Claude McKay's Early Poetry (1911-1922): A Digital Collection


DERE'S a little anxious crowd
   Jes' outside de barrack gate,
All a-t'inkin' deir own way
   Dat de pay is kept back late:
Faces of all types an' shades,
   Brown an' yaller, black an' gray,
Dey are waitin', waitin' dere,
   For it's póliceman pay-day.

Clearly seen among dem all
   Is a colourless white face
Anxious more dan every one,
   Fine type of an alien race :
He is waitin' for some cash
   On de goods trust' tarra day,--
Our good frien' de Syrian,--
   For it's policeman pay-day.
Wid a lee piece of old clot'
   Ton her curly glossy hair,
Print frock an' old bulldog boots
   Tatters all t'rough wear an' tear,
She is waitin', ober-bex',
   Our mess-woman, mudder Mell,
An' 'twould grieve you' heart to hear
   'Bouten wha' she's got to tell.

Six long fortnight come an' gone
   Since some constab hol' her up,
An', wid all de try she try,
   She can neber get a tup:
"Me wi' tell Inspector F--
  'Bout de 'ole o' i' to-day,
An' den me wi' really see
   Ef him caan' boun' dem fe pay.
"Man dem, wid dem hungry gut,
   Six long fortnight nyam me rash;
Not a gill me caan' get when
   Chiny dah dun fe him cash
Fe de plenty t'ings me trus',
   Sal' fish, pork, an' flour, an' rice,
Onion an' ingredients,
    Jes' fe mek de brukfus' nice."
See de waitin' midnight girl
   Wid her saucy cock-up lips,
An' her strongly-built black hands
   Pressed against her rounded hips :
She has passed de bound'ry line,
   An' her womanhood is sold ;
Wonder not then, as you gaze,
   Dat, though young, she looks so bold,
Once she roamed de country woods
   Wid a free an' stainless soul,
But she left for Kingston's slums,
   Gave herself up to de wul':
She has trod de downward course,
   Never haltin' on de way;
Dere's no better time for her
   Dan a policeman pay-day.
Waits de slimber ball-pan man,
   Waits de little ice-cream lad,
Waits our washerwoman Sue,
   All deh chat how pólice bad;
Each one sayin' police vile,
   Yet deir faces all betray
Dat for dem dere's no rag time
   Laka policeman pay-day.
Inside in de ord'ly room
   Things are movin' very fine;
Constab standin' in a row
   Hea' de jinglin' o' de coin;
Constab wid a solemn face,
   Constab only full o' fun,
Marchin' in de ord'ly room
   As dem name call one by one.
Quick march! halt! a sharp right tu'n,
   Wid de right han' smart salute,
All attention poker-stiff,
   An' a-standin' grave an' mute :
Office-clerk calls out de name,
   Officer hands de amount
To Sa'an' Major standin' by,
   Who gives it a second count.

'Ter all de formalities,
   Dis an' dat an' warra not,
Salute, 'tion, right about turn,
   Den de precious pay is got :
Lee gone to de reward fund
   Trough a blot' defaulter-sheet,
Run do'n by sub-officers,
   Or caught sleepin' on dem beat;

Den dere's somet'ing gone fe kit;
   Uniform mus' smart an' nice,
Else de officer won' t'ink
   Dat a bobby's wutten price.
All dem way de money go ;
   So de payin'-out fe some,
When de fortnight dem come roun',
   in-a ord'ly room.
Now comes payin' up de debts
   To de miscellaneous crowd
Waitin' by de barrack-gate,
   Chattin', chattin' very loud :
Payin', payin' all de time,
   From a poun' do'n to a gill,
Whole fortnight-pay partly done,
   Yet rum-money lef back still.

Strollin' t'rough de gate at night,
   Drinkin' Finzi tell dead drunk,
Barely standin' at tattoo,
   After tumblin' in-a bunk ;
All de two-an'-four is done,
   So-so trust nong ebery day
Tell de fortnight comes again
   An' we get de little pay. 

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