Birthday

I

I had to take out the bins on my birthday
which sounds like a metaphor with depth
but really, I had to take out the bins today

and isn’t that life?

You can fall in love
but still have to do the dishes
and remember not put colours with whites

You may crash out of love
but still have to decide if you want to put
8.3% of your salary into your pension

You can throw parties and
celebrate diamond anniversaries
but still have to bleed radiators before winter hits

You could perforate the hearts of others
with callous words and thorny thoughts
but you still have to pay your phone bill

You may have cashed in at the table
or received a cracking company bonus
but still have to defrost the chicken before you leave.

 

II

I can’t remember when I stopped making wishes and blowing out candles,
maybe when I realised faith fails to translate into finances, we never went to Disneyland dad
or later with bouts of terrifying self-awareness, calculating each year’s gaping mishaps
who on this earth deserves to be fêted, let alone the writer (or the reader).
All I want is a bathrobe and some fluffy house slippers
give me grandeur as I entrench myself into the wanders of adulthood.

 

III

I used to fear that giving voice to my fears
was like releasing gusts into pirate sails
now I write them instead,
anchoring them to sheets

1. The death of my parents
2. That I may never be loved
3. That I will never be satisfied

a. It will not be Hades nor Anubis that comes to collect the souls of papa and mama
they will live long and shower their great grandchildren with gifts
sleeping and slipping into the arms of the Lord of Hosts, of that I’m certain.

b. A flower seemingly predisposed to displaying petals to weeds
nestling those who nourish with nettles, is what I’ve been
but even considering what my inner most thoughts say,
I’m fucking fantastic
and since Christ did indeed die for me
earthly love just won’t do.

c. Alas, the last I am yet to conquer,
will I be resigned to the dredge of modern monotony:
marriage mortgage mortuary
what if my true love’s kiss just won’t do
most of all, what if at the end of my days
I look back and shiver at my lack of progress, a pitiful pilgrim,
even when written, ’tis haunting.

 

IV

Birthdays aren’t for me
they’re for my mother, father, sister
and all the angels above
singing, strumming, soothing my soul.

Barber

Right next to a grocery store that sells eggs at suspiciously low prices
is ALL STAR BARBERS, part of the corner store clique run by immigrants,
thankfully empty as I walk right in

I sit in the black leather chair, staring at the mirror thinking
about how handsome I look and the transformation of boy to man
that is happening to me, as the black cloak tightens around my neck

listening to the singing canaries that my Iraqi-Kurdish barber has as pets
tiny little birds that chirp to clippings and tweet to close shavings
yellow and white, they fly about in their colourful cages

he says next time I come, it’s going to have to be £9
my landlord came in today you know,
you know how they are, they don’t care, he just increase the rent

reception isn’t great but Al-Jazeera is on TV talking about ISIS
with orange banner below saying something about Canadian football
you’re from Nigeria right?

Yeah, you’ve got ISIS we’ve got Boko Haram,
green and white keffiyeh around his thick hair, stray cotton dangling on the sides,
he shakes his head, Ebola is more dangerous than Boko Haram

they don’t represent Islam
Islam doesn’t go knocking on people’s doors
he tilts my head, pauses, looks up at the newscaster

never in the history of Islam
Christian, Yazidi, Muslim we all live together, protect each other
I don’t know much about Islam theology to verify but I concur

these Europeans won’t let people like us make decisions
in their country, but they come to Iraq and put their noses everywhere
tell me when to sleep, when to eat, when to sit down, tell me to wake up

he grips my head like a vice
thumbs on temple, forefingers on forehead
as his eyes do the measurements

I don’t defend ISIS, he continues,
but they haven’t even killed up to 5000 yet,
he scrapes the right side of my head

there’s been war since I was six
BOOM 5000 people a day, whole Kurdish town destroyed
the breath of his sigh bristles my neck

he gets some water and dabs it onto my hairline
clips razor blade in like a skilled conductor
swooshes past my sideburns and I tell him

I wish I could grow a beard like yours,
we laugh, his brother too laughs,
landlord and war forgotten, he suits a smile

Well you know, you have this, I don’t.
I have this, you don’t.
We’ve got to be happy with what God gives us.