Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

‘Patwá’ – a poem by Gary Jude




When I was a young boy, Sundays spoke
a strange tongue: Jesus and his gang of bells,

the cry of the rag’n bone man clip-clopping
down our street, and sometimes I’d hear fascists,

communists, feminists and anarchists
at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park.

But it was the Patwá my father would speak,
when we visited relatives,

that was the most mysterious of all.
On the way he’d usually stop to talk to some man

or woman (often a woman),
their words washing the grey of Ladbroke Grove

with the exotic oranges, reds and greens of St. Lucia,
the traffic’s rhythm rocking like fishing boats in a blue bay,

and whenever I’d ask him "who was that?" he’d kiss
his gold front teeth. "Family," he’d say. "Family."

I haven’t heard Patwá in years now.
I look up the word for family, for father, for son.