Trapeta B. Mayson

 

Trapeta B. Mayson

First Job Advice

1972

 

Mouna don’t tie your face and fix your mouth like da’ my child

we all had to do it.

You better removed da’ gold from round your neck,

it fine, but these people wey choke you in the street

for shine-shine then where will you be?

 

You wey die of cold here in that thin thin lapa.

Those hard shoes will pinch you oh.

Take my white Scoby, it wey keep ya’ feet from burning

and da’ trouser is better for all the moving round.

 

You better carry ya’ cold bowl with your rice and stew chicken

or they wey give you dry bread and boloney.

Their children wey be frisky oh.

They wey call you by your first name.

Sometime dey wey even curse.

Don’t slap them oh, children here don’t know their place.

 

If you manage to see the husband,

don’t play there and be too familiar oh.

He wey show you all his teeth and spy at your tay-tay on the sly.

Don’t catch his eye.

You must not play there and joke wey him.

I think they believe we all gronah girls.

 

Clean their place good oh, some of them too nasty.

Their naked panties they can’t even rinse for themselves.

Their sheets they can’t throw in the wash machine.

It ever kill anybody to wipe toilet down when they pee-pee?

 

But least you won’t have to bother the stove, they da’ eat plenty cook shop food.

Soon I wey teach you to make meal, with no smell, no seasoning.

 

Aaa Mouna, da’ tears I see in your eyes? Stop it now.

Aaa-man you too proud,

don’t forget you from poor people in Sinoe County, what you wey do?

you just been here one month,

I go out of my way to find you good job wey those rich people behind City Line.

 

It not easy here, but they will pay you in cash on Friday,

better than Liberia when we used to clean

those Conga people houses for our schooling,

when we could not rest until they slept, when we ate what they left us,

when we emptied their poo-poo buckets for nothing.

 

Dry ya’ tears Mouna, live small here , save your own money,

send for your children, educate them properly,

so they won’t have to know the first jobs we do

 

You must not play there and joke wey him.

I think they believe we all gronah girls.

 

Clean their place good oh, some of them too nasty.

Their naked panties they can’t even rinse for themselves.

Their sheets they can’t throw in the wash machine.

It ever kill anybody to wipe toilet down when they pee-pee?

 

But least you won’t have to bother the stove, they da’ eat plenty cook shop food.

Soon I wey teach you to make meal, with no smell, no seasoning.

  

Aaa Mouna, da’ tears I see in your eyes? Stop it now.

Aaa-man you too proud,

don’t forget you from poor people in Sinoe County, what you wey do?

you just been here one month,

I go out of my way to find you good job wey those rich people behind City Line.

 

It not easy here, but they will pay you in cash on Friday,

better than Liberia when we used to clean

those Conga people houses for our schooling,

when we could not rest until they slept, when we ate what they left us,

when we emptied their poo-poo buckets for nothing.

 

Dry ya’ tears Mouna, live small here , save your own money,

send for your children, educate them properly,

so they won’t have to know the first jobs we do.

 

Trapeta B. Mayson is a Liberian born poet who grew up and still lives in Philadelphia. She has been a pillar in the Philadelphia and National Poetry Communities since the early 1990s. Her poems have been described as “rich, powerful and well crafted… an unwavering voice of truth and beauty.” She has been honoured with numerous awards, including the 2002 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a 2007 Leeway Transformation Award and two Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grants among others. Her work has been published in  journals including, The American Poetry Review, The Margie Review, and Aesthetica She has published two poetry collections, Mocha Melodies and She Was Once Herself . In partnership with highly regarded and supremely talented jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler, Trapeta and Monnette founded Sisters in Music and Poetry in early 2000. The two have collaborated to blend original poetry and music to create a unique and poignant experience for audiences around the country and beyond through poetry and music workshops, residencies and performances. The combination of Trapeta’s voice, with her words, make her performances a rich experience.

Click on the link below to hear Trapeta Mayson read at an event we shared together at The Charles L. Blockson Collection at Temple University.

trapeta mayson march 14

Read ‘Our Brother’ another of Trapeta’s poems below

Our Brother

1982

 

One hand drags the six-foot pine,

the other,

a frozen grip on a fragile paper bag

housing twenty-one pounds of turkey,

canned gravy, cranberries and potatoes.

 

He is our Hansel, trekking through the fresh snow,

littering twelve blocks with needles and twigs.

 

Daddy’s pride would have starved us back then,

but what guts, what grit one needs to seek and ask,

to rummage for kindness among strangers.

 

At that late hour our brother accepts the half thawed bird

from Holy Souls food cupboard and

never reveal to them our shame-

our cold and mocking oven, shut off by PGW,

our improvisation with poverty:

crock pots, kerosene heaters, 2 hot plates,

our bath water maker, body warmer, food cooker.

 

Our brother is a wonder,

a damp and scrawny hero he is,

jollier than their St. Nick,

our 15 year old wise man,

our holy harbinger,

concealing a pack of cigarette,

whistling into the desolate night,

a small bronze star in North Philly

bringing us Christmas.

 

 

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