Ribber Come-Do’n

From de top o’ Clarendon hill
    Chock down to Clarendon plain
De ribber is rushin’ an’ tearin’
    ’Count o’ de showers o’ rain.

An’ a mudder, anxious an’ sad,
    Two whole days be’n gone away,
A-buyin’ fresh fish fe tu’n han’
    Slap do’n at Old Harbour Bay.

But de dark ribber kept her back,
    Dat night she couldn’ get home,
While a six-week-old baby wailed,
    An’ wailed for a mudder to come.

An’ a fader too was away
    ’Cross de Minha wukin’ him groun’,
So him couldn’ get home dat night
    Sake o’ de ribber come-do’n.

Dere were four udder little ones
    ’Sides de babe of six weeks old,
An’ dey cried an’ looked to no use,
    An’ oh dey were hungry an’ cold!

So de lee fourteen-year-old gal,
    De eldest one o’ de lot,
Was sad as she knelt by the babe
    An’ bayed her on de cot.

            “Bya, bya, me baby,
             Baby want go sleepy.”

She look ’pon de Manchinic tree,
    Not a piece of mancha fe eat;
De Jack-fruit dem bear well anuff,
    But dere wasn’t one o’dem fit.

Nor puppa nor mumma could come,
    Aldough it be’n now nightfall;
De rain pour do’n an’ de wind blow,
    An’ de picknanies dem still bawl.

So de poo’ Milly ’tarted out
    To whe’ a kin’ neighbor lib,
Fe see ef a bite o’ nenyam
    Dem couldn’ p’raps manage fe gib.

     “Ebenin’, cousin Anna,
      Me deh beg you couple banna,
For dem tarra one is berry hungry home;
    We puppa ober May, ma,
    We mumma gone a Bay, ma,
An’ we caan’ tell warra time dem gwin’ go
     come. "                    

The kind district mother thought
    Of her own boy far away,
An’ wondered much how he fared
    In a foreign land that day.

She opened de cuphoard door
    An’ took from it warra be’n sabe,
A few bits o’ yam an’ lee meal,
    An’ a pint o’ milk fe de babe.

De parents dat night couldn’ come,
    De howlin’ wind didn’ lull,
But de picknanies went to bed
    Wid a nuff nuff bellyful.

From Songs of Jamaica (Aston W. Gardner & Co., 1912) by Claude McKay. This poem is in the public domain.