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Three Poems

THE OLD JUSTICE

 

My grandfather was a construction worker, a travel agent;

I knew him as a sea-captain, his wink like an eye-patch,

 

the gap in his teeth a keyhole I might peer into.

But all I could pick in the whistle of air was a shanty,

 

sweet on his breath, whiskey foaming on his upper lip,

and his blood salivating, a kind of poison he survived on.

 

Auntie was the dark green storm of a glass bottle.

She made herself dizzy, swatting the air like lightning,

 

drunk on those unspeakable nights she went below

deck with the man who set us on the voyage;

 

his bad eye sliding over each plank, moving low to the ground,

like a crocodile sculling in the shallows, or an island

 

sinking back into the ocean. When they told me he died,

I retched, thinking of his seasick corpse, the hollow flush

 

of a minute hand passing time at a funeral cut down by rain

and my absence, the echo of it heaving in a toilet bowl.

 

That night, I imagine surfing on his coffin, taking a sharp nail

to his heart and pulling up a rusted square of flesh.

 

In the dead air, I creep into auntie’s flat, slip the quiet pulse

in the panel behind the grandfather clock where the wax nativity

 

slow roasts by the fire, her living room crowded with vials,

auntie, the mad concocter, weighing his deeds like a wine glass.

 

 

 

SOST GULCHA

after Gemoraw & Meron Getnet

 

The small fire that smiles

between three stones in winter

thinks itself a hearth,

 

even as it burns

a kitchen’s pitted belly,

even as it dies,

 

the stones leavened, once

a ripened fruit, now bloated

for the flies to come.

 

 

 

BEDTIME

after billy woods

 

I put my finger to the wind and don’t get it back / low light snatches me from the front step / the courtyard dervishes with my feet / thinking of that empty house as the shadows stretched / fists punch up through the ground / scatter milk teeth / bloom into hyenas / there are no rules in these hours / this is where magic lives / the blue in green / where time shrugs like a sieve / all the other houses yawn in their sleep / I am delirious / howl my name at the trees / wait for someone to claim it / I steal flickers from the streetlamp / play keepy-ups on the second hand of a watch / a wheeze of grass blades / ain’t no bedtime / mama / the city sleeps damp on a blotted paper sky / droplets of hand-pressed wine / balloons on the window panes / Kirby-pink / everyone is a parapet / I am the only one awake / I move from one house to another like a hammer throw / smack drool out the dogs / throw tennis balls like a hailstorm / the barking follows / grapes wither on tongues / fruit flies rub their hands / stone eyelids / alarms rattle through the compound / I listen for an echo / my name hasn’t come back yet


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is a poet and editor of Ethiopian and Yemeni heritage based in London. His work is published in Poetry London, bath magg, Butcher’s Dog and Magma. He is an alumnus of the Obsidian Foundation, graduate of the Writing Squad and member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen.

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