Poetry

Adder

The adder’s taut head was a few feet away,

 

its lie a freeze of symmetry and curl

 

amongst the stones and scruffs of heather.

 

I remember feeling sure that the cleft it was

 

sunning in was going to be my next hold,

 

a craving to match the core of its stillness,

 

and the quick sense of being singled out,

 

not by a stumble of chance,

 

but as if the earth was letting me in.

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Coyote

A face, a flank – lit up

 

from his road kill hunt, oblivious.

 

As if we had called him into the beams

 

to break our cover, not his,

 

wanted the shock of him loping through.

 

 

Charlie Druce has lived in London since 1987 and works in TV production. He grew up in rural Worcestershire and finds the deep rooted sense of that is never far from the surface.

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He-Man and Hopscotch

We played He-Man and Hopscotch

one tomboy

one ballerina

both grass knee stained

and Marmite mouthed

by the end of the day

at Christine’s house

always so well behaved!

exclaimed mothers of others

as their offspring screamed

and smacked each other

we stood soberly by

hand in hand

silent agreement

never to make mum

deserve the stares

as they looked at

her hair and our hair

her eyes and our eyes

the bold ones

with questions of adoption

the others whispering

black men

loose morals

and African goldmines

we walked home in the rain

sometimes

and never complained

that mum didn’t drive

because she was always

the last to leave

and first to arrive

 

Some said she was mad

when she sold all her records

and everything she had

everything

except her wedding ring

to go to Nigeria

and live with dad

we went of course

bright eyed

and bushy afroed

yanked tight

into cainrows

when we skipped

off the plane

by aunty that mum said

still uses bleaching cream

and screams at her children

for just being

children

 

At school

we learnt algebra

a new history

and not to cry at the cane

skipping rope games

with Femi, Hope and Blessing

that we were white

(Oyinbo)

which was strange

since we were

half-caste

in the past

not all that much changed

because

children are adaptable

as mum said

to grandma

when

she cried

on the phone

and sent us

toiletries and other things

she thought

we couldn’t buy in Africa

 

Mum bought batik table cloths

and ethnic bowls

for friends that had moved

when she came home

and when she came home

things weren’t the same

so she didn’t

contact them anyway

she never unpacked

and all of those things

are still in a suitcase

mouldy like memories

of strange disease

TB, leprosy and

children with pot bellies,

of corruption

armed robbers

and police brutality

of dad away

on business

forweeks

it all seems so long ago

because children tend

to forget these things

 

As you grew lanky

and I got acne

we grew apart

somehow

sibling rivalry

replaced childhood sweetness

cruel words stuck and stayed

arguments

not so easily forgotten

with a mud pie

to the face

or the distraction

of a dragonfly

now we were teenage

things started to change

back in England

you covered for me

as I discovered boys

and climbed out of windows

your boyfriend was sensible

mine always

a bit too old

mum didn’t know

divorced now

and drinking heavily

she blamed dad for everything

dragging her to Nigeria

she drank to forget

the things we had seen

 

When you moved

away to London

I realised how close

we had been

you became my hero

as you lived out

ballerina dreams

I came to visit often

with the money

that you sent

we went to shows

ate Thai food

and laughed the same

as siblings do

summer times were

picnics on Primrose Hill

we played

different games now

and walked home

hand in hand

as the sun went down

both grass knee stained

now red wine mouthed

by the end of the day

at your new house.

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I Know a Place in Africa

I know a place in Africa

Where I can feel the sun on my back

And the sand between my barefoot toes

Where I can hear the gulls on the breeze

And the waves crash on the endless shore

I know a place in Africa

Where the mountains touch the skies of blue

And the valleys shelter vines of green

Where the trees spread out a cloth of mauve

And the bushveld wears a coat of beige

I know a place in Africa

Where I can hear the voice of thunder gods

And watch their lightening spears thrown to earth

Where I can breathe the scent of rain clouds

And taste the sweet dew of dusty drops

This is the place of wildness

Of evolution and dinosaurs

Where life began and mankind first stood

Of living fossils and elephants

Where lions roar and springbok herds leap

This is the place of struggle

Of desert plains and thorn trees

Where pathways end and hunters track game

Of horizons and frontiers

Where journeys start and sunsets bleed red

This is the place of freedom

Of exploration and pioneers

Where darkness loomed and light saw us through

Of living legends and miracles

Where daybreak came and hope now shines bright

My heart is at home in Africa

Where the sound of drums beat in my chest

And the songs of time ring in my ears

Where the rainbow mist glows in my eyes

And the smiles of friends make me welcome

My mind is at ease in Africa

Where the people still live close to the soil

And the seasons mark my changing moods

Where the markets hustle with trading

And Creation keeps its own slow time

My soul is at peace in Africa

For her streams bring lifeblood to my veins

And her winds bring healing to my dreams

For when the tale of this land is told

Her destiny and mine are as one

Wayne Visser is the author of ‘I Am An African: A Selection of Africa Poems’.

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Housewifery by Isobel Dixon

My walls grow fur, plush velveteen.

Come, brush your palms down my lush passageway.

The fridge hums greenly. Om. A mossy stone.

No chrome, no gloss. Soft emerald coat,

inside, a crystal frost. Such sprouting surfaces.

Footsteps are muffled here. Take off your shoes.

Walk softly. Let the nap and pile of unswept floors

caress your feet.

It’s only human, dust.

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Song by Siddhartha Bose

I have tied—firmly—my girl to
Stumps of iron, with
Rope of stone.

I keep her at home, feeding
Chewed bits—massacres—of
Lamb gut,
Fox eyes,
Duck fat.

My last lover
Belched me songs of fidelity.
We raised the child of our gut in a
Fog of streets—rainy days, garter belts, cigarette smoke,
Cholera.

The mother left me for my brother,
Eventually.
I went on to eat our produce, our lilac from dead loins,
Impeccably.

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London in Peace

The sunshine slaps my shadow across Hanbury Street.
There’s a skip to my step as the latest old song
Grabs me by the ears and snogs me hard
And London is in loooooove.
The slivers strewn and the sick spewn
Are testament to every rampant lust
That bowl around Hawksmoor’s towering prick.
We can touch the sky for but a moment
Before we smack back to the earth of this succulent city.

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Snow by Louis MacNeice

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

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A wikinquisitor writes his memoirs

We’d seen heavy trolling near the capital,
disruptive sockpuppets jumping patrols.
Grandma and ShriGanesh were blocked as sockpuppets of Kolabare,
who’d been blocked as a puppetmaster back in 2.0.
Rouge Admin were to blame, or the Mergists,
depending on which rumour you believed. Cabalist newbs
were applying the Pokémon test indiscriminately.
Civilisation cracked. When I got given the mop,
I gathered my meat puppets and instructed them to salt the earth.

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A Brief History of Combat Simulation by Ross Sutherland

Standing in front of the bay windows
of my crisply vectored apartment
wearing a promotional tee-shirt
I got free from a box manufacturing company,
looking out over the red light district
on the lower east side of the city
and wondering where I’m going to find my next job,
it’s easy to forget that none of this is real.

Catch me on a bulletin board
and I’ll talk of my teenage years on Mars,
the fog bank that used to wait for me at the end of my street.

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An extract from Glyn Maxwell’s poem “Liberty”

It is July 1793, just before the Terror.

Rose, an actress at the Theatre Nationale, recognizes Maurice, a former aristocrat who now makes a living doing puppet shows in the street. They met once at a picnic, and played a charade as ‘the White Hearts’.

‘The Friend’ is Marat. ‘The Incorruptible’ is Robespierre.

Rose  Excuse me, am I wrong, is it not Monsieur –
Maurice Mademoiselle –
Rose   The White Hearts
reunited!

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If Picabia Had Spun Above Zelażna Street by Ben Borek

… to be sung

Oh you maddened machine
no your face isn’t clean
in the traffic soot breeze-
you’re a relic

And the dirt on your face
is a wilful disgrace
from an affluent blip
in aesthetics

All the marks of your pox
as you sit in your box
are alight and they glow
with kinetics

But your dwellings are high
and it’s only my eye
trained on high that can see
for you’re fading

Dwindling out through the mist
made of rain and the grist
of your dreams and your thoughts
of mechanics

But your makeup is bone
you can’t leave it alone
though you cling to and sing
nonorganics

« All our progress is clear
to a seer up here
in my plane, with my brain
revolutions !

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Scratch a Liberal by Richard Tyrone-Jones

They say, ‘Scratch a liberal, you’ll find a fascist’.
But scratch a fascist, you’ll find a communist;
scratch a communist, you’ll find an anarchist;
scratch an anarchist, you’ll find a feudalist;
scratch a feudalist, you’ll find a Roman Republican;
scratch a Roman Republican, you’ll find a democrat,
though he will be incredibly tiny.

Richard Tyrone-Jones is a London-based poet and performer.

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