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 are 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.

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.

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.

a refrain

I just heard the new Justin Bieber track
& it reminded me of the castles we went to in the summer.
How you always wanted to go,
how I rang and said hello
what you doing tomorrow;
how we put our phones away,
how you looked at the spring, the waterfall,
the exotic garden of poisonous plants,
how the sun beamed on your braids with the gold clips.
& the other castle by the sea, when hayfever
made me drip, itch, cry and you still kissed me.
& I said, I breathe better with your mouth on mine.
I said, I breathe better with your mouth on mine.

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.