• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 01
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Twisted Bridges

For years you told me your dreams
(other women).
A falling body looks
for these thermals, is borne up.

*

I'm always running.
I'll visit you.
I'm coming.

*

It's only in memory,
that twisted bridge,
that we meet this way:
with an eye for composition
sharing the two halves
harmonising cut edges

*

For years I ascended the stairs
which led to no better understanding.
Just to your door. I can hear the radio.
You're singing along. My body waits
to be told off
and on again.

*

Read more >
1

It was decided to fold up my town

It was decided to fold up my town, and forget its creases,
and the lines I had been running thumb-nailed into it for some years now

we were asked to take a corner each of the lake
and fold it in like bed leaves, changing the sheets for a stranger, we imagine

I will take you round, I will walk you down the quay
and I’ll hand you off the folding in, it is agreed my past will be posted off.

Lick these stamps together, hold my print down and
pull the lapel of my envelope across the room, seal this up with me.

2

Envy

We didn't always live here.
We came in ones, in threes and in fives, until we didn't see the point in counting anymore.
Every evening, as the sky turned, we gathered at the wall.
It was an ordinary thing, the wall. Stark and grey and pathetic - if we do say so ourselves. But it had an odd way of drawing you in, so we made it into something grand, something worth being drawn into.
We sprayed our names on the wall: Dalvin II, King K, Obinna Da OG.
We confessed our secrets to the wall: I love Lipe, I like Lanre.
Sometimes, we shot hoops. Other times, we hung around and gossiped. Who was sleeping with who, whose mother-in-law came to visit and refused to leave, which of our daughters had gotten her first period. Oh, the things we talked about. Oh, the breath of our stupidity.
Now that we think of it, we should have seen it coming. And by 'it', we mean everything.
First came the bulldozers. Ugly, rampaging beasts that tore down the handsome buildings surrounding the wall.
Who did this? We asked.
Instead of answers, we got questions. Who are you to ask? Do you know who I am? Who is your father?
We shut up and watched the new buildings go up. They were like science fiction. They were unlike anything we had ever seen. One was an unsettling shade of pink, its roof shaped like a queen's crown. Another, an orange cardboard cutout, a lone black window across its middle.
And just when we thought we'd seen it all, a lighthouse appeared in the heart of our neighbourhood. A lighthouse of all things.
And so we left.
We left in ones, in threes and in fives, until those we left behind didn't see the point in counting anymore.

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3

F-Words

1

Friday night
is a packet of chips
and a couple of cans,

pressed up against
the harbour wall
for the wind

or when it rains,
the shelter down
on Drever Street.

Anywhere but indoors.

2

Sometimes,
like tonight,
we walk.

Archie’s off
to join up
in a couple of days

because it’s either that
or the F-words -
fisherman, or farmer -

and he couldn’t give a
flying F-word
for either.

Read more >
4

In the Pink Wash of British Accra

He was born
in the imperial pink wash
of British Accra
Sharp-edged streets
where Daavi's endeavor
hawking corned beef stew
crowned him first boy ever
with new school shoes
envious mothers
identified him as other
tribal difference
robbed him of friends
boys gave chase
for that is their way
to test the mettle
he learnt to wrestle
fought foes away
with still time to play
on the famous Bruce Road
that birthed a nation's future
see the grounds
over here
a tribal gathering of shorts
talls, mediums,
muscle, sweat, tears,
laughter: manly vibes
too soon early evening grows late
with the backhand and whip
a predictable fate
Read more >

5

Spectacle

So this was about a year, or maybe an hour,
before the end of the world – I bumped into
a holographic projection of Guy Debord,
walking around Las Vegas with a dodo on a
feather boa leash. He was chuckling inordinately
to himself, so in my very best French theoretical I
asked him, “Guy, what gives?” Gitanes extruding,
he paused his laughing to blow smoke in the shape
of dollar signs and then said: “It was a warning not
a blueprint chaps, but there we are. You all stopped
believing in God and started to believe in architects
instead without realising it’s the same thing. Anyway,
on with the show, right?” The dodo flapped, winked,
smiled, knowing what was coming up next.

6

Rememberings

These are monuments
in miniature, inked
parchments in colour

curated to commemorate
our rites of passage: births
Bar Mitzvahs, marriage.

Our moments of gratitude
and of lament are traced
along our pilgrimage

in homes and dwelling
places. In the days before
we lived our lives online

the books were opened.
The chambers of the heart
and the impediments

of the mind were pictured
on a map; we could read
the stories of the countries

marked by plains, decipher
valleys laced with riverbeds,
interpret grainy oceans.

The thrall and gaze of lit
space aches but still there is
a lamp-stand in our midst.

7

Elculo

The name was quite funny, if you were in on the joke ‘Elculodelmundo’. How I ended up there is still the subject of much speculation among the fish box community and, some say, wider. I know how I got there but I have sworn (to myself) that I will never share it with a living soul. Last night, after a couple of inches of patxaran, I told the old woman that lives in my couch. She didn’t really believe me, so I retook my vow of silence on the matter. The town had its own language, lots of Ks and Zs and plurals all sounded like a jackdaw had made them up. The people from Elculo met every Friday beside the sea wall and sang songs they all knew about their souls and mornings and the visitors from the hills who had sweet breath and came down at the new moon to throw fine coal dust into the faces of children. I watched from the lighthouse, the houses scattered randomly below me like a collage – rich house, poor house, cardboard box. No planning, no thought given to a plan. Some of the houses were tiny and made entirely from domino boxes. There was a girl there, her name was unpronounceable but it meant ‘seashell’. She was dark and we would walk in the Lord’s grounds. She would talk without drawing breath and I would try and make the right expression. To this day I have never understood a word she has said. There was a bridge that joined the two halves of the town. The old man who showed me how to make red eggs said it was built by the great Eiffel, before he started on his tower. I only crossed it once, I was sobering up at the same rate as the sun was rising and I chanced upon a little cafe, nothing much to look at from the outside but it was open and the coffee I had made me cry. I remember it to this day.

Elculo wasn’t built to last, from the hill it looked like it had been made out of scraps of paper and as I had expected I woke up one morning and it was gone. Not a trace. My lighthouse stood out like a sore thumb. The sea wall was there and of course, Mr Eiffel’s bridge which now joined two ends of nothing much at all.

8

Shades of pink and a lighthouse

We used to do this on the old wooden tray, kept in the garden for the purpose –
make landscapes using collage of anything at all that took our fancy
but always used a mirror for a pond and tiny buildermen as characters
in a variety of scenarios; depending on season, what was to hand
and the ephemera collected on days out.

Those were pre-mobile phone days so no images remain
just memories of you all laughing and I’m certain,
that on that day of the Turner sky, we must have
made one in shades of pink with a lighthouse

9

Is This A Diorama?

this is a world of tiny folk against a backdrop of billboards
no it is a mantelpiece of spoiled birthday cards
no it is a seascape without water
or a dismantled rainbow in shades of autumn
one turret holding a defiant giant activist
a humble clock tower the gun port of a ship
its bow like the curl of an Arabian slipper
its flimsy plank a tongue not a bridge to the shore

for this paper will not take a human’s weight
the crown prince is absent in his pristine robe
no arms visible at rooflines but the wall is bleached in heat
a wilting disneyland palace in pepto-bismol pink
scissor technique is key to neat points and smooth edges
and this is a fortified desert of folded miniatures
waiting for puppets and a new plot and sirens
or an angry enough gust of wind

10

Cut out

When did my life become like folded paper, an unreliable bridge leading only to
cardboard cul-de-sac and misplaced lighthouse

It feels so flimsy and rough-cut, a random
throw-it-up-in-the-air to see where it lands
sort of arrangement I never planned.

And the other people are too few, too distant,
like none of us deserve to be more than a blur,
ready to be mown down or cut out altogether

11

Leaving Manchester

Everything is fracturing and yet, it is coming together,
falling, I guess. A lighthouse is a clocktower with bees:

it is always there but sometimes the time seems wrong
to me, as I hop into the little Sainsbury's, waiting for my

train to come and take me away again. Can this ever be
my place? I scan magazines about Princess Eugenie,

look through Halloween chocolates that get smaller
every year - don't think I don't notice. Gaze over leaves

of gelatine, think how pretty they manage to make meat
look on the packet, how delicate. I wander out. The clock

still looks wrong, but oh, so right, those bees. Up to the
station, past the cluster of silver pipes pointing to the sky,

maybe singing, and the big bee that will soon be gone
for the winter. I have its photo; I do not need another

but I almost want one, want to keep this place and
everything it has, my city that I dance in and out of, that

I sometimes dare to see as mine, as a home, however
small I am within its furry, nectar-wet arms. I am a pollen

speck, being plucked up and carried, again and again, to
rainbows and snowy nights, to lights in darkness, voices

reciting poetry. Onto the train I hop, the doors closing,
the city becoming a dark paper outline. Still unfinished.

I am still trying to learn origami, still trying to make stars
and cranes, to tentatively add my own tiny touch to life.

12

Misdirections

I can tell you how to get there
Easy-peasy lemon greasy.
It's simple, really.
You see where I'm pointing?
Just follow my hand thataway
no more than seven minutes,
then take a dog-leg turn
to the left. You'll find two
cats sitting beneath an old willow tree
who look like they're deep in conversation.
One of them is a sweet puss,
and the other will scratch you up,
but I can never remember which is which.
Go around the tree and exit
the first street you see.
Or maybe it's the second?
I only usually come out at night.
Isn't it funny how different
everything looks in the day?
Ha ha, honestly, it's no bother,
from the tree you go three rights
and two lefts, past a tower
with a smug expression,
and then do the reverse southwards.
You'll be feeling a moment of distant
sadness then, but that's good,
because it'll mean you have the cemetery
wall to your right. Put that behind you
and try not to think about the friends
you haven't seen in a long time. Read more >

13

The Quintet of the Holiday Inn Cafe

A boy in a bow tie sings out of tune
and dances to the tune.
Ladies in white dresses bubble with laughter.
Bubbles in soda water burst
into summer
and evaporates like a daydream fast.

I look at the sunlight through a glass
filled with the orange juice
reflected the blood in red to your face.
You bite the dried sunflower seeds of vase
after the blossom of youth.

The sky about to rain.
A screen of the window gives
a lonesome shade to your eyelash.
Longing for the shiny raindrops,
you blink your eyes repeatedly.
Who   can   tell   your   story?

Deep sigh of an old woman blew
her curly wig under the beret and
made the fire of matches off.
She said,
One more cup of coffee and
Oil lighter for cigarettes.
Warm drizzle makes him moist.
Mojito like a potion makes him sad.
Old woman dreams of two young lions.

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14

Collage Town

a child with safety scissors
snips media from magazines
fine motor skills respond
to visual cortex stimuli

these puzzle pieces make
sense together
in an un-walled mind
images folded and glued

free of an aesthete's idealism
contours and colours blend
borders merge
despite hard edges

in this paper pueblo
pilgrims need not wait and wail
the road is open
inviting all into an implausible

seussian universe where
lighthouses appear inland
and dwellings canter at odd
yet stable angles

15

I opened you gently like paper and your skin made sense to me

We started to feel
the flatness
kicking about

on the edges
concrete days/ cold
rusted brutal

the cans
shared/ cut lips
and sometimes

our tongues
spoke mixes of
saliva and hard

slips of lip
against lip and
the burnt plastic

and aerosol air
was torching
inside, we felt

cut out of
it, like card, so
layered and frail

scrappy
interleavings without
talking and our feet

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16