Ode To Brother Joe

By Anthony McNeill

Nothing can soak
Brother Joe’s tough sermon,
his head swollen
with certainties.

When he lights up a s’liff
you can’t stop him,
and the door to God, usually shut,
gives in a rainbow gust.

Then it’s time for the pipe,
which is filled with its water base
and handed to him for his blessing.
He bends over the stem,
goes into the long grace,
and the drums start

the drums start
Hail Selassie I
Jah Rastafari,
and the room fills with the power
and beauty of blackness,
a furness of optimism.

But the law thinks different.
This evening the Babylon catch
Brother Joe in his act of praise
and carry him off to the workhouse.

Who’ll save Brother Joe? Hail
Selassie is far away
and couldn’t care less,
and the promised ship

is a million light years
from Freeport.
But the drums in the tenement house
are sadder than usual tonight

and the brothers suck hard
at their s’liffs and pipes:
Before the night’s over
Brother Joe has become a martyr;

But still in jail;
And only his woman
who appreciates his humanness more
will deny herself of the weed tonight
to hire a lawyer
and put up a true fight.

Meantime in the musty cell,
Joe invokes, almost from habit,
the magic words:
Hail Selassie I
Jah Rastafari,
but the door is real and remains shut.

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