Dilly Dally

Institute History

  • 1998 June Screenwriters Lab


By turns, a New York City cabbie, optometrist, and poet, new American Donovan traverses the scary, fascinating emotional landscape of immigration. Struggling with the cultural dilemmas of assimilation, home sickness and endless expectation, he leaves Jamaica, a thriving career and family, goes from majority to minority, from breadfruit to bagel, fast track to preposterous life of a poet. His marriage wobbles as his involvement with the downtown New York City scene becomes irresistible. Illuminated by Donovan's poetry, we follow his trajectory from past.

. . . Tambourine
is Harvest Sunday
Smell of sugar-loaf pines
Breadfruits bigger than Elder head
We shall come rejoicing
bringing in the sheaves
Striped sugar canes so tall
they touch ceilingless zinc roof
then curve half way back down
unpainted cement wall . . .

. . . through alienation:

I rise each day
to yet another shock
from dis alarm-clock culture
And I miss di sound
of mi big red cock
as him beat him chest
and crow welcome song
to di sun
from di fowl-shit-covered
guava tree pon de hillside . . .
. . . And di snooze button allow me five minute
more to dream bout ackee and breadfruit
Den I get up and eat a bagel
and worry bout mi love handle . . .
. . .So dem force me to buy
a piece of the FBI
Cia investment pie
And dem give me a W2
form in
of a receipt . . .

. . . De Korean polish him apples dem clean
and arrange dem in stacks of red, gold and green
say him want Rasta to feel welcome, seen? . . .
. . . Still i yearn for de breeze
from de Natty Bay sea
as it cool down de sweat pon mi back
Long to feed dry coc'nut to mi cock . . .
. . . so I dilly
and I dally
and I wonder
how much longer
I can philander
Cause each time I bite di apple
it swallow a piece of me
Still it hard to love di fruit
if I never did climb di tree

. . .his fascination with pop psyche:

Baby says hi, tells me I look good
I add that I'm also on time
Baby says that's great
but still late and besides
it's a bad idea for us to meet anymore
Baby's pouting that pout pout
that always precedes her tears . . .
. . . She promised her analyst, her group
she would stop seeing me . . .
. . . Baby says there'll never be
another man
with whom she can play backgammon
while he is sitting on the can
Baby says she's not punishing me
but I need professional help
Baby says she can't forgive last week
she waited three times in restaurants
and I didn't show
I remind her I had an accident
one of those times
car was totalled
Baby says I get into accidents deliberately
so I can be late
that my shit is deep-seated
my aggression is passive
I'm in denial . . .
. . . Baby says the endless waiting
lowers her self-esteem . . .

. . .and the mainstreaming of the downtown scene:

Finally long-overdue dedication to you
I ask their opinion
They say we have a hit
but we must edit for radio
Also for MTV
And tighten up the meter
And write a hook to make it catchy . . .
. . . I tell' em straight up
your poem's not for sale
They tell me Shut up
This ain't selling out
this is buying in . . .
. . . They're butchering your poem, can't you see?
Already gone with verses one and three
made it neutral, race-non-specific
Mass appeal, wider demographic
It's your poem, don't you recognize?
trimmed, neutered, sanitized
But that ain't selling out
That's buying in.


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