“The Song of the Banana Man” by Evan Jones (Favorite Poem Project)


I’m George Scott,
I’m 72 years old, and we own the Scott’s Jamaican Bakery, my
wife and I, here in Hartford, Connecticut. I started off in Jamaica and spent some 30 years there
as an educator. I was headmaster of a school, but around about the 70’s we had four growing children. And educators don’t get
well paid in most countries, and least of all third world countries, so we decided that in order to educate our children
the way we wanted to do, we’d migrate. (telephone rings)
-Scott’s Jamaican Bakery…
They have Jamaican beef patties. We started about 21 years
ago here in Hartford. A mom-and-pop with just 3 employees and my wife.
We’ve grown from 3 employees, now we have nearly 50. Most of the people who work for us are Jamaicans.
It’s nice to be able to help your own people. And very often you need a new employee and it’s a matter of somebody mentioning
a relative or somebody they knew, so it’s like an extended family for all of us. And I think what we have done that makes me feel good
particularly is the fact that we have made a contribution not just to ourselves, or to our own workers, or our
own people, but to the community in which we live. Because we have certainly brought to the attention of
many people of how important diversity is in this town. The poem that I’ve chosen to read is one that I
really love. It’s set in the mid 40’s in Jamaica. The main person in the poem is a small farmer who ekes
out a living in the very hard hillsides of Portland of Jamaica. He’s proud of what he does, he knows who he is, and
he’s not afraid of facing anyone who wants to criticize him. I like it because of that expression
of who a Jamaican is, but I also like it because it was one of the first attempts by any Jamaican to use the
Jamaican Creole in a way that it could have universal understanding. He talks about places and things that I’m familiar with.
You know, as a youngster growing up in Jamaica, when he talks about mullet and janga swimming
in the pool, I used to, you know, wade into the stream and try to catch these janga,
which is like a little shrimp, you know, under the rocks. And the mullet, the mountain mullet in Jamaica is
one of the sweetest tasting fishes that you’ll have. It’s a very nostalgic
connection for me also. Especially when you are far away from home, it kind of brings back
the memories of who you are, who your people are, and what we stand for. “The Song of the Banana Man”
by Evan Jones Touris, white man, wipin his face, /
Met me in Golden Grove market place. /
He looked at m’ol’ clothes brown wid stain, / An soaked right through wid de Portlan rain, /
He cas up his eye, and turn up his nose, /
He says, ‘You’re a beggar man, I suppose?’ / ‘Boy, get some occupation, /
Be of some service to your nation.’ /
I said, ‘By God and dis big right han / You mus recognize a banana man. / ‘Up in de hills, where de streams are cool, /
An mullet an janga swim in de pool, /
I have ten acres of mountain side, / An a dainty-foot donkey dat I ride, /
Four Gros Michel, an four Lacatan, /
Some coconut trees, and some hills of yam, / An I pasture on dat very same lan /
Five she-goats an a big black ram, /
Dat, by God an dis big right han / Is de property of a banana man. / ‘I leave m’yard early-mornin time /
An set m’foot to de mountain climb, /
I ben m’back to de hot-sun toil, / An m’cutlass rings on de stony soil, /
Ploughin an weedin, diggin an plantin /
Till Massa Sun drop back o John Crow mountain, / Den home again in the cool evenin time, /
Perhaps whistling dis likkle rhyme, /
Praise God an m’big right han / I will live an die a banana man. / ‘Banana day is my special day, /
I cut my stems an I’m on m’way, /
Load up de donkey, leave de lan / Head down de hill to banana stan, /
When de truck comes roun I take a ride /
All de way down to de harbour side- / Dat is de night, when you, touris man, /
Would change your place wid a banana man. /
Yes, by God, an m’big right han / I will live an die a banana man. / ‘De bay is calm, an de moon is bright /
De hills look black for de sky is light, /
Down at de dock is an English ship, / Restin after her ocean trip, /
While on de pier is a monstrous hustle, /
Tallymen, carriers, all in a bustle, / Wid stems on deir heads in a long black snake /
Some singin de sons dat banana men make, /
Like, Praise God an m’big right han / I will live an die a banana man. / ‘Den de payment comes, an we have some fun, /
Me, Zekiel, Breda and Duppy Son. /
Down at de bar near United Wharf / We knock back a white rum, bus a laugh, /
Fill de empty bag for further toil /
Wid saltfish, breadfruit, coconut oil. / Den head back home to m’yard to sleep, /
A proper sleep dat is long an deep. /
Yes, by God, an m’big right han / I will live an die a banana man. / ‘So when you see dese ol clothes brown wid stain, /
An soaked right through wid de Portlan rain, /
Don’t cas your eye nor turn your nose, / Don’t judge a man by his patchy clothes, /
I’m a strong man, a proud man, an I’m free, /
Free as dese mountains, free as dis sea, / I know myself, an I know my ways, /
An I will sing to de end o my days /
Praise God an m’big right han / I will live an die a banana man.’

9 thoughts on ““The Song of the Banana Man” by Evan Jones (Favorite Poem Project)

  1. Lovely lovely poem. Non-Jamaican West Indans can also enjoy it and get from it the same thing.

  2. I love this poem. I've learned this poem in the 4th Grade in Jamaica (Windward Road All Age).

  3. Those who really listen will get a snippet of the Spirit of the real Jamaican.

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