His Idylls at Happy Grove | Granta

His Idylls at Happy Grove

Ishion Hutchinson

Agog with corrosive dates in his book,

Godspeed shuttled between bush and school,

branching with delirium. He recalled

rain gauzed cannons with steam. Escutcheons

fluttered a red-letter day of sorrow:


Every man who went from Jamaica to

the front was a volunteer.10,000.


Volunteer? Bourrage de crâne. Shadowed chains.

Sails, the air stagnate, white flashes of sharks

haunting fevers strangers shared in the hulls,

never to break after centuries on land;

perpetual flashes, perpetual sharks


trailing men who sang on the Verdala

in a blizzard to war.

      Recover them.


They shovelled the long trenches day and night.

Frostbitten mud. Shellshock mud. Dungheap mud. Imperial mud.

Venereal mud. Malaria mud. Hun bait mud. Mating mud.

1655 mud: white flashes of sharks. Golgotha mud. Chilblain mud.

Caliban mud. Cannibal mud. Ha ha ha mud. Amnesia mud.

Drapetomania mud. Lice mud. Pyrexia mud. Exposure mud.

Aphasia mud.

No-man’s-land’s-Everyman’s mud. And the smoking flax mud.

Dysentery mud. Septic sore mud. Hogpen mud. Nephritis mud.

Constipated mud. Faith mud. Sandfly fever mud. Rat mud.

Sheol mud. Ir-ha-cheres mud. Ague mud. Asquith mud. Parade


Scabies mud. Mumps mud. Memra mud. Pneumonia mud.

Mene mene tekel upharsin mud. Civil war mud.

And darkness and worms will be their dwelling place mud.

Yaws mud. Gog mud. Magog mud. God mud.

Canaan the unseen, as promised, saw mud.

They resurrected new counterkingdoms,

by the arbitrament of the sword mud.

So many,

sugar; rum; cocoa; coffee; rice; logwood; bauxite;

oranges; lime juice (for prevention of scurvy);

mahogany propellers and 9 aeroplanes;

11 ambulances; cotton (for balloons)



drawn into the affray cousins make,

mortared to haul martyrs from mud trenches,

then the sand trenches, where the anonymous

sprung up a permanent humility.



ice-scarred, above deck,

back to Old Britain.

Godspeed’s wings clipped suspended air, then off.

Quo vadis?

—Wha ra ra?

Image © John Schilling


An excerpt from School of Instruction by Ishion Hutchinson, published by Faber & Faber.

Ishion Hutchinson

Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. He is the author of the poetry collections Far District, winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, and House of Lords and Commons, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize in Literature, the Whiting Award and a Donald Windham-Sandy M. Cambell Literature Prize, among others. Photograph © Marco Guigliarelli

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