Archive Page 2

The other side

We are the children of Africa,
the brotherhood of unwanted strangers
if our faces don’t mark us our accents will
we keep our heads down and walk next to walls.
The church feeds us,
the university canteen feeds us
we stuff our pockets with sliced bread,
take it home for a stale breakfast,
soak it in instant coffee, black and strong,
made with water from the hot tap.

At night we walk the streets
search the gutters, the pavements.
Stand on cigarette packets
to see if they are empty,
check the return slots in the phone boxes.
If they’re jammed we kick them
and the coins fall like water into our hands.
We climb into skips,
open black bags on rubbish day,
find mattresses, shoes, jackets, a suitcase,
burn fruit boxes in the stove,
watch the snow blow through the streets.

In summer there are figs and cherries,
They’re free, anyone can pick them.
The shelf is lined with bottled fruit,
we find an almond tree.
The days are long and hot.
We are happy for a while.


The end of the world

All my life I’ve dreamed of the apocalypse.
When I was a child I barred the doors
and windows against the invasions
that came when I slept.

Now that I’m grown
I still dream that it’s coming
I pack a bag and flee,
home is no longer a refuge.

When I’m awake I believe it will come
in slow small steps, unnoticed,
until it’s too late to get away.

Today I saw it
in the bodies of children
sleeping in the forest,
sprawled in town squares
on the other side of the world.

Then I turned and looked and knew
that it’s been here
all the time
behind me.


Jasmine hangs heavy in the air,
a sweet caress.
Dusty urchins sell bouquets
the flowers bruised, bleeding fragrance.
Night-flying moths whirl, cascade,
drunk with the promise of love.
Shadow-hidden, veiled women pass.
The hot sky is star-scattered.

Water-carriers lay the dust,
drops flying from sweeping hands.
The men lie outside on cushions
hookah smoke curling in lazy wreaths,
Oum Kalthoum sings of heartache and loss
longing etched in every word.
The men touch their hearts,
kiss their fingers, speak of passion
in whispers, so that the women cannot hear.


My black cat lives in night’s pockets,
screams like a peacock in the dark.
I hear his wail and try to think of God
as the Sufis say I should.

He cannot remember
where to find me.
It’s the suffering of old age
that cries out for company, for food, for love.

He is empty,
stuffed with nameless desire
that lives in his stomach,
in the hollow above his pelvis
in the sway of his back
and in the stink of his breath.

I hear the cry and awaken to memory
wrapped in night’s garment, calling out
“ here I am, I am here, you are not alone”.

TV dinner

The kitchen table is round,
three-legged, set for two.
She eats alone again.
Soon she will leave him.

The limbic brain


My elder sister
the lizard
lives in the front yard
of my brain.
She keeps strangers from the door,
sees danger everywhere.

I’m hoping to find her a husband.
Once she’s married off
I intend to take chances
go out dancing
and make my own mistakes.

Fairy godmother

Beneath your ribs
the snail shell curl
of a baby girl,
a spiral unfolding
a forest fern
a slow awakening of spirit in flesh.

Her name is decided
her bed is made
the clothes are packed on shelves
the date has been set.

My gift is hidden
under her pillow,
a wish for uncertainty,
a promise
that there will be questions.

June 2018
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