Home by Warsan Shire


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

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In honour of Bloomsday…

Yes

(after Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses)
 

Molly Bloom


…yes and then
I touched my finger to his lips
to stroke away the cider,
and put it to mine
and our tongues went plunging
– such a lush sweetness –
the grass so springy-soft on the cliff
and the waves crashing below
and I had to catch my breath
and the night’s perfume drowned
that tang of lamb
and I thought of my first kiss
– what was his name? Johnny? – yes,
his tongue so unexpected,
wriggling like an eel,
but this time it felt different,
and even his silence didn’t matter
when he stared, stared at my breasts
and I let my hair slip loose
like that Cape Town girl,
and you have moonlight in your eyes, he said
so I took him in my hand
and he whispered, would I,
ma petite phalène, he said
and I thought I may as well,
as well him as another,
and the sea was swirling below us in a froth
the sky gorgeous with stars
and I suggested with my eyes
that he ask again
and I knew he would
and I wondered if I’d say yes
and then I urged him down
and he found his way
through all my layers
and I might, I thought, yes
I think I will
say yes.
  
Yes is © Afric McGlinchey.
First appeared in The Lucky Star Of Hidden Things, published by Salmon (2012). Subsequently published in Poethead.

Image shows Muireann Kelly performing as Molly Bloom in a production of Liberate Ulysses.

MARY’S HOLDING JESUS, NOT LIKE A GOD BUT LIKE A BABY, LIKE I WOULD HOLD MY BABY, AND THEY ARE COVERED IN GOLD LIGHT, by MARY ACRE

Image result for amy acre poet

After David Jones

Mary is blue and turquoise
standing on a hill
geisha cheek and charring
Mary is rain and dusk
planting a bulb with her lips
bare feet in the moss
kindling
Mary is doll white
Mary with a lamb
little love
time still before she’ll lose him to the world
the gurning jaws of heaven
spread banquet for the men while she waits outside
but they won’t know his yawn like a baby owl
meerkat snuggle
smell of yeast and balm
Mary blue and brimming
the lamb on her lips
a soft moon
crescent of impossible flesh
Mary gold before the trade-off
before he grew infinite
and how she wore it then
stately
metallic
secretly grieving the moon eyes
that would follow her round the room
Mary doesn’t remember what sex with god felt like
only the sting of something snapped
a broken instrument
Joseph’s breath and beard
three men unwrapping
the infant screech of a goat
Mary with thunder that’s worse before the coming
like a week late period
Mary blue immaculate
blanketed boy on her chest
gone and golden
Mary would listen to all his sermons
scan them for in jokes
white smoke
a secret message
anything
but this fucking public man
Mary doesn’t feel holy
stuffing pigskin in bloody knickers
remembers how she bled for weeks after he came
Mary full of wine
not the warm waters of galilee
assistant magi
tipsy and trussed up
leotard shine
Mary and thirteen men on her right hand
Mary with a lamb crackling on a spit
when he blessed her
she wanted to spit in his face
tell him boy
i’m the one who wiped away your shit
when the moon came
she sank her teeth in
praying for the sweet bellied child
she tasted wafer dust
her blue mouth powder stuck
dry as an empty church

First published in Tears in the Fence. Amy Acre is a poet, performer and freelance writer from London, and the editor of Bad Betty Press.

On Platform 3 by Blessing Musariri

Further to the 2018 Harare Literary Festival, this is another of the Zimbabwean poets with whom I’ll be exchanging ideas about Writing and Attention Economy, along with Prof. Etienne van Heerden, Charity Hutete and Sabina Mutangadura, in a panel discussion chaired by Lawrence Hoba.  Blessing and I have quite a bit in common! As well as writing poetry, we both studied journalism at Rhodes University; we both went to Dominican Convents; we worked in advertising agencies as copywriters – and we have the same impulses around trains! Looking forward to meeting Blessing.

On Platform 3

The 3.28 has been cancelled.
I’ve been dropped off and left alone,
no-one likes this side of morning – but I with my love of holiday,
left in singular dread, in a place unusually deserted.
After all, I am not a Lost Boy, wandering through Sudanese nights,
afraid of lions and land-mines. I am in Luton –
well-lit; a target for any passer-by,
who has issues with his mother, but,
it’s the land of CCTV.

They are sorry to announce that
the oh three twenty-eight service to St Pancras
has been cancelled. They should have announced it in my dreams
so I could sleep a little longer.
Time doesn’t tick, but lingers,
drones seamlessly in my ears, bites into skin,
slowing fingers, stiffening limbs,
nibbles at microscopic morsels in my gut until it grumbles.

There’s no one here to answer my questions,
only machines, mouths open for my money.
I’ve walked for miles in tiny circles,
the killer has not come, and still, the tracks are silent.
They don’t announce the loss of the 3.28 anymore,
they are over it now, but I am flying to sea, sun and sand,
I must sit and wait.

I Used to Like Tomatoes by Dambudzo Marechera

Dambudzo Marechera

Getting to know the work of Zimbabwean poets, and of course I have to start with the late Dambudzo Marechera, the most influential poet for the current generation. Here’s one for you:

I Used to Like Tomatoes

I get tired of the blood
and the coughing
and more blood
I get out of that flat real fast
to some cool quarrelling bar
and talk big to bigger comrades
washing down the blood with Castle an’ Label
shaking hands about Tsitsi bombed to heaven
trying to forget I don’t like cooking in dead people’s
pots and pans
I don’t like wearing and looking smart-arse in dead
people’s shirts an’ pants
(They said yoh mama an’ bra been for you
said these are your inheritance)
I’m soon tight as a drum can’t drink no more
It’s back at the flat on my back
swallowing it all red back hard down
I woke up too tired to break out so bright red a bubble.

Discovering contemporary African poets

I’m in Zimbabwe at the moment, and thanks to the Irish poet, Joseph Woods, who recommended me, and the festival organiser, Chirikure Chirikure, I’ll be taking part in the 2018 Harare Literary Festival, so I’m acquainting myself with the poets with whom I’ll be reading Love Letters to Africa on Thursday the 29th November.

This is a poem by Numero Uomo Giese (photographed below), a writer and photographer from Nigeria, who also fund-raises for charities.

Ad-Vantage
a.k.a. Sonnet of the Breadseller’s Baby

My vantage point, upon the tender petals
Of my young soul did indelibly mark,
Like heifer‘s flesh branded with red hot metal,
A sense of business, value, clear and stark.
While peers in Europe‘s pushchairs had a vista
Broad with horizons of great means,
We Africans, me, my brother, my sister

Beheld from mother‘s back our glorious scenes.
More than just knees, buttocks and belts
From up there we saw customers assist
Her tray to the ground, pay, and duly help
It back upon her head as she‘d persist
In pursuing for us a better living.
Today I repay her for all that giving.

                                                         *

And here’s a lovely (untitled), award-winning haiku from the Ugandan poet, Carolyne M. Acen, pictured below.

the drunken cockroach
reels around the verandah-
rooster chuckles

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Zimbabwe’s Charity Hutete (pictured  below) is a dynamic page and performance poet whose written work has been described as ‘a layered feast’.
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Here is one of her poems:

Men & Alcohol

men are much like alcohol
some leave only a bitter after taste in your mouth but without any long term effects. some are a little more devastating. they relieve you of your senses, temporarily. only to wake up drowning in self-loathing, that hangover of the soul, a souvenir of a near death experienced barely survived.

if such a man is not speedily discarded however,
he will eventually be the death of you. he infects your soul with a slow and agonizing terminal illness similar to the liver cirrhosis one gets from excess alcohol consumption except this is the death of the soul.

he slyly stabs at your self confidence
resulting in the steady seepage of your person, drip drip drip. the leaking of your essence into the hundred and one other men in whom you will seek to find wholeness again. ironically it is in these rebound affairs we’re lost entirely, where personality dissolves like salt in hot water which is visually imperceptible but the bitterness is unmistakable upon taste.

yet some men are like a tall glass of red wine
mature, refined, full bodied. one small dose of him relaxes body and mind, making you want to kick off your shoes, lower your head into the centre of his sturdy chest
and drift into a peaceful slumber as you listen to the steady beat of a sincere heart.

i waited at many a bar for a tall, crimson drink
sipping on virgin daiquiris until I whiffed a glass from heaven’s vine. i recognised him immediately. a glass of red looks, smells and tastes like a glass of red, it’s never complicated. A Jack on the rocks will never appear or feel like a tall glass of red wine
unless you’ve had way too much to drink.

                                                                  *

Batsirai Chigama (pictured below)  is a Zimbabwean spoken word  poet and activist. She is a graduate of the University of Zimbabwe.  Gather the Children,  her first collection of poems, is ‘a reflection on Zimbabwe in the last ten years; chronicling stories of displacement, loss and desperation.’

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Here is one of her poems:

Frills of Winter

He comes to me

says we must bury mother

I say to him brother

we buried her eight years ago

incessantly he knocks on my door

at midnight

gathers the frills of winter about him

mumbles frosty things I don’t understand

words tripping on his tongue

in the chaos of it all

he insists we must bury mother

He wasn’t there when she died

he an economic prisoner in some foreign land

fending for us the economic orphans of this land

bought a white dome casket for mother’s send off

she would have been proud of her final resting home,

I bet

he says he didn’t cry, he couldn’t

and those tears must now harangue him

in places where his sleep should be

Up and down the corridor he paces

in search of closure in the doors facing west

I can only hold him for a while, hug him like a child

a fifty-year old man in my arms

in this temporary lull he mumbles.

                                                            *

Tawona Sithole (pictured below) is a Zimbabwean poet and musician living in Glasgow. He co-founded Seeds of Thought, a collective that aims to promote the sharing of cultures through the arts. His work is influenced by the oral traditions of his ancestors.

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Here is one of his poems:

casting off

cast your mind
to an age of clay
when earthly hands
sculpt lively earthenware
earthiness is worthiness
worthiness is earthiness

cast your mind
to an age of granite
when rocks are significant
vital and magnificent
a rockery is a gallery
a rockery is a gathering

cast your mind
to an age of iron
when iron ore from the iron core
forges truths of cast iron
ironsmiths are wordsmiths
wordsmiths are ironsmiths

cast your mind
to an age unknown
when unknowns are significant
vital and magnificent
realities of figment
figments of reality

                                                                        *

Momo Size (pictured below) is a self-proclaimed love poet and a leading Zimbabwean spoken word artist.

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Here is one of her poems:

Love Makes the World Go Round

Love makes the world go round they had told me.

When you  looked into my eyes that Saturday my knees had literally bent in joyful weakness.

Nights became filled with long text messages and those popular laugh out loud phrases.

Your  love brought me strange sweet chaos.

I had worn you  like a locket held fast around my neck.

Had worn you like the only hope anchoring my belief in love.

I had given you my soul ,my heart, my hands to fragments that had felt like home.

I felt dizzy with what was to come this was going to be happy ever after right?

I forgot that love has to grow.

So I got frustrated and we began to break, tearing away from the new foundation we began leaving the pieces of us behind.

Shrugged you off like a bad memory and said to myself that this is not meant to be.

Our young love torn by the commercialisation of love filled with high expectations, disappointment, mistrust, lust and the need to be always right.

We began disintegrating like a small town experiment gone wrong.

The words that had passed between us suddenly became lifeless and confused.

 

All the promises we had made with our heartbeats became dead and lay there, breathless.

I pray my heart forgets the warm feel of your hands on my skin.

I wait for the day when my soul does not yearn to reach out to  you on a bad day.

May these thoughts of you cease to float in my dreams.

I pray to forget the sparkle in your eye when you  looked at me like diamonds were found in these brown eyes .

I hope my arms forget your embrace and that 1st kiss that brought me down to my knees.

I bow  down with these scrapped knees and pray that no pieces of you were left within my veins that my mind extracts the beautiful music your laugh made.

Your fingers danced lightly on my soft skin like a lonely tango beat playing slowly at midnight .My mind feels like it’s suffocating with your memory sometimes. How sad that love grows apart .

Goodness I hope the eyes of my soul forget those beautiful eyes that planted fire-filled kisses with each stare.

It’s not your fault or mine that you couldn’t stay; some things are meant just for a season.

So when someone walks up to me and says love makes the world go round I  laugh out loud and show them my scars.

Love makes the world go round they had told me.

                                                                     *

Philani Amadeus Nyoni  (pictured below) is an award-winning Zimbabwean poet and actor. He is currently working towards his first collection, Once a Lover, Always a Fool.

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Here is one of his poems:

Ghosts of Freetown

You are not Haiti,
You have no Wycleff Jean,
And too far to make your problems our own,
So we can’t hear the crackling of your fires,
Nor smell your smokes of desperation.
The forests are buried as coffins,
Children drowning in mud
While the world chews the cud.
Is it because your skin is muddy
That there’s no humanity for your agony?
And what of those who look like you,
What did they say, what did they do?
How lonely is misery,
Though diamonds bring much much company!
But diamonds are stone they cannot see,
And children are precious beyond measure.
Today your real treasure returns to the dust,
Africa has buried her future again!
Weep not too hard, times death is mercy.
The future is buried again dear Africa,
Buried with hope, not just any hope,
With the hope, and a prayer to the Nile,
That one day we will all be free,
Truly free, as free as death,
Free, as these ghosts of Freetown.

                                                                   *

Tendekai Philemon Tati,  better known by his stage name Madzitatiguru (pictured below) is a is a Zimbabwean spoken word artist, six-time slam champion and comedian, who performs mostly in the Shona language.

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Here is one of his English poems:

Speaker

I feel connected to my inner self,
angry and disturbed
and as I stepped to the podium I felt my chest was stabbed
from with in

My heart beat harder as I knew I was jumping in
But I got louder and put these words that are in…
…Your ears
In…
…to my mouth
and my mouth speaketh out
And the speakers are not speaking
They are vibrating imitating
what my mouth bringeth out

If I’m louder than possible
then it’s because of the microphone
But the microphone does not amplify to that amplitude on its own
You’re going to need an amplifier
a mixer
and at least one loud speaker
I’m a speaker and I’m loud
so you won’t need your magnetic speakers
You need me

One native speaker whose nature is already loud
Who speaks when he’s given a chance
and speaks even louder when he’s not allowed

Who do I speak for
And who do I speak to
I speak to those who I speak for
And I speak to me too
As I recall the first time I was sent home for school fees at grade two
And feeding on Sadza reKenya back in 1992

Hot sitting at school tichipinda muClass na2
That was the class of the life I lived, I still do
And that’s who
I speak for
The so called second class citizens
Citizen class two

                                                                      *

Moffat Moyo (pictured below) is a poet who teaches English Literature and Language at the University of Zambia.

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Here is one of his poems:

Africa

It is the fire of the bushes
And the winds of the wilderness
And the dust of the skies
That gives Africa its name
It is the gods of the deep
And the devils of the high
And the fowl of the air
And the angels that care:
It is the green of life
And the dark brown of souls
And the clay pot of life by the Msoro tree
And the waters of the Zambezi
Freely but furiously falling to form the famous Victoria Falls
And, at dawn, the sound of nature
And, at night, the moon of beauty
And the nature we nurture
That gives Africa its name
This is Africa.

 

 

       

       

       

 

 

 



Peaceful Transition by Tony Hoagland

This is the most powerful poem I’ve read this year. And now I feel a desperate pang, again, that Tony Hoagland is no longer in the world. Although, maybe that’s his luck.

Tony H
Peaceful Transition

by Tony Hoagland

The wind comes down from the northwest, cold in September,
and flips over the neighbor’s trash receptacles.

The Halifax newspaper says that mansions are falling into the sea.
Storms are rising in the dark Pacific.

Pollution has infiltrated the food chain down to the jellyfish level.
The book I am reading is called “The End of the Ascent of Man.”

It says the time of human dominion is done,
but I am hoping it will be a peaceful transition.

It is one thing to think of buffalo on Divisadero Street,
of the Golden Gate Bridge overgrown in a tangle of vine.

It is another to open the door of your own house to the waves.
I am hoping the humans will be calm in their diminishing.

That the forests grow back with patience, not rage;
I am hoping the flocks of geese increase
 their number only gradually.

Let it be like an amnesia that we don’t even notice;
the hills forgetting the name for our kind. Then the sky.

Let the fish rearrange their green governments
as the rain spatters slant on their roof.

It is important that we expire.
It is a kind of work we have begun in order to complete.

Today out of the north the cold wind comes down,
and I go out to see

the neighbor’s trash bins have toppled in the drive.
I see the unpicked grapes have turned
to small sweet raisins on their vine.

I see the wren has found a way to make its little nest
inside the cactus thorns.

—Tony Hoagland (1953-2018)