palm tree king
this week, i was introduced to john agard’s poem “palm tree king.” it reads like a performance as the words move with the wit and flow of an mc. also, it maintains a nice degree of brevity while addressing the serious issue of cultural stereotypes. you can read it below and also watch agard perform the piece at the 2009 london literature festival here.
Palm Tree King
Because I come from the West Indies
certain people in England seem to think
I is a expert on palm trees
So not wanting to sever dis link
with me native roots (know what ah mean?)
or to disappoint dese culturer vulture
I does smile cool as seabreeze
and say to dem
you interested in
cause you talking
to the right man
I is the palm tree king
I know palm tree history
like de\ palm o me hand
In fact me navel string
bury under a palm tree
If you think de queen could wave
you ain’t seen nothing yet
till you see the Roystonea Regia
– that is the royal palm
with she crown of leaves
over the blue Caribbean carpet
nearly 100 feet of royal highness
But let we get down to business
Tell me what you want to know
How tall a palm tree does grow?
What is the biggest coconut I ever see?
What is the average length of the leaf?
Don’t expect me to be brief
cause palm tree history
is a long-long story
Anyway why you so interested
in length and circumference?
That kind of talk so ordinary
That don’t touch the essence of palm tree mystery
That is no challenge
to a palm tree historian like me
If you insist on statistics
why you don’t pose
with some mathematical profundity?
Ask me something more tricky
like if a American tourist with a camera
take 9 minutes to climb a coconut tree
how long a English tourist without a camera
would take to climb the same coconut tree?
That is a problem pardner
Now ah coming harder
If 6 straw hat
and half a dozen bikini
multiply by the same number of coconut tree
equal one postcard
how many square miles of straw hat
you need to make a tourist industry?
That is the problem pardner
Find the solution
and you got a revolution
But before you say anything
let I palm tree king
give you dis warning
Ah want de answer in metric
it kind of rhyme with tropic
Besides it sound more exotic