reminds me of my mum’s excited lullabies
the way she’d clap clap and sing
Dan Dan Daniel ọmọ mi oko ka…
the vinyl of my deepest memories,
i’ve been meaning to record this
save it and play it on nights like these.
reminds me of the slammed doors,
car screaming and unwashed dishes;
God is a woman, for only a mother
can be so merciful. to love despite
reminds me to call her, bless her
cover her with melodies she planted,
kiss the grey that slowly lines her temples;
for my joy is her incense & because of her
I know love is a fire that purifies.
I am closest to God on a Sunday morning
with a sterile knife and sharp light.
In the pews: a six month aloe, spilling, bending
a palm praising, always interceding,
an avo surprised as I am peeking,
the snake plant has been split in three
and even in the dim corridor another perseveres.
I spray bonsai leaves with holy water,
communion with devil’s ivy,
she’s constantly reaching for heaven,
wrapping ‘round the silver floor lamp
besides the dragon tree which sits crossed leg;
long stem like a prophet anointed
and when I catch a flower unfurling, wonder.
everytime I hear a Marvin Gaye song,
I stop & think
my God, this man was divine,
specifically, right now I want you is strumming along and
they don’t string intros like this no more
& I’m wringing my palms slowly, my heels are high,
& it’s lemon cream sorbet and honey and what smells like lavender
& the trumpet is kicking in and there’s no warm body that can stay still
believe this is the voice that parted the red sea,
& yes, I am confident that I too have a slice of the divine
maybe not the oratory,
maybe not the paintbrush,
maybe instead a sliver of the smile of God, for that I’ll settle.
and I’m sure you, dear reader,
I’m sure that when you tilt your head
and describe your favourite guilty treat
and use words like pabulum, there’s someone who thinks,
tell me more, tell me slower, now and forever,
I’m so sure that you possess a sprinkling of the divine in your strut
in your signature risotto with butternut squash,
in your passed-down-for-generations chai
and you, my love, with your wheezy laugh that you often
try to trap as if joy is not a relentless volcano
and that bubbling lava is manna
yes, yes you are divine.
Under pink and lilac streaked sky,
we picnicked by the dimly lit Seine
& in between paper cup chardonnays
she introduced me to chrysanthemums.
I could see a million more but it wasn’t the flower
it was the way she said chrysanthemums
a melodic photosynthesis,
every syllable rich with chlorophyll
the “s”’ would sit in her mouth
like she was the light in her grandfather’s garden,
the generous water jug on the porch,
like she persuaded the bees to stay longer, linger.
she read me poems from her Eden
and told me with each kiss that I was more handsome
than the most violet chrysanthemum.
Summer is selfie sticks + sticky sheets
it’s “I’m almost as tan as you” season,
it’s open top busses with diesel clouds,
the immigrant in me still baffles at the natives
frying themselves on beach rocks.
It’s insects the size of elephants
and everyone trudges around like hippos in the savannah
BUT crucially & redeemingly
it’s guilt free pistachio gelato and tiramisu
it’s SPF 30, showers and so much skin.
On the beach, bodies exposed tell their prose:
the man with a tide across his abdomen; too wide to be innocent,
the young girl with a stoma splashing in the shallow end, care free
the boys with long ribs and longer limbs flinging frisbees
across the small girls building castles with imagination and sea salt,
the big man with small speedos,
the red ice lolly melting in the sticky hands of the adopted black girl,
her blended family racing against heat & time, with their leaking ice cream cones,
the bronze beauty with emerald earrings and canon camera, a solo wanderer
the wrinkly lady with her equally wrinkly partner and large brim sun hats
anchored to each other as they stroll gingerly across the hot sand,
the mosaic of tattoos on darkening skin, ankles to wrists
the blondes, brunettes, balding and in between beading with sweat
in bikinis, pink flamingo floaties and Havaiana flip flops
summer is a kaleidoscope of souls disclosed
summer is the inside, outside.
yes the days are getting longer
so we say every March
like the seasons have no memory;
is spring ever caught off guard
does the sun forget to sprint
does the wind stall in the sea
has the moon ever said no?
blue or light grey
doesn’t the mighty sky obey
& even with rumours of war
threats of destruction,
the blades of earth
pierce through winter’s shield
time and time again,
& so remember,
there will be rain,
the ground might buckle
the air may stiffen
the clouds could hold their breath
but the light will come
& yes, the days will lengthen.
when she calls from a different time zone
two or three caipirinhas and a moscow mule in
and wants to know how your day went and if
you could talk her home
hold her in the uber
& tuck her in.
when she compares you to the colour burgundy
the colour of her favourite jumper,
and shade of late night sky.
when, even though you’ve never seen a gazelle,
she rests on your chest the way a gazelle
lays on evergreen meadows besides the bluest lakes.
yes, I have been fire and I have been ice
and to know love is neither
took some time.
I saved the receipts from the café inside the station
you had a croissant and cappuccino at 5:37am
and we talked till nine-ish shivering
and kissing till the crowds came
and the sun shyly lit our corner
behind the vending machine.
I saved the Dali tickets too and the notebook
with the flowers and the vanilla perfume, no54,
the wine from the store opposite,
swigging and laughing as we walked in the dying light.
I saved the address of where you said was the best carbonara in the city
although I think it was the rosé you liked.
I saved the polaroid of us looking like stars,
and when we walked under the 2am sky that Monday evening
and the city was so still it felt like ours,
I thought, surely this would be the start of something
she stops and says “look – it’s Venus”,
and reassuringly points to three other stars,
& in the fading afternoon sky, I nod and I hmmm,
I’ve always thought Gloria is a genius.
We pass by a boggy field occupied by crows
and we talk about dead grandparents and quiet parents.
It’s an unseasonably warm northern winter night
and we are almost thirty, back home from thirsty cities
with old school stories and new pandemic tales,
& in a soft silence
the wind picks up and whips past the willow trees around the swan lake
to remind us the earth is still here and there’s still time.
From the dark curls on your crown to your white Air Force One’s
you are Song of Songs chapter five verses ten to sixteen.
Look at you, a son of the Most High,
everywhere you go, God beams,
everything you touch, buds.
Your ancestors must be proud,
you’re a jewel of your mother,
a necklace of your father,
you’re steady as the sun, sure as gravity,
you walk like the universe is your cape
and the stars rest on your pecs.
May your grin be forever green like springtime,
wide like petals in bloom. May your laugh be forever
throaty and volcanic and may you lava the land with joy.
Look at you, soft lips & tender heart.
You love like cinnamon and taste like triple distilled petrichor.
May goodness and mercy always be your footprint.
Tension in my jaw
and I’m not sure if it’s the mask requirements
or because I’ve not said I love you;
the words stuck like gunk in a rusty hinge,
squeaks when I think of you.
I never said I love you even when
you lay outside the kitchen door at 5 something am
with your curls on the floor and hips floating.
I didn’t say I love you when I picked you up
and dumped you on the bed I didn’t say I love you when
I got you a glass of cold water – I thought about it when
you sipped and slipped into sleep with your hand on my chest
and my leg trapped between yours. I thought about it when you paused,
looked at me and said
you know I think you’re handsome don’t you
with your hand on my left cheek,
I think about it whenever I remember your belly laugh
from that dirty joke I made, the way you wheeze and forget to breathe.
I thought about it when I was in a different city exhausted by everyone else
I think about it whenever we don’t speak, like last July
I thought about it before, during and after the kiss in August;
Now September’s come too soon and like the flowers of Paris you too will be gone.
(28 August, 2020, RIP)
The day Chadwick Boseman died,
I was on a train home
twitter scrolling / stopped,
went to credible sources
to double and triple check
and in the semi full carriage I wept.
I had no idea how heavy 2020 had been
but in that carriage mourning another black man,
the load was too much.
From plague to pestilence
the gun and the wild beasts that hold them,
the summer brought yet another casket.
See, we need our fantasies and our myths
we need our kings and heroes who seek justice,
who carry the weight of our vengeance
who execute divine will,
who make sure that before credits roll
the righteous have been redeemed.
I think about the Continent and her diaspora in attire,
giddy. It felt like dawn, Chadwick the star.
How many times did we rewatch with kinfolk,
two, three times. And through his pain, still a fountain of joy,
a bold bastion of bright blackness despite his battles.
I was broken that day.
Yet the sun still rises, the ancestors welcoming
with open arms and the fountain still pouring.
We will remember his light, forever.
I have never been impressed by a strawberry,
never been let down by plantain.
The former draped in red and sequins
dripping in mystery and gleaming with allure,
like most fantasies, rarely sweet.
A plantain on the other hand:
boil it, mash it, cube it, dry it, fry it,
in one unassuming raincoat proves why
the Global South should unite.
What the Europeans call exotic,
we know to be staple, to be true, to be home
regardless of root.
How satiating a hug from a belovéd, like a tender sirloin steak,
how sweet, like pepsi, a lover’s kiss quenches the throat,
when unsure fingers, graze – then entwine; spaghetti bolognese w parmesan,
the spilled wine of spent time with those we call mine,
the oregano and thyme of a road trip stereo,
the slap on the back from a mate, buttered toast,
the sweaty revelry of boozy strangers at 2 am, chicken skewers
the fleeting touch of a friend in a fit of laughter, honey
even the accidental spit that flies out, sugar,
most of all, eye contact with beautiful strangers, salt
and when they smile back, Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough.