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Little Boy Crying

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Topics: Caribbean, Jamaica
received a spanking because he has been playing in the rain. The themes of time, paternal love, and punishment are demonstrated in the complex pattern of word choice and shifts in point of view.

The poem begins by using word play to show change (bold) and water imagery (italics) to reveal the fluidity of time and introduces the theme of crime and punishment (underline):

Your mouth contorting in brief spite and hurt, your laughter metamorphosed into howls, your frame so recently relaxed now tight with three year old frustration, your bright eyes swimming tears, splashing your bare feet, you stand there angling for a moment's hint of guilt or sorrow for the quick slap struck.

Morris' wry sense of humor is especially present in the second stanza where he alludes to the language of (Grimms'?) fairy tales (superscript) to describe the only way that a three year old boy could see or understand his father's actions:

The ogre towers above you, that grim giant, empty of feeling, a colossal cruel, soon victim of the tale's conclusion, dead at last. You hate him, you imagine chopping clean the tree he's scrambling down or plotting deeper pits to trap him in.

In the third stanza, the complexity of time/change (bold), crime, judgment and punishment (underline) are revealed in the emotions of the father, who will "piggy-back, bull-fight, anything" with his son who only understands play. Yet the father wants to teach his son a valuable lesson he "should learn." Both are suffering through the ordeal of punishment: the father who has a "fierce" love for his son and the son who is suffering because of the slap:

You cannot understand, not yet the hurt your easy tears can scald him with nor guess the wavering hidden behind that mask.
This fierce man longs to lift you, curb your sadness with piggy-back or bull fight, anything, but dare not ruin the lessons you should learn.

You must not make a plaything of the rain.

Of course, this appreciation does not do justice to the concept of the mask and the use of irony, integral parts of understanding Morris' poetics, which are hallmarks of his literary creations. For beneath his urbane intelligence there is a radical distrust of the tools such as language and metaphor that are used to explore our existential and epistemological dilemmas.

***
Mervyn Morris was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1937. He studied at the University College of the West Indies and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. From 1966 until 2002 he was on the staff of the University of the West Indies, from which he retired as Professor of Creative Writing and West Indian Literature.

He is the author of six books of poetry: The Pond, Shadowboxing, and Examination Centre (New Beacon Books, London), Vestiges (a limited edition, Erlangen), On Holy Week (Dangaroo Press, Sydney) and, most recently, I been there, sort of: New and Selected Poems (Carcanet Press, Manchester). In 1976 the Institute of Jamaica awarded him a Silver Musgrave Medal for Poetry. He has given poetry readings in the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, the USA, Canada and Malaysia. He has conducted poetry workshops in Jamaica, Barbados, the United Kingdom and the USA. He was a UK Arts Council Visiting Writer in Residence at the South Bank Centre in 1992. In 1993 and 1994 he was Poetry Workshop Director at the University of Miami Summer Institute for Caribbean Creative Writing. In 2002 he co-directed a workshop at Ty Newydd, in Wales.

His most influential academic work has been on the Jamaican author/actress Louise Bennett and some other writers who perform. Books he has edited include Selected Poems by Louise Bennett (Sangster’s Book Stores, Kingston), her Aunty Roachy Seh (Sangster’s Book Stores), It A Come by Michael Smith (Race Today, London) and The Faber Book of Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories. He is the author of ‘Is English We Speaking’ and other essays (Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston), incorporating a manuscript which won Jamaica’s 1997 Una Marson Award for Literature, and Making West Indian Literature (Ian Randle Publishers), a collection of essays and interviews.

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