owned by a single person.  Nice days ago.  And again I stopped and laughed.  But then my foot began to slip on the gravel.  And the next thing I know I’m falling over edge of the road and rolling into the ghaut.  That’s when I realize that I’m not Scriber!  I try to regain my balance and at the same time hold on to everything:  my cane and my bag with my fife, my Shak-Shak and my pride.  The more I struggle to regain balance the further I slide until I tumble right into a Cusha tree.  And now I wonder, what is this warm liquid I feel running down my face?  Blood! So I surrender, shut my body down  and fell into this deep dream  and saw the face of Jackie Fire.

“Am I a Jumbie too?” I asked him.

“No, you life still long but you careless”

 “I fall.”

He laughed. “Me a see you. Pappyshow you be!” 

”Tomorrow  Don Romeo birthday, I was just celebrating.”

 “You should’nt try play at big people party. Didn’t me teach you about ghaut?”

I felt ashamed then because he did teach me how to navigate the ghauts when we’d sneak into the Forbidden Zone.  He warned me to always follow the tracks of the goat.

“Only follow the Goats not the Sheep. Sheep too foolish.  They would stand in rain and drown they self waiting for somebody to lead them.  They like Montserrat man, dumb and dumber.  Don’t bother with them.  Sheep them be when they live.  Sheep they be when they dead.  Check for the Goat.  Eat what them eat.  When them  nyam Noni plant, you nyam it.  Can’t go wrong then.”

“But goats could eat cusha; I can’t,” I said.

“Maybe you come to have to eat Cusha ,too”

I remembered a poem.

In Montserrat where not even Cusha free

I saw a man and I watched him cry.

He had was to sell his donkey

Just to buy an eye.

You could tell me why?

I was glad to see Jackie Fire and to see him move the same way that he did in life.  He could move quick –quick like lightning when he was ready. Even with the bullet in his leg where Montserrat Police shot him

“So what happen, you not getting up?” He asked me.

I didn’t want to move.  It felt nice inside this dream with Jackie.  He had carved a house of dreams.  But then it fell over on him.  And now I wanted to join him.  He just stood over me laughing.

“Montserrat man too foolish  Them have diamonds beneath they feet and them too lazy to even bend pick it up.  Slaves they be and them love it.  The Tourist Board should just advertise: Come to Montserrat.  We love White People more than any island in the Caribbean, more even than Barbados. (And that’s saying something)  Come Montserrat, let we love you.”

I didn’t want to argue with him about how Montserratians love their slavery. We’d had that same argument so many times before when he was alive.

“What you mean diamonds at they feet?” I asked.

When the volcano blow it wasn’t just ash it send down on we.  It send down diamonds too and you let the Englishman take them away and say he going study it.  And you sheep, you let them take it and you never ask no question. How me could take people like you serious? You don’t see is slavery still? And then you a look to these same people for help you.  You don’t see is madness, that? Get up man, stop sleep!”

But I didn’t want to get up.  I had to decide if I wanted to live or not.  I tried to think of something I wanted to live for.  My son Markhus?  No he was alright.  He had his own son now (Kairo).  Now he could become the father I never was to him.  I was too busy searching for my own father.  I tried to find him everywhere in Montserrat.   Tried to find him in the eyes of Richard Samuel.

Richard is damn scamp and a thief.  But there is only one thing he loves more than money and property:  Music.  When he hears the fife he goes into Trance and he must find something to knock on.

So I tried to find my father in him.  I tried to find my father in Murphy of Carr’s Bay, but Murphy has no time for sons; he has daughters enough. I even tried to find my father in Port (Black Sam’s son) Black Sam was the best  fife man in Montserrat. They called him Black Sam so as not to confuse him with Sam White (Vernon White’s father who played saxophone  and form a group Sam &Pam which was the favourite group on Montserrat).

Edgar Nkosi White

Edgar Nkosi White

If anyone tells you he loves his father, he’s a liar.  No son can ever really love his father.  There’s too much contest.  A father is either too much or too little to love. And fathers are so easy to hate.  Only daughters can love a father (like my own sister (Rita Dyer) did our father, Toomer Dyer).  She needed someone to love, like my daughter, Nicole, needs me.  Like I needed my mother. Phyllis White, of Cork Hill.  But my mother was never raised to be a mother.  She was raised to be someone’s daughter, eternally.

I found myself walking to the sound of barking dogs and in the darkness I heard a voice coming from somewhere above me in the dark:

“You alright down there?”

“I’ve been better,” I said.

Wait there; Me will get a rope.”

“Don’t worry man, I’m not going nowhere.  Trust me”

Then I saw the light of a flashlight and this piece of yellow robe descending, a rope more beautiful than a sixteen year old girl at dawn with her nipples standing.  I tried to gather up all my things but it left no hand free to climb.  Again I fell, embarrassed.

“Look, leave the damn things them, man, you could come back for them when morning come.  Don’t worry man, nobody a trouble them. Leave them man and come!”

I had to leave everything.  Not even my fife could I take.  I had only one good hand because the other (my left) was full of the thorns from the Cusha.  Slowly, so slowly I pulled myself up. “

Dawn came up so slowly, so slowly.  Then there I was sitting  in my torn clothes and shame.  I watched Montserrat reveal herself to me and me to myself.

The farmer showed me the best passage around through the ghaut.  I walked on bruised feet and picked my way through the cusha.  I found my bag and one by one my instruments and there she was, hidden beneath the Cusha :  My fife.  I plucked thorns from my hands and picked up my bamboo fife hoping against hope that she was not cracked,   still whole, still pure.  There’s no recovery for a cracked fife.  She has only one life. If anything happened to her there is only one man in all of Montserrat who could make another for me, John Jones.  But he’s behind prison walls, which means I would have to go and steal some wild Bamboo from Blakes Estate and Roy Lee.  It would take a year before it would turn from green and be ready for me and only Jones could carve her to just the right pitch.  I put it to my lips and my hand were shaking from the pain . Then I heard it play.

Morning Cock a crow

Morning Cock a Crow.

I just stood there crying.  Then I heard the voice of the Rasta boy who drive bus.

“What happen is mash up?’

I felt violated, exposed.  I don’t like people sneaking up on me and catching me crying.  That I do alone.

“No, is all right,” I said.

“So what you a cry for?”

“Just God, man. Just God.” I said, wanting him to go away. But then I remembered he didn’t have to go away, he lived there. It was me who had to go.

A man only has two hands and one of them is full of Cusha.  Which leaves you but one.  So you have to leave everything behind if you want to crawl out from the ghaut.  If you want life, you must leave everything, family, women, friends, even Knighthoods behind.  If you really want to climb out the ghaut.  Leave everything. Return back alone at dawn for them.

“Fife still sound sweet man, wha you a bawl so for?”

“It’s Don Romeo’s birthday,” I said.  A good excuse for tears.

Morning Cock a crow my darling

And morning comes too soon

Morning Cock a crow

Much too soon

Much too soon.

Stay a while and have another drink.

Stay a while and have another drink

Stay a while and have another drink.

Because Morning a come too soon.

Jackie Fire said,  never travel anywhere in Montserrat without a rope.

Now I’ll listen.

The End