Land of the Gods
Dry stone walls, covered in neon moss.
Soft hill voices leaking memories.
Brown churning water; a river of lost lives.
Yorkshire, the land of the gods.
The God was my father. A stowaway.
A mahogany West Indian.
Yellow palmed hands, large hands.
In the hot back room of our maisonette,
he tended tomato plants.
Quietly, he let me watch.
I watched his hands as they caressed
shiny leaves, squeezed and plucked
scarlet orbs of sweetness.
I thought. These hands can’t be the same
hands that slice into my legs when he’s vex
when I ask why
when I won’t be told.
These hands create life.
Nevermore( footnote After Edgar Allan Poe)
do I want to hear his last words
to see her last moments captured on film
do I want to hear shots ring out
to see her body go limp under undue force
do I want to hear murder was an accident
and then see the victim dragged through the mud and blood
do I want to hear it was self-defense
and feel injustice gnaw my core
nevermore I say nevermore
should we stand by watching
a generation lost to the shadows
nevermore I say nevermore
should we allow history to be repeated
nevermore I say nevermore
black lives do matter
The other day out walking, I see a crushed animal in the road.
At this level of blood, guts and fur, they all look the same.
I work out it was a rabbit just because its ears are still intact.
I wonder if I was run over by a heavy goods lorry if someone, anyone would recognise me?
Maybe it would be a process of elimination. Who lives near here? Who walks this path? Who belongs here?
Or maybe my black skin would be recognised, would betray me.
Racism is a wound that keeps opening. Again and again. Do I open it? Do you? I’m not sure I have a choice in showing you
my pain and suffering. As a representative, I carry such a huge weight. Expectations of a mountain to climb to reach you.
I remember one time cutting my finger and leaving the plaster on too long that when I eventually took it off my finger was white. I run to mum shouting with about finally being white. Mum gets angry. Mum never gets angry. She tells me never to think like that. I’m sure what ‘that’ is.
She never explains. She never did.
It is much later that I come to understand the deep shadow of my heart. My deepest longing. My deepest fear. My internal racism.(85)
I had a protected childhood. I’m not sure if that was out of love or ignorance. Poverty or pride. All the time growing up in Bradford, I didn’t know about the wild moors surrounded us. We didn’t have a car.
Knowledge opens doors. Shines a light into dark corners and valleys.
Most day going to school I would take a different route. This was freedom and solitude and wild. I walked spirals of pathways from my home to school and back again. Behind our flat was a school, a church, a hospital. I roamed around the buildings inside and out. No one noticed me. I was invisible.
I became visible when I got tits. Andrew Ryan, my first boyfriend, said we should keep us going out a secret. We met behind the garages so he could feel my tits. I let him because at least he wanted to be with me, even if no one else knew.
Thomas Biggins, another boyfriend, said on walking behind me into the Dene, that I had good child bearing hips. I took it as a compliment at the time. Now I’m thinking he was just spouting an age old attitudes towards black women as being hyper-sexual, promiscuous and breeding machines.
All that remains are two chimneys.
Two, stark sandy columns that draw the eye.
Up close, they grow green, surrounded
by ancient oaks and horse chestnuts and spirits.
Cotton over water. Water over cotton.
Into gloomy valleys all over this fair land,
I carry a ship in my shoulders.
Alone in the Darkness
Walking down the dark hill. Darkness all around.
Raw wind rustling leaves. Think you sense someone behind. Instant fear that sends sharp waves of prickling fear up your back, up your head, under your hair. Nipping at your flesh, crawling around your skull and cheeks and jaw. It is your own shadow bobbing along behind you, beside you, ahead of you.
For the past three years, I haven’t spoken to my sister. This stems from finding out via Facebook that she was a grandmother. I called her out about this, asking how come she had told me nothing?
What do you think, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about for the last few months?
Apparently, my nephew isn’t taking responsibility for his son. I’m not to mention it. He doesn’t want to talk about it.
I apologised to my sister, if she felt that I hadn’t been there for her when she needed support. But I can’t agree with what’s happening. I wouldn’t be silenced.
Stop talking to me in your teacher voice, she said and hung up. We haven’t spoken since.
How I can I talk with, about and for my black sisters when I can’t even talk with my own sister?
I confide in white women. I share my experiences knowing that they haven’t experienced racism. There doesn’t seem to be any judgement when I share my pain. Whether I’m black enough. Or not.
What happens to black people, sometimes, is so intense that it’s frightening to share with each other. So many silences, things left unsaid. The language to explore our internal worlds and our vulnerabilities and our fears is missing.
At the sea shore, I find myself again and again. Like a selkie in reverse, I strip off my skin and dive back into the sea, returning home. Becoming instinct and fluid and free.
Work in Progress