We are proud to publish, with permission, the full text of Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem Naked from his anthology Too Black, Too Strong.
Find our in-depth interview with the “people’s laureate” here where he shares his views on poetry, the police and the royal family.
copyright © Benjamin Zephaniah 2001
Dis is me naked. Unclothed, undressed under
the light of all the Gods that you dare
imagine, waiting to be touched with as
many versions of the truth as you
can conjure up in your turned off
Dis is me. Give me your theory, give me
your opinion, give me your truth, give me
your big bad holy book, let me know
exactly what tried and tested faith
keeps you asleep.
Dis is me, hungry for the priceless forbidden, looking
for the man who wrote the superhighway code
so that I can rob his richness.
He got insurance, he got the state, let me get him.
I wanna find game show hosts and put
the bastards on trial. I wanna kill educated ignorance.
Dis is me naked, revolting in front of you, I’m
not much but I give a damn. Lovers look
at me, haters look at me as I exhibit
my love and my fury on dis desperate
Dis is me naked. I love being naked.
I look at my naked self and I know
that I was made for nakedness. I see
my neighbours naked, I see booted and
suited men naked, and women in purdah
naked, and all the priests and politicians
who I despise are naked looking
at the truth, facing reality, having to
deal with themselves, by themselves. Praise
the Gods for the black, brown, white, fat,
thin, one-legged, blind, bent, and uneven
naked bodies. Praise the female Gods
and the older Gods for the naked body
Dis is me. Not hanging out on Soho Road,
Handsworth, not hanging out on Railton Road,
Brixton, not chilling on Grosvenor Road,
Bristol, not even wheeling and
dealing on the sad streets of
London, west central. Naked I am, fixed
in reality, not looking for a fix,
not pickpocketing in Piccadilly.
I pay tax, they force me to pay for my oppression.
Dis is my mother. She read a poster on a
hot tin street in Jamaica that told her
that Britain loves her. She tuned
into the dream that made me the
naked cop beater that I
am today. I do all dis stuff for my
mother and she cries because I will
not go to church.
Dis is me naked, jealous, passionate, listening
for the naked sound of liberty,
waiting for the militants to arise, pouring
the lubricant sweat into the system
Dis is me invading the blank page with my
endless aerodynamic pen, driven like
optimistic hope, driven, raging,
desperate, hungry, inspired by the
chit-chat overheard on stinky smoky
turned on by the politics of the kitchen.
Dis is me. Dreadlocks I. Rastafari. Rastafari.
Behold, how good and how pleasant
it is for revolutionaries to dwell together
in the house of the lord. Knowing that
the real God will liberate those who liberate
themselves I shall fear no religion.
Took away the dried up intermediary, got
a direct line to the great ganja
creator. Dis is me, Rastafari, Rastafari,
Dis is me blowing my lonely black trumpet.
Dis is me mysteriously trying to smile, trying
to convince myself that dis is the
lesser of evils. I stagger from
column to column stealing from its
stolen concrete as I go. ‘Fall Babylon,
Fall Babylon and take your bankers
with you,’ I chant as I piss on parliament.
Dis is me, standing under understanding,
getting up and over, overstanding the
corruption of our role models. The
lack of courage of our athletes burns me.
The Vegan sex is sweet.
Dis is my music. Loud, deep, Jungle music.
Heavy, roots, Reggae dub stuff.
I rave like a lover, I love like a raver
I know it’s only Hip-Hop Rock but I like it,
I’m so proud of it. We rocked the world
with it. We turned on generations
with it, made love and riots with
it, we created the magic
but we still don’t own the magic.
Why must we still struggle for our royalty cheque?
Dis is me fatherless, childless. Who do I go to and for what?
Who shall I cry to? Who shall I cry for?
I need babies to recite to
I need babies to recite to me
my life is full of lonely childless eternities
where only poetry gives me life
and nakedness gives me knowledge.
When I cry they want to arrest me, when I’m in
need I’m suspicious, when I cross the road
they ask me why.
Dis is me. I hate dis government as much as I
hated the one before it and I have reason
to believe that I will hate the one to come.
How did these lefties reach dis Tory place?
Dis is me, squeeze me. Let me free me.
I have come to realise that what you can do for me
I can do much better for me.
Let me do for my loved ones what you will not do for them
I want to hold the hands of my loved ones
(Those who have no one to vote for)
and cause a victorious rumble in dis black universe.
I am naked, whispering screams in the church
of the impatient revolutionaries. I may be
vulnerable, I may not have the education of my critics or
the wealth of my arresting officers, but I have
never felt the need to wear a uniform in order
to break laws and I have never felt the need to
eat dead bodies in order to feel like a good human.
Too Black Too Strong
Below, see Benjamin Zephaniah perform a portion of the poem from his anthology Too Black, Too Strong for The Guardian and find our in-depth interview with the “people’s laureate” here, where he shares his views on poetry, the police and the royal family.
Main image by Richard Ecclestone