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Your Tale Special: Olympic Poem

LIGHTNIN: Usain Bolt celebrates with the world at Beijing 2008


It is a privilege to introduce a Your Tale Olympic special. This edition features a different form of narrative – poetry. Poems are stories that are best read out loud, and the late Steve Shaw’s poem, Jamaica tek’ World by Stahm, is no exception.

Shaw, a Jamaican who worked as a screenwriter in Toronto, watched the 2008 Beijing Olympiad two years before he passed away. Shaw’s son, Clive Ewan, says, “Like millions of Jamaicans at home and abroad, he was inspired by the dominance of the Jamaican track athletes.” Ewan adds that his father “felt as though these victories, heard around the world, fostered a moment of unity and pride which was exquisitely unique.”

Written in patois, the complete poem is made up of three parts: Lightnin; Tundah; Urricane. Together, they celebrate the individual brilliance of Usain Bolt, the achievements of the women’s team, and look with “hopeful expectations for London.” This future is nearly upon us. This Sunday evening, the fifth of August, in East London, billions will watch. And as Shaw knew, many of those eyes will be trained on athletes from a small Caribbean island.

(For English translation, see below the poem. Translation by Mandy Ewan, Steve Shaw’s widow)

Bart Chan, Your Tale Editor


By Steve Shaw


See im Mummy a yahd
Wondah why im wuk ‘ard?
Now is she feel im joy
Well proud a im boy

A she pickni did dare
Return di world’ stare

Bredren cotch pon di wall
Dem a watch im grow tall
Dem a laugh aftah im
Why wayse time a gym?

Different gun a im fate
No im nah ‘esitate
Fran dat pistol did fiah
Nuff yout im inspiah

In Jamaica time ‘ard
Unger pass true nuff yahd
Plenty penny ‘affi scrape
Fi mek im rise to im fate

When im weaken wi’ doubt
Ol’ Pappy call im out
Muss Anansi nah seh
Swiffess mahn lead di weh?

Im nah believe in ‘go slow’
Ee ave no paht in im show
Ah nah backward we move
Every life muss improve

Almighty God give im giff
Mahn nah trifle wi dis
If im give tanks an praise
Di roof ee muss raze

Of course im did dance
Im leff nuttin to chance
When im lightnin unleash
All Jamaica at peace

Di world cyan keep pace
When tree million a race
Fran di rooftop muss ‘allah
Out of Many, One Callah!


When we witness di Bolt
Whole a we wondah
More time a great flash
Muss follow wi Tundah

Tundah roll in like wrath
When Jamaican a run
Victree a di path
Pon di crack a di gun

Dem ‘ave different guide
Each endure tribulation
Yet dem nevah top ‘tride
Fi di pride a dem nation

To reach to Beijing
Juss a part a dem goal
For each a dem bring
Dem ‘art an dem soul

Each a dem Daughtah
Muss one in a million

When dem burss fran di block
All doubt did erase
Da ress a di world
Dem force fi give chase

When dem come pon a chain
An emerge fran di pack
Mi hie dem a strain,
Rollin Calf at dem back?

When dem pass tru two chain
Sacrafice a kick in
So much ‘ear dem a train
Pity juss one muss win

When tree chain dem reach
Strickly Black, Green an Gold
Generation muss teach
Dat dem tale gwan unfold

When four chain did done
Dem done wi denial
When Jamaican a run
Dem cyan run single file

As dem come pon di finish
Tree spirit a soar
Muss entire planet
‘Ear Jamaican a ROAR

Each a dem Daughtah
Muss one in a million
Each a dem Daughtah
Muss one in a million

Kerron an Sherone
A silvah dem tun
While likkle Shelly-Ann
A di golden one

When dem axe aftah im
We nah surprise fi see
Im run fi im country
An im joyful fi we

Mahn seh daughtah tek longah
Muss careful, nah blink
Veronica strongah
Dan mahn an mahn tink

Mel a reach to di wiah
Im pace set too bold
Jamaican on fiah,
Dem obsess wi gold!

Recard nah frighten
Dem all smash asundah
Yes if Bolt a di Lightnin
Ooman a Tundah


Firss come di Lightnin
Di Tundah a follow
Gahd grant deeze victree
Not one a dem hollow

Well firss come de lightnin
An den fallah Tundah
Wise Jamaican a wait
Weh di Stahm? dem a wondah

True di Cloud dem a gaddah
Dis eah no time fi play
Di People dem raddah
Carry ‘ome di relay

Wait, nah leff di team
Becah ‘ere come di Hie
Dis de Olympic Dream
Dem cyan be deny

Rain come quench we tirst
But di Sistren too fass!
Juss as lass muss be firss
More time firss muss be lass

Well when team tek di track
Asafa di anchah
Dem nah baddah look back
Dem nah trouble by rancah

Dem feeget bout Rogge
Im affi dress back
Commin like mahn ol’
Wahn im puss nap

Muss remembah, fee-evah,
Time cannot diminish
World nah see ee, no nevah
Dem cyan share ‘photo finish’

Much a dem sank
An kiss muddah eart spritely
Each tek time fi tank
Dem Lahd Gahd Amighty

Nah check fi ee now
Nah wail no nah weep
Team Jamaica a vow
Soon fahward fi sweep

Now a yahd we a roam
Nuff medal we shelve
In our ‘ome weh fran ‘ome
We a tek ee a twelve

Now dis ting dem call progress
Dem say muss incremental
Jamaica nah check fid dat
As we carry back nuff medal

Jamaican ah upfull
Carry song a we ‘eart
Jamaican ah ‘opeful
Dat di whey we a start

Bad mahn an bad mahn
Axe wha Olympic dem teach
Why, di fahdah we strive
De fahdah we reach

So rejoice! Top complain
Peace muss Rain down upon us
For dis a di ‘Urricane
Tundah an Lightnin a promise

Mek dis lesson nah leff you
Shout out fran church steeple
Mek di world know fi true
Out of Many, One People!

TUNDAH: (l-r) Kerron Stewart, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Sherone Simpson



See his mother in her yard
Wonder why he works hard?
Now it's she who feels his joy
So proud of her boy
Its her child who dared to
Return the world’s stare

His friends sit on the wall
They watch him grow tall
They laugh after him
Why waste time at the gym?

A different gun is his fate
No he does not hesitate
When that pistol did fire
So many youths he inspired

In Jamaica times are hard
Hunger passes through enough yards
So many pennies have to be scraped
To make him rise to his fate

When he weakened with doubt
Old pappy called him out
Wasn’t it Anansi who would say
The swiftest man leads the way?

He didn’t believe in ‘Go Slow’
It had no part in his show
It's not backward we move
Every life must improve

Almighty God gave him this gift
Man never trifled with this (no steroids or drugs)
If he gave thanks and praise
The roof he must raise

Of course he did a dance
He left nothing to chance
When his lightning was unleashed
All of Jamaica was at peace

The world can’t keep pace
When three million race (three million people in Jamaica)
From the rooftop must holler
Out of Many, One Colour!


When we witnessed the Bolt
All of us wondered
More time a great flash
Must follow with thunder

Thunder rolls in like wrath
When Jamaicans run
Victory is the path
Upon the crack of the gun

They had different guides
Each endured tribulation
Yet they never stopped striding
For the pride of their nation

To reach to Beijing
Just a part of their goal
For each of them brought
Their heart and their soul

Each of those daughters
Must be one in a million

When they burst from the block
All doubt was erased
The rest of the world
Were forced to give chase

When they came to a chain (old fashioned measurement in Jamaica)
And emerged from the pack
My eyes they did stain
Rolling Calf at their backs? (legendary monster who rolls around countryside at night)

When they passed through two chains
Sacrifice kicked in
So many years they had trained
Pity just one must win

When three chains they reached
Strictly black green and gold (Jamaican flag colours)
Generations will teach
This tale that’s unfolding

When four chains were over
They were done with denial
When Jamaicans run
They can’t run single file

As they came to the finish
Three spirits did soar
The entire planet must
Hear Jamaicans ROAR

Each of those daughters
Must be one in a million
Each of those daughters
Must be one in a million

For Kerron and Sherone it was
Silver they won
While little Shelly-Ann
Was the golden one

When we asked after her
We were not surprised to see
She ran for her country
And she was joyful for us

They say women take longer
Must be careful don’t blink
Veronica was stronger
Than most people think

Mel reached to the wire
Her pace set too bold
Jamaicans on fire
They are obsessed with gold!

Records don’t frighten
They all smash asunder
Yes if Bolt is the Lightning
Women are the Thunder


First came the Lightning
The Thunder did follow
God grant these victories
Not one of them hollow (Jamaicans actually running for Jamaica not another country)

Well first come the Lightning
And then follows Thunder
Wise Jamaicans wait
Where’s the storm? they wondered

Through the clouds they gathered
This is no time for play
The people they’d rather
Carry home the relay

Wait, don’t leave the team
Because here comes the Eye (of the hurricane)
This is the Olympic Dream
They can’t be denied

(Women’s relay team)

Rain came to quench our thirst
But the Sisters too fast!
Just as last must be first
More times first must be last

(Mens relay team)

Well when Team Jamaica took the track
Asafa the anchor
They didn’t bother look back
They weren’t troubled by rank

They forgot about Rogge
He had to back down
Come in like he’s old
Needs his cat nap

Must remember forever
Time cannot diminish
The world has never seen it, no never
They can’t share ‘photo finish’

Many of them sank
And kissed Mother Earth sprightly
Each took time to thank
Their Lord God Almighty

Don’t check for it now
Don’t wail no don’t weep
Team Jamaica vows
To take all the medals next Olympics

Now back to Jamaica we go
Enough medals we shelve
In our ‘home away from home’ (London)
We will take them all in 2012

Now this thing they call progress
They say must be incremental
Jamaica does not believe that
As we carry back so many medals

Jamaicans are upfull
Carry songs in our heart
Jamaicans are hopeful
That’s the way we did start

Bad men
Ask what do Olympics teach?
Why the farther we strive
The farther we reach

So rejoice! Don’t complain
Peace must rain down upon us
For this is the Hurricane
Thunder and Lightning did promise

Make this lesson not leave you
Shout out from the church steeple
Make the world know it’s true
Out of Many, One People!

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