spring

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,
lavenders bloom,
berries ripen,
& 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.

how to recognise love

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,
                             night blouse
                             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.

Receipts

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

16 degrees in winter! And I would like to be in love once more before the world ends

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
who stare
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.

A love letter to me

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.

Masked heart

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.

On the one year anniversary of the death of Chadwick Boseman

(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.

Another case for unity in the Global South

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.

On the one year anniversary of the pandemic: Skin Hungry

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.

V day

i swear to god i will exorcise you from every
chamber of my heart, even if i have to chase your kiss
with gas, and lips with venom, whatever it takes to get
the reverberation of your throaty laugh from the walls of my ventricles,
i will scrub you out, i promise, i will firebomb your fingerprints
shell the banks of memories mined, mortar them till kingdom come.
i will alter the alphabets and remove all four distinct letters and the way
your name sounds like a desert breeze will be salted, forgotten, erased

Percentages

So, we spend 30% of our lives in a half death
dozing, turning over and snoring & if lucky, dream.

Another 33% at our desks
2% getting there and getting back,

1.5% sorting colours from whites, ironing shirts,
only for entropy to wrinkle it all.

If you’re like me, you spend another 1% optimising the 99%;
clean as you cook,
brush teeth in shower,
TED talks in toilet.

And then you have to vacuum and bleach
as per the aforementioned entropy;
make money, eat, get Wifi for the flat,
clean boots, buy fruits, pay rent,
ring parents, patch torn trousers,

our lives and everything we touch is geared
towards destruction and decay
and we spend almost 98% of it
pretending the dust won’t eat us too.

This is why, as we perish
we must, when hearing a song from 2007
dance, even a little shimmy in the metro will do.
when a lyric slaps with the right rhythm
wiggle our butts in the office chair even as our lower backs creak,
when the party quietens, bust out a beyonce ballad
sing the high notes, then laugh at ourselves.

for as we fall apart, we must let go.

A missing ingredient

the way you love(d) reminds me of being seventeen
pedaling ’round the estate with no brakes
playing basketball on concrete;

the way you mash bananas and mix the oats
add an unmeasured pinch of baking soda
and convince me of your recipe;

the way you pause and point at wildflowers and weeds
you tell me i’m the lavender flower between the trees
and you’re the chrysanthemums in the leaves;

and I’m convinced that if my palette could distinguish between
honey and syrup, if i could rake this wild field in my chest,
I could have loved you sweetly (too), like I was seventeen.

Guest Pastors

I will never forget this one guest pastor
who liked his eggs – specifically- runny and only runny
and sent the waitress back three times,
his growing wrath cooking his collar,
(mum and I still laugh about this).

What about the guest pastor who walked into the living room,
glanced at my playstation and decried the “devil box” consuming me.

there was another with a really big gap tooth
and when his sermon picked up, an excited whistle flew out.

oh, this guest pastor who walked out of the bathroom
with my towel and said “hope it’s ok, i used your toothbrush”.

what about that pastor who after an evening meal
called my sister, “babe”.

the guest pastor who insisted on
the five star Hilton by the quayside.

the white guest pastor who cracked one about
Africans being rowdy and no one laughed.

the other white guest pastor who at my godson’s naming ceremony
couldn’t think of any other theme than slavery and persecution.

the American guest pastor with an exceptional appetite
and a waistline to match.

the guest pastor who at the end of the conference, stood by the door
and was recruiting for his church like a Navy admin at a high school.

the many guest pastors I gave up my room for
including the ones who spoke in tongues at 1am;

thanks for the parables.

To my uncles

To my uncles that nod from their posts with their badges
and suits, the ones that stand security for white
collars and stand as pillars for us;

to my uncles, with dreadlocks wrestling red lights
dishing trims at barber shops, whipping up sauces
and showing us who’s boss,

to my uncles with white aprons behind counters
to my uncles in well lit theatres with sharp scalpels

to my uncles who landed and stayed legit, salute
to my uncles who landed and deal illicit, invest.

to my uncles with PhDs, Drs, Mr’s, Sirs
and still know their kin, – chiefs.

to my uncles who kneel on Sundays and bow on Fridays
who chew khat and miss sugar cane, may the Father bless you.

to my uncles who send Naira back home even when rent is late
who squeeze Arsenal jerseys onto their pot bellies, captains.

to my uncles that came before, who stuck their foot in the door
my success is forever your success.

to my uncles who’ve stood like Jupiter and taken the meteors
of injustice on their backs, who bled, fled, persevered

to my uncles who know their rights, stand their ground
and keep their fists loaded, we see you.

to my uncles in the ground & in the sea, honour.

to my uncles in the motherland, the ones who will never leave
who insist home is where the soil is a mirror,

to my uncles who’s seed now give shade,
enjoy the fruit of the land.