Dust to Dust

Arrived on Saturday night.
Dock at Liverpool, Victoria train,
address in Lewisham, grip tight.
Sunday morning, looking out of di window,
I took fright, onest. 
Brick ouses!
Smoke through di chimney
like West Indies boiling ouse
where di mule go round
grinding cane.
Smoke comin out.
I say, dis ouse like boiling ouse.

I made mi living plastering. All week long.
Always dress in suit an tie
to go to di building site.
Winter an summer.
Dat’s how I come to catch dis sickness.
Ole buildings.
Plasterboard an asbestos.
I encounter it plenty,
tearing down ceilings.
Inhaling, choking,
coughing up dust 
Spit, thick. Black like coal.

Four years I have dis cough. Four years.
Down di Walworth Road,
I buy differen bush, boil it.
Roast lemon on top of di fire,
squeeze it out wit honey, like at ome.
Then di doctor show me X-ray,
shadow overing over di lung.
I take it wit a smile.
Grew up wit good parents, believe in God.
I trust an pray
an ting like dat.

Not planning to die over ‘ere. Not me.
Not ever.
I want to go ome, bury in our land
where I ‘appy. My spirit free
to fly like di bird, over mango tree,
apple tree,
rivers and di sea.
When di moon shine at night,
Certain times of year, 
can stan an look 
for miles.
an miles.

Pearl Burton interviewed by Julia Honess in 2013 for The Roots Project. www.therootsstory.co.uk. It looks like Pearl and 'Morris', who 'Dust to Dust' is about, might have both been going to Baldwins at the same time for their 'bush'.