Sunday, January 22, 2012

writers unlimited festival (the Hague)

Had a great time at the writers unlimited festival in Den Haag, reconnecting with old writer friends Asis Aynan, Helon Habila, Chika Unigwe and, of course, Willemijn Lamp, who invited me in the first place. Apart from the diverse programme of music and literature (the kora of Zoumana Diarra collaborating with Basile Maneka at the end was sublime!), I now have a whole new set of satellites in my galaxy of writer families - Rodaan Al Ghalidi, Leila Chudori, Dinaw Mengestu, Bernice Chauly, Kopano Matlwa, Edney Silvestre. I was honoured to read English translations for Bajan Matur who I shared a ride with to the airport where I'm sitting writing this short blog, along with Miguel Conde of flip festival . The writers meeting at the beginning was genius - but I'm happy to be heading home to the family - my family!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Pops - circa 1990
I'm sharing this poem because in 5 days it will be 18 years since my father died and this was written for him - my first reader/listener. (It's taken from my collection The Makings of You, published by the fantastic Peepal Tree Press in late 2010). Last week I felt a sudden urge to buy a whole bag of limes and I've been going through them fast. I rationalised it by telling myself I was forestalling any colds that may come, but today it suddenly struck me why; my internal clock was telling me to remember Pops - funny how the littlest things can bring one solace!


His pen moves as fast as darkness scatters.
Three fleshy creases mark his forehead
as he leans pensively forward
like a question mark filled with life.

The cocks have crowed; in the streets
brooms raise dust. I rise early

I want to be the first to see him
smile, see his small, white teeth
expose themselves without inhibition
like nudists on a beach of gums.

Pigeons gather… the sun summons
its light. I head outside.

I can see him before I see him;
yesterday’s paper to his left,
a pen in his right hand
and sheaves of paper awaiting stains

The dew rises like fleeting
possibilities in the new heat.

He’s waiting. I like the song he hums;
the tenor harmony of a Jimmy Smith solo.
Silent, he passes his clean mug to me.
We’ll talk between hot sips of tea.

The kettle boils; loaded
bubbles of speech waiting to burst.

I make two cups: black, no sugar
with half-a-lime squeezed in each.
His mouth forms a vaginal shape as he sips
the heat, the promise of a new day.

Something warm passes from father to son.
Silence becomes an enduring memory.

And this week, I buy seven perfect limes. One
for every new day. I will slice them in two
each morning, squeeze one half for me, and one
half into an empty cup. For the memories.

what i'm reading/listening to
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Mongo Beti