An excerpt from

Uncomfortable

Spit The Atom

All these voices

1.

Your head
hangs an inch above
my shoulder 

the space between us is heavy with the idea of your head nestled in the crook of my neck

2.

Bodies host civil brawls, hidden at the back of pubs, bickering
As livers argue with hearts
And ceramic ashtrays overflow onto dampened wooden tables
And drunken songs on swings become mournful ballads to the babies in the sky

3.

I hold onto little comforts like boys with marbles in the school playground,
Like mothers with fresh-lunged babies in houses permeated by cigarette smoke,
Since the skies turned to washboards with holes where the stars once were
Ambulances daily carry me in pieces, stopping always at gas stations
Where the paramedics top up on petrol only after they get their lottery tickets,

4. 

like trying to do a rubix cube in a mosh pit
thoughts pinballing from one corner of the mind to another,
each time with more momentum, marbles unleashed all over the floor slipping and sliding and colliding
each time my internal hot-air balloon deflates some more
tangled up in what if’s instead of why not’s.

5. 

Man's dying
Pulse flatlining
Bring my will in my own handwriting
Cramps, writhing, glands sizing
Throat feels like sand drying
Fetch the priest call him on fetch the Beechams all-in-one
Stay away - no one’s protected - a condition like this is so infectious
Leave me be, flee, run, canter
It's half twelve I'm hangry and being a wanker

6.

I'm trying to be cultured
more than my Yoruba or
prostrating to the elderly in the morning
I am mourning the death of the unsaid conventions -
confessions, and no, this is not a sin.

 7.

The stripes on our back
are no longer bleeding,
they have dried into cement
bricks and iron towers
and bronze handles.
There is a voice at my neck
whispering me still, 

8.

It feels uncomfortable
to use my full name,
it’s too immigrant to say out loud.
They argued on what to call me,
he wanted a name that I couldn’t run away from,
she wanted a three dimensional one.
Said I was her Luul,
carved and sculpted in the womb, too precious
to let go.

9. 

They tell me to go to church but when I do
The vicar’s daughter seems to be reading from a man’s chest
And the glass is stained with the wrong sort of paint.
I go out, walk down to the water and remember the time
The local girls threw their Ikea doll’s houses into the Lud
The things that swim through those windows now
Cousins to those in my gran’s sitting room
Who have castles in their tanks.
Gold-fish and common-fish.
We are a colonizing people.

10. 

Burdened,
bearing weight like triangle,
table top,
tower testing strength with whispers
and commitments wondering if this time
the camel will crack.
Sometimes I go within myself
build reflective walls and watch,
feeling all tsunami
sorry the sea didn't swallow me last time,
washed clean in salt drying
tongue too tired to speak tonight

11. 

Is your silence pulling your stomach out
through your throat like a party trick
Or is it covering you like a blanket
I am trying
to bare witness
Was your silence a tornado
because mine is
And I can’t stop staring at it.

12. 

You dreamt the devil met you at a crossroads.
All you had was a pocket-full of death
in the form of skittles and loose cigarettes.
Your lungs were ready, but your bones were too brittle to run 
So you stood,
insides twisting like a dying tree, legs fraying like rope. 

Spit the Atom

 

 

Tears

My eyes water, but I can’t let a tear fall.

Tears are too close to dripping blood that pooled in the middle of his chest. 

Tears run down faces like black feet on pavements, and are forced to fall like their bullets make black men do.

Tears are too similar to human lives, everyone can cry them, but some tears don’t matter.

Tears are painted blue, but when I clench my eyes all I see is red.

If I cry, someone will tell me these tears are my fault, I have heard too often how the ones weeping brought the pain on themselves.

I can’t let these tears fall.

Jeremiah “SugarJ” Brown

Examples of Confusion

An uncut woman
is not a clean woman,
the nurse translated, meant to say
the doctor needs to open you up
the stitches were done too tight, everything
will be okay.
Meant to say
meant to
but said mada hishod haysanin:
don’t you have no shame? 

The scar healed wrong,
layers of skin grew but never closed it up. 

You should feel ashamed of
what they don’t know. 

He’s always on the ward for dying patients
how does he make it past the Angel of Death each night? 

It feels awkward
to use my full name,
it’s too immigrant to say out loud.
They argued on what to call me,
he wanted a name that I couldn’t run away from,
she wanted a three dimensional one.
Said I was her Luul,
carved and sculpted in the womb, too precious
to let go. 

She gave in.

The drive to Heathrow was grey.
Somehow Londoners call this summer,
they don’t know that warmth is in colour.
Why does leaving feel like the coast, bare? 

Mum’s laugh is recorded
over Zainab’s wedding tape.

Amina Jama

 

Awe (n.) Definition II

i.

Seeing a body for the first time, meeting
a man at his funeral, 

staring him in the eyelid
his face is washed out.
Afro-European,
ashy brown.

You are waiting for him to breathe,
end his cold, skinny nap,
then walking away.

ii.

Watching others weep in his presence.
You imagine they are not used to gardening.
“He probably needs watering”, they think.

iii.

A young man, chilled by the open casket, stares
at the cushioned white lining,
the polished mahogany,
or the clothed stone wall beyond it,
crying from the fear of him.

iv.

The space between the eardrum
and the striking of a bell.

Gabriel Akamo