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The Geez


Nii Ayikwei Parkes



Of Language


Seeing Eyes



A Gimbal of Blackness


Ballade for Wested Girls Who Want the Rainbow

Of Serendipity


One Night We Hold





Travelling Solo

Blowing Smoke

How I Know

Of Sides

Locking Doors

Year AD87: BM14

A Concise Geography of Heartbreak



Kɛ i’tsui aka shwɛ

Dark Spirits


Oscura y sus obras


yorkshire bath displays

The Furnace


11-Page Letter to (A)nyemi (A)kpa

Tree of the Invisible Man




Our Love is Here to Stay

Crossroad vs Blues




To Be In Love




Of Language

It might have been one night celebrating

a mother’s birthday in a Paris hotel room,

or some breathless minutes at the in-laws’

whispering like experimenting teenagers – still,

out of the fifty-thousand scent memory we have

there is now the smell of a baby girl, one born

in a war zone less equipped than Syria

but, for a child at the front lines, perhaps

just as damaging as time unravels. You are

her father; she is a cheeky, fragile joy,

but, because you love her, you must leave.

A coin tosses endlessly in your head; sleepless

nights have your heart torn and off-kilter.

You wrestle your selfish urges, find strength

to walk away. You know it is right,

but you have never known pain like this

and how can a suckling baby understand why

a shadow inhabits the space that was her

father? Except, your first time alone with her,

after she has left her mother’s arms, she holds

you doesn’t.let.go for the longest time.


Because I know about green mangoes

more than I know about any woman

I teach my sister about boys, how to

think like one, play one step ahead.

I tell her not to step back, any time

they lunge forward, but to side-step,

stay focused, show no fear; I show her

the same thing works in football, before

the age of positions, they rush like dogs;

that’s when you pass and move, hold on

for a minute, then accelerate. Speed

combined with timing, like a good joke,

and you have beaten the offside trap.

I teach her to punch too, and for good

measure, where. By sixteen maths is play

for her, she has boys rapt for her punch

lines, waiting, hoping for a chance to slip

a line of their own in. She foils them

all. Years later when she has settled,

done her 38 weeks, I get the call. I am told

It’s a boy. It’s a boy, it’s a boy, it’s a boy!

Seeing Eyes

Pretending I can’t find my bi yoo bibioo

simply because she has covered her eyes

gives her as much joy as the silly faces

I sometimes pull. Out of the 43 facial muscles

I should have, I stretch, contract, contort,

conjure shapes that get the desired reaction.

But when she hides she is in control – even

ridicules me for not seeing her: I’m right

here, Daddy, she screams, then runs to hug me.

Already the time is coming when the trick will be

too old. I know so well how soon our pleasures go.

I recall hiding from my grandma. Her dark eyes

imprisoned behind cataracts, I was always stunned

how easily she found me. She didn’t even move;

she just pointed, and my reaction was always – How?

Some quality of those hours with her is how I see God:

something of her certainty that I had my late father’s

physiognomy just from the sound of my voice; how

she hugged this inherited body, this borrowed

shape and hue, close to her, cradled its shifting

face, seeing and loving a grandchild with no eyes.


You know that Kareem Abdul Jabbar hook

shot, right? Drexler’s glide, Pippen knocking

the ball away from someone’s control to send it

up to Air... Something you could always count on

when things got rough. That was Victor for us;

the opponent’s worst enemy. He came on

when games got tight, when pushing, shoving

and trash talk started to creep into the game

plan. We knew the secret; he only played

well when angry. They’d make their own monster.

The more they pushed, the sweeter the song

of his bounce; the harder they shoved, the surer

his aim became, his balance impeccable as he let

his shooting-hand hang limp after each projectile

took flight. He had something we all didn’t, he knew

gravity was a kind of violence too; you had to ride it.

They just reminded him of his father; a short man

who had shredded his mother with his sharp tongue,

slapped his son until the day his six-foot-six seed snapped,

grabbed him by the neck the same way he plucked

a rebound out of the air. We thought Victor was freak

material – a unique beast – until we saw his sister play.

She was good all the time – every quarter of the clock

face – moved like a whispered insult, precise as a second

hand, her fury constant as the force that held us down.


(a gambil)

Asked about heartbreak, X might drop

a matchstick and raise a finger to point

at a delivery van rolling heavily past

a home. Let’s say it’s blue as a flame’s heart

and it stops in front of a brick building

where, on the third floor, a boy (Y) is framed

in his window perch by the yellow lamp

light beyond him. Y has headphones like planets

over his ears and is bent over a sheet

of paper, shading blackness into faces.

The window next to his is an animation;

two adult figures gesturing, their mouths black holes.

Because of the galaxy he carries, the window

boy – Y – will not hear his parents’ battle, but

high above the van’s blue, a beat is breaking.

X has not said a word, weary gaze focussed

outside. The match X dropped will grow

into a fire X won’t notice but for its heat,

won’t recognise – for who would call a window

a mirror? Has no one ever told you heartbreak

is always elsewhere? What is Y in the world of Xs?

A Gimbal of Blackness

for Pops

Night cannot grasp the swift flight

of wind, but blackens every tree

the air moves, paints them darker, pushes

them against the light, the shapeless

light that gives them shape to shift

before my eyes. I am often in the embrace

of night; I am myself a dark thing –

the kind that was once called boy when man

– that was born of a woman descended from hills

and a man delivered from boyhood by the sea,

a man now lifeless though he gave me life.

I am often in the embrace of dark thoughts,

in the dim grasp of memory, a bottle in hand,

reflecting the light of the moon. I recall

a can of Guinness left

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