Bad Help

On Marley’s wall in ’64 hung Melba Ogle, 

center-fold. Bad help is a turn-off she said.


Bob said ’scuse me to the girl in his bed,

There’s something when I’m singing I hear —


’scuse me while I light this ting.

Everywhere is war and Babylon.


You know ganja grows on government land

behind the sugar cane, rotting in blood.


Emancipating this island

or our minds a heavy matter.


How long we kill the prophets

is not a thing for easy listening.


Bob said he’d die at 36, like Christ,

like Byron, no one said No in his hearing.


Guppies and sorrow people this island —

he pulled in the smoke from beyond.


Is it wrong to believe things that aren’t true?

God knows I do.




Feed my people he says, fe true this island

can never be pure, city of Kingston,


the shootings, the sorrow.

We the Wailers because we be sorrow.


The one-beat drops below hearing

in Trenchtown where garbage she festers.


Boy wants to be born over in this island,

with straight hair and blue eyes like mine


with so-called human rights. Jamaican people

lost in the shitstem of sorrow.


See Marley play football with Skilly —        

Bob’s right toe gashed in Boy’s Town Field. 


He ignored the doctors

and their knives. But cancer can’t be cured


in Jamaica and God shuttered Bob’s last tour.

He opted at last for costly German magic


then a flight east. Is it wrong to believe 

things that aren’t true? God knows. I do.

Maurice Mierau’s non-fiction book, Detachment: An Adoption Memoir, will appear with Freehand in fall 2014. The poems here are from Six, which will be out in 2015 with Palimpsest. Mierau edits the online magazine The Winnipeg Review.