For the Girl Who Died By Dancing – Kei Miller

I’m behind on my 30 in 30 poem challenge.  I’m still writing.  But also reading.  Today, Malika Booker’s Twitter introduced me to Kei Miller ironically as I was listening to Gyptian’s Wine Slow.  This here?  Yes.

For the girl who died by dancing

‘It is a warning to young people that dem mus stop du de Dutty Wine,’ said one woman who called the incident a curse on the land. ‘Is like a demon sen’ from de pit a hell dat is taking the lives of the youth even before dem have time to repent’

Jamaica Gleaner, October 30, 2006

Forgive the old woman who only sees
confusion in the wild
rotations of your head &
the in/out butterfly of your thighs.
She could not imagine how,
in the helicopter swing of red braids,
you were being lifted high.

Forgive her, the selfish belief
that heaven is reserved for ladies
with names like Agnes or Beryl
& that no Tanisha would ever inherit
the kingdom of God.

She will be surprised soon enough
to find you on a wide marble tile
in front of Jesus. She will be surprised
that the saviour has given unto you
a tall speakerbox, filled
to its brim with music,
& that you continue your peculiar art –
dancing dutty wine with a clean heart.

from There is an Anger That Moves  (Carcanet, 2007)

Kei Miller was born Kingston, Jamaica in 1978. He read English at the University of the West Indies and completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. His first book of poetry, Kingdom of Empty Bellies, was published in 2006 by Heaventree Press. It was shortly followed by a collection of short stories, The Fear of Stones, which explores the issue of Jamaican homophobia and was shortlisted in 2007 for a Commonwealth Writer’s Prize in the category of Best First Book. His second collection of poetry, There is an Anger That Moves, was published in 2007 by Carcanet Press and he has a novel forthcoming from Phoenix,The Same Earth.

Kei Miller divides his time between Jamaica and the United Kingdom, where he teaches Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.


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