ms. connings said that at fourteen years old, the sparks between them
would of been enough to set the whole of middle america blazing--
leaving us non-believers standing in smoldering cornfields
she said the looks shared across ivy covered balustrades sent
gossamer threads of dedication
stronger than the tightropes in Ringling Bros
and the letters they penned to each other by flickering candlelight?
every word a symphony unto itself
the clash of consonants and clarinets, vowels and violins, syllables and saxophones
and then the bell rings, and geometry looms
and romeo and juliet dance away in a cloud of smoke
smiling at our hopeless high school sagas
The sun, today –
Gunmetal droplets of perspiration
I take the bus - through Peckham.
Knickers lie flaccid
Like salted jellyfish - tentacle pink,
briny in £2 racks of rainbow.
Peckham Rye lane is tight
as damp and crammed as a coconut shell
afro combs and mobile phones in the white heat –
punctuated cornrows and seed beads,
cornflower scrunchies, liquorice weaves.
The delicate babies in KFC,
children, plaid-dressed children,
wailing, clutching drumsticks like weapons.
the pavement is a gruesome meat,
each person is a sturdy hairbrush bristle on its surface.
Angels gaze from the treetops
like William Blake
How did it happen?
Ten hours and ten minutes more
but the day has ended, and I see you:
shoes still on your feet, and your clothes,
all the colours out of place against the mortuary walls.
I remember: The way you’d hold my hand
in both of yours, the way you'd ask, smiling,
The night is eloquent
but I have hemmed myself in.
No words to give
so I fold paper and
feed it to the fire,
watching flames lick
through the petals,
each incense structure
curling and crumbling,
I remember: Sunday afternoons at your store,
you teaching me how to count out change
and letting me sit in your storekeeper's armchair
When they sing
it's part of the ritual.
I don't understand the dialect,
your dialect, but I close my eyes
as the voices lift, soar, dip,
in a language of grief
that requires no translation.
I remember: Dinner with you,
your cooking fragrant as you urged us on,
eat, eat, eat generously, eat more.
It's a beautiful morning today
and we're sending you off.
In my head I try to talk to you,
think of the things I would have
liked to say to you, imagine
how you would have answered.
I remember: Once asking your age
and not having enough fingers and toes
for your sixty six years.
We watch from behind a glass panel
as you make your last journey alone,
slowly, in a box on a track, into the crematorium.
When we emerge the sky is the brightest it's been in days
I remember your smile, the creases around your eyes,
the way your hands were always cool and dry.
Nobody says a thing on the way back
But when we smile with the tears still in our eyes
I hope you know we're thinking of you.
我很好, 我很好. **
* Ni hao ma? - How are you?
** Wai po, ni hao ma? / Wo hen hao, wo hen hao. -Grandma, how are you? / I'm fine, I'm doing fine.
I exfoliate with sea salt
I moisturise in garlic
I rub raw pink chicken
smooth as a baby
So I can smell
deep in my skin
all those meals that I've cooked.
Ginger mixed with onions
butter and cauliflower.
if the time is right
just inside my wrist
I'm proudest though of my left thumb
hard as a nut with its own grand canyon.
Here years of bluntly cutting cucumber have
given me my war wound
my armour plated thumb.
You my hands aren't as soft as some
nor is your skin a pearly peach.
But with you in my kitchen
I can hold the whole world
and I can slice red pepper
at the speed
I like to imagine that we are so ordinary
We have names to shout from rooftops
From which we can jump, arms akimbo
And take leave of our bodies in religion.
I like to imagine that we are so ordinary
We can dedicate our lives to some gentle lethargy
Tea and rampant bibliophilia
A vintage car fixed up with love, and a battalion of leafy plants
Hushed evenings of curry, and the drone of a TV
Redoing the walls with tubs of paint
Teetering on ladders, wiping away the crusted white
From the tips of our shoulderblades.
I like to imagine that we are so ordinary
I could slip inside your ceaseless summer
Fit as an Armani suit
Folding over in the wet, warm creases of your skin,
That the wings on your back are plastic imitation
Dyed chicken feathers glued messily, come undone in my hands
And that we are shaped by the pull of gravity
Burning human satellites
With no politic or gradation between us.
We'll make ginger snaps wrapped
in ribbons, bake trays of mudcake
spilling into crevices in the oven
mix the icing with too much sugar
and too many sprinkles
not enough chocolate or lashings
of water; lick it from our hands
and stickily push our hair
from our faces. We'll finish up
and leave bowls unwashed
on the draining board, trays of sweets
and cakes and darling things sunning
on the windowsill. There are tattered
dresses in my wardrobe
and we'll sew them into duvet-covers
on which we'll draw maps in eyeliner
pencils and face-powder, body-glitter
rolled across to mark the seven seas,
the ever-collapsing ocean.
We'll hide under the world
and turn off the lights, even the lights
flickering inside the globe that we'll make
from a bedside lamp, blue paint,
the shade we'll find in a corner
of the attic. I think that we should recite
the names of every country until it all goes green
around us; you start with Abkhazia and I'll
draw the atlas from under my pillow, softly
turn the page with another lick
and say even softer, I think, that one day
we'll end it all in Kuwait, Kuwait,
the kingdom near the sea.
When I slip my grades, blunder fingers
through an audition, refuse to gather my tongue,
my father sits me in the library, self-important:
Between study and study
and study, he was expected
to uphold ancestry's honor, clean his
family's worn apartment, patch
the gaps between its teeth. One day, they could not
afford tincan noodles. Starving,
he stole a fistful of grains, tricked
a chicken from its stingy owner,
Through various repeats, I still
do not know how the art of pheasant-murder
transmutes to chemistry. Instead, I nod dutifully, think how
simple for my father to sacrifice rice for meats, wonder
if he will as easily dissolve love
OK OK OK listen. You mincepied? You roastpotatoed? You goosefatted?
You burping in public? No worries, no worries, come, come and see
what we have here. We have Lycra, pink, green, leopard-print,
and pumping pumping muzak (top 40 type, you'll recognise),
gym membership, yoga mat, swimming costume, Lucozade coupons
et cetera now: listen: carefully: you start and you do not
stop you do not stop look LOOK at her, she did not stop
now look at her bouncy hair and happy children
and the sunlight. No worries, come, come.
If you got the money buy berries, porridge, bulgur wheat,
this exotic polysyllabic lettuce that actually consumes fat inside you
or if not, percentages, 3%, 1%, 0%, or traffic light colours.
Sooper-dooper. Nothing you couldn't work out with a piece of paper
and a brain and some time but never mind this is prettier.
This is Comic Sans. This is louder. Come, come.
OK OK OK go. We have our cake. See you next year.
you silkflutter at my window,
amberdust wings in a flurry of hope,
legs and arms tangle, scramblescraping
at the stoneblack glass,
shivering across the loose-slip surface
no foothold, crack or nook to stop.
my cruel reflection thrown over you
and flung into the night at the stars
(where you should be, throfting milk-white at the moon)
stares through me black and cold and clangs,
for I’m goose-guilty of this sly deception: for me
the light clucked on and spread its beamy fingers out
to you, and beckoned lithely through the dark.
you tint and tut and thub and thud again,
again, against the blot-strong glass, you ram
and butt your blunt flat head, and bleed mothblood,
and pulp yourself to death – for nothing
but a humming siren, pulsing
fools-gold lovebeams at the night.
A father looks on at his empire: buildings, walls, business
Rent, money, tax, segments of one father's real son.
His DNA son looks at a picture, a picture of his
Father at a young age working a hard farm life.
He sees hunger.
Hunger not for a roast dinner but for an empire.
The DNA son looks into his father's eyes,
Pools of his own blue.
A cricket match.
Another opportunity for a father to disappoint.
The DNA son looks to the crowd for a father's unforgiving face.
The match has been won, but the crowd don't understand
Why one of the players is not smiling.
The son looks up, sees his father, by his side,
He's looking at his son's poem,
Tears are rolling down his face.
It was a hot day, too hot for June.
I took him to the beach with a picnic; red wine
and strawberries, like when we were young.
He was wearing his suit (never had
much of a memory; he got up for work on Sunday).
With rolled up cuffs like a little boy he sat in the sand
and spoiled his trousers,
sucked the juice of a strawberry and gave me
little red kisses.
it was our anniversary, too,
of course. But I didn't mind.
We drank a lot of that wine, a viscous red. It was nice,
He chased me on the sand dunes in the heat
and I cut my foot on the grass spears.
By evening, our empty glasses
looked like bloodied light,
empty bottles full of a sticky green glimmer.
My head was full of it too. Full of an anniversary
that felt like a honeymoon.
I sat with a red serviette on my foot and watched him
run into the sunset.
He called something back to me; no,
not to me, to the sea.
I laughed and couldn't hear.
He ran out into the foam, shouting still,
but he gave up and took me back to the car.
Lying on the seat, my foot throbbed, my nose was peeling.
I felt invincible, I slept while he fetched
the remains of our evening.
How many hours in that blissful sleep
how many moments of lost confusion
and where was he, by the time I reached the shore?
The sea was beautiful and incessant
chewing up the sand at my feet
as I called his name.
Those dunes were silent
and the water a smug Red Sea -
parted for him, betrayed and closed over him,
while my eyes bled tears to join the salt that stole him.
I knew the shoulder's anatomy;
how it worked on curves, the joint's smooth rig,
the elegant roll of the pulley
that preceded Newton's boltless bridge.
I had focused on the eyes though,
or the places love can act
with the lights out, where the smile
is like a curtain drawing back.
Perhaps it's simply that until your shoulders shone
last night when you wore that dress
that was a chalky halo draped around your chest,
their skin so young, a field unsown,
a God unphotographed, lost continents from lore –
I had never realised how beautiful your shoulders were before.
I am from a life filled with colour,
From the chocolate brown that is my skin.
I am from the sunshine yellow of my mother's laugh,
From the red and white of my brother's favourite football shirt.
I am from the crisp new white pages of a book,
From the miserable grey of the street I live on.
I am from green, pink and yellow; My garden in summer filled
From the terrifying black of the nightmares that haunt me.
I am from the ginger orange of my buried cat,
From the blue and gold of my ever-short school tie.
I am from the dark oak of my grandmother's coffin,
From the golden "Aum" pendant around my neck..
I am from every pink scar etched into my body,
From the red, orange and brown of a hot curry.
I am from every identical colour of the twins I love,
From the blue and green of a hospital ward.
I am from all that has happened,
And all that will be.
In days of yore when England fair,
Hath fallen into disrepair,
The knight to whom she in despair,
Did gratefully turn was Tony Blair.
T’was glorious, that triumphant sight!
The hearts o’the nation hath shone bright,
With hopes that the fearless Sir Blair might,
Put all the wrongs o’England right.
The dragon slain, the kingdom won,
Indeed hath Tony well begun,
And England hath rejoiced as one,
When spake he thrice, “Education”.
To fight the nation’s enemies,
Sir Tony gathered brave M.P.s,
And with the help of such as these,
He drew up many wise decrees.
Blair swore from thence that ne’er should live,
In that house a Conservative,
That all he had he’d surely give,
To stand o’er his land defensive.
But though Sir Blair airs could put on,
His power could not forever go on,
For soon o’er Westminster horizon,
Showed the form of David Cameron.
Sir Cameron was brave and good.
Whilst in the chamber great he stood,
Proclaimed he to the world that they should,
Embrace all those who wore a hood.
Sir Cameron gloriously decreed,
From his energy saving steed,
That he too could take the lead,
And meet the English people’s needs.
Sir Blair himself made judgements poor
In leading his kingdom to war,
It had been done by many before,
But ruin was all his people saw.
Many men whom Blair had happy made,
Now their champion hath betrayed,
And came to young Cameron’s aid.
It seemed that Blair’s power would fade.
Thus when the time came for election,
Blair to his men gave the direction,
To each ride out to his own section,
And campaign for Blair’s protection.
When at last the day came for the duel,
It fell that Blair again should rule,
But had he now votes minimal,
Whence he had had them one and all.
How cruel it seems Sir Blair to blame,
O he of nineties Labour fame,
For despite Cameron’s young blue flame,
The two were really much the same.
But Cameron, with all things green,
And helmet and two wheeled machine,
Though threatening, could not have been,
The only threat that Blair had seen.
For Blair had lasted contests three,
And now the choice was made by he,
To resign with dignity.
Another knight his heir should be.
In this way Tony hath stepped down,
Moved out from number ten in town,
And gallantly he passed the crown,
To that brave knight, Sir Gordon Brown.
Crimson sinew of pummelled raspberries
And bittersweet citrus Squished and Oozed
To a sticky vibrant pulp
Glugs out of the carton marked
The juices rise to the rim
Slip down my throat;
I can feel the sharp tang fester and bloom
As the pith sinks to the bottom of the glass.
A midsummer haze later
And the Man and his autocue inform us
Of the car bomb in London.
He tells it like it is,
Black and white characters on a changing screen
The time, the place,
And that they didn't go off.
Yet everywhere the nation freezes –
Then sighs as it melts back into lukewarm normality
Because this is reality
And in reality
These things never
But at the back of the mind
The suppressed fear of a nation lingers
As I decide I'll have water, not juice, today.
Anthony Adler, Ayodeji Ajanaku, Mopelola Ajao, Phoebe Amis, Jocelyn Arnold, Kate Ashton-Butler, Tom Ayling, Dannish Babar, Joe Bakes, Ben Barker, Briony Beckett, Leanne Bridgewater, Georgina Brown, Rachel Burns, Ivy Callaway, Peter Candy, Laura Carr, Sophie Clarke, Jenn Clarke, Heidi Clifford, James Coghill, Helen Cooper, Camilla Crawshaw, Emma Cullen, Olivia Cunningham, Callan Davies, Jessica Dove, Frankie Drew, Jack Edwards, Natasha Footman, Patrick Ford, Kayleigh Fox, Holly Green, Amy Gregg, Sarah Hammond, Alice Hancock, Olivia Hanson, Helen Harvey, Robert Henthorn, Alys Hobbs, Howard Horner, Naomi Hyba, Natasha Hyman, Fatima Jalil, Daisy Jones, Cedrik Kavanagh, Sawsan Khalaf, Aimee Kwan, Agnes Lambert, Andrew Latimer, Jessica Lauren, Ben Leverett-Jaques, Geoffrey Lim, Ziwei Lin, Faye Lipson, Zeljka Marosevic, Charlotte Martin, Jessica Mattler, Frankie Meadows, Paul Merchant, Kaja Met, Matt Morris, Ashleigh Newnham, Chu Ting Ng, Marjan Nouhnejad, Szu Yoong Ong, Katie Painter, Jessica Reid, Charlotte Repton, Caitlin Robbins, Ronnie Robertson, Emily Russell, Kate Ryrie, Sabrina Sayeed, Adham Smart, Sophie Stephenson-Wright, Kirsten Stewart, Elizabeth Francine Tan, Beatrice van Grutten, Rebekah Vince, William Warren, Tomas Weber, Abigail White, Rosetta Young, Jing Zhu.