on deleting her number

what a relief
to not dream of you anymore
to not compare you to a full moon
nor my heart to the tides on the shore.

what a blessing
to have grazed on your velvet lips
to know love can make me the sun
to abandon metaphors and be light.

you should know
you are still a star in my night sky
one that i point to and say: see heart,
this is the way, this is how to burn.

John Legend

I remember the first time I heard John Legend:
Ordinary People or Heaven Only knows,
I heard monochrome and soul transcending
I messaged Sam on MSN – bro have you heard this?!
and rushed to download it on limewire which took an age
but fifteen year old me felt it deep and it was worth the wait
to hear John sing “Used to Love U”, and I’d post the lyrics on facebook
hoping Megan would see.

I remember being sat on our desktop with the big back in our tiny flat,
bypassing adult filters and McAfee security
to stream these songs on our dial up
singing that chorus like I’d really been through the fire.
I’d hit the bridge with full throat
I bet you miss nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yehhhh

I hit those notes, believe me.
And I’m still the same fifteen year old boy
who will do anything for a heartfelt melody.

Start of Autumn in Paris

Sat outside a bar near Pigalle,
with autumn painting the earth
caramel and sky lilac,
the space between is a sweet wrapper
sticky and crisp like toffee,
bartenders get us drinks not on the menu +
we talk about the French and how they stare,
how they hold eye contact two seconds too long
how they say excusez moi after they’ve
flung you across the metro
and how the women are pencil thin and the men straw,
we laugh. and in between gunshot mopeds and
bicycles with tiny baskets, we see congregations
ebb and flow and we stare too long.

At least we had Sir Trevor McDonald

When we first came to England,
we’d watch BBC Newsnight at ten
and without fail, there’d be a Black
and white mugshot of a young Black man,
accused, jailed, on the run
be warned, do not approach,
dangerous, drugs, drugged,
dreadlocks, armed, knives,
pistols, smuggled, search warrant
warrant for an arrest, on going investigation,
wanted for theft, armed robbery,
stabbed, stabbing, burglary,
arson, forgery, fraud, shot
immigrant, migrant, deportation,
questions must be raised about
black on black
violence, the community, African, Caribbean
the influence of rap, grime, drill,
Fathers- where are the fathers?
Jailed, juveniles, jobless,

and we’d watch this with our
takeaway kebab in our cul de sac
in Northern England where I learnt I was black

and the BBC would have Black guests on
only when one of us was stabbed, killed, mobbed,
like Black people don’t have opinions on the stars,
the impact of invasive species on the Northumberland coast
the influence of Hitchcock on modern film-making
or even allow us to cook our own foods on TV.
Jamie Oliver making mushy jollof rice on prime time channel 4
like it was harder to find an aunty or any uncle to do the job.

anyway, we’d switch to ITV where we – at least – had
Sir Trevor McDonald.

Teach me how to light a Molotov

Now is time for fire
put aside the hymn books, the liturgy, the word
polish the brass of your knuckles
file your teeth and sharpen your heels,
bite with all your might, rip the sinew out
strike against the knees of propped up pawns
take them to the ground, face to the earth
let them hear Abel’s blood crying out, loud
let them hear the crackle and thunder of our spirit
this is time for the fire.

Sunday morning runway

If you don’t know much about theology
& don’t know much about fashion
a Lagos Sunday morning will school you:

There’s gele and agbada, buba and fila
it’s not about matching, it’s – coordination –
sometimes with the congregation
other times with your partner,
make sure the ushers
and other preying eyes know, this is mine,
don’t lay hands lest I dash your ear like Peter.

Sometimes the Pastor will coordinate his mike
with his tie and if he’s really bringing fire, his leather shoes
and if the Holyghost is to come, the handkerchief must be tight,
close to the breast, a subtle nod to the top
tucked beneath the three piece.

Oh! The choir on thanksgiving Sunday
is all you need to know about the ministry
the delivery of worship is woven with the fabric
even the drummer is suited up, perspiring with zeal.

No miniskirts, no cleavage, no bum bum
no satin in the Sanctuary
don’t drive the men to hell, abeg
the only seduction is for the Kingdom.

Sabbath in Lagos, is not a day of rest,
it’s commotion, it’s shoe shine on saturday night
ironing at first light, perfume,
& for the kids at boarding school,
it’s ghetus on your trousers, starched white shirts,
marching to church with the warden and not letting a grain of dust
touch your garments.

Sunday morning in Lagos is the only runway
that brings heaven to earth.

I’ll drink what I want Richard

I remember being sat down next to my manager
Richard + a bunch of other engineers
& I said, I don’t like beer and got gin instead
& he scoffed, with his throat – like, humph
cos he had a lager in hand;
like he emerged from his mother’s birth canal
gripping a Pilsner and swigging a Bock
like the cloud of piss on the table
proved how big his dick was,
like he personally picked the wheat
and chauffeured the yeast,
what a fucking prick,
hope he drowns in all that barley.

Spring Night

I wonder if it’s the coffee-
as I turn on my side,
switch on the lamp
read the Billy Collins collection on my bed,
– I always have a book or two within reach.
It’s 1:04, I switch off my lamp,
count to a hundred, stop at eighty two
put a pillow between my knees, look up
think about how like vomit I spew
21 poems the week my boss fired me;
I didn’t know I was sick. I need to check in more.
The best revenge is to outlive our enemies,
better still, forget them and never be them,
I flip my pillow, flop to the side and face the wall,
maybe God wants me awake.
Is there someone to pray for?
I pray for mum and dad, I pray that their joy be full,
a selfish prayer really because I am their joy.
What a wonderful thought. And what else is prayer
but wonderful thoughts extended to heaven?

Day 47 of solitary confinement

& I’m 17 minutes deep into a youtube video on sudoku tips and tricks
+ some of these techniques sound borderline erotic:
                  naked quads,
                  single chains,
                  hidden pairs,
-removal strategies.
(hot).
Amongst other things, I’ve googled:
how many calories are in a baguette
cos i’m on my second and it’s not 11am.
There’s a lady on the first floor balcony
who smiles at me when I go for walks,
I look up everytime.

I’ve been thinking about companionship
and what it really means
& maybe it’s:
                  sharing the 700! calories in a baguette
                  & trying out these Japanese techniques.
maybe.

To a girl I called my Moon

Do you still want a farm
with goats and tomatoes?
Do you still want an orchard
with apple trees and muddy feet?
Do you still want to wake up at first light
feed hens, chase foxes and fix pens? 

If you do, 
i will still roll on my side when you rise
  &  rinse the earth off your skin when you come in
i will knead your lower back when you lie down
  & tread the vine of your spine with my lips.

If you still want a farm,
I will build the barn.