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.

Masked

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.

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.

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.

The Nod

Upwards is a “I see you”.
Downwards is a “I respect you”.
It’s not taught, it’s innate
reflex in our DNA. Wherever we go
that’s my blood,
my bro, brethren,
the nod on the street,
in the corridor of foreign lands,
in whatever language, in whatever quarter
this is how we break bread
this is how we say, “peace be with you”.

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.

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.

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.