he is wearing africa and all i have is a civil war playing out inside of me. i ring him. i tell him i have no money left. i say “i'm sorry you couldn’t **** the gay out of me.” he laughs like it’s his fault, i hang up. i think about how there will never be enough air in the atmosphere for me to breathe. my skin is infinite, i don’t have edges. it’s difficult to expect to not get touched when you live in endless skin. the air is hanging low tonight, lower than ever. i go to ring her, to tell her she is a gardener, a hospital-clean being. i don’t have her number anymore. i have to tell her about these hands, these old hands, how i think they caused chernobyl when i was someone else. i have to tell her that every word was a mistake; they were all just really bad spellings of her name.
copyright gb 2014
there is silence outside
there is a song playing you don’t know the words to.
there are words, no, cameras on the walls
here is a microphone -
shed your skin
we are spinning faster than your monkey brain can compute.
air thick with smoke, no —
suffocating planet shaking under plastic wrap.
did you know there are ammonia clouds on jupiter?
do you realise we are fighting over barrels of oil?
don’t touch me
because i don’t know if i want to die,
waiting for the end in the end times
copyright gb 2020
a man is talking at a house party on the other side of the canal/ people are talking around him/ occasionally laughter erupts and rushes rather than drifts on the air/ a car tyre screeches and somewhere a washing machine or a hoover or a truck cleaning the streets is humming/ my pen on the page is a hollow drag / my hand sticks to the paper as it moves left to right/ the music playing outside is a song i can't identify/
copyright gb 2020
go back to where it began:
trombone / cob nut / tadpole / violin /
you fell —
and i have not breathed it since
except that hot summer;
when we excavated
an entire roman village of chicken bones
from the soil
where now there are none
copyright gb 2020
“can i still sing about a chain gang if i’m the one holding the whip” - neil hilborn
mike brown raises his hands and gets shot six times by a cop
eric garner dies in a choke hold
god paints us a spectrum in her own image.
we should not need to be chalked to be able to speak.
how is it that i can survive
but there are still black boys
dying on their own american streets?
these bodies we die in
you alphabet god
you loaded barrel and readied god.
oh god of upturned hearts and toyshop guns
can you hear the marching?
was it eve who ate those strange fruit,
this family tree,
these black faced bodies you sent down to die like your son.
like a match and a fever.
how trayvon was holding skittles and died
but there are still white men who hold themselves like hand grenades
and pull their own pins
god, how the west isn’t wild it’s just white
white like fever
like ‘dear mr president when will this police state end’
oh body of want
body of mist
and half cooked men
how we carved ourselves into god shaped jars of cement and taught ourselves to **** each other and forget
we are breaking our bodies for you
we are passing our bread until there’s no trace of you left
and i am lucky
because one time i thought i was going to die
and it was at the hands of myself
not these white men
WE AREN’T OIL SPILLS WE’RE BREATHING.
WE AREN’T BREATH WE’RE WANT
AND SOMETIMES LIVING
and this walk to my grandmothers house where i don’t have to wonder if i’m gonna get shot
because of this face this skin
how we forget these bodies are not things we choose
how do we peel these colours off of us
help me show the white man that we bleed the same blood
will you hold your wrists to their ears
let your pulse shout:
“I AM ALIVE.
I AM HERE AND ALIVE.
I AM ALIVE AND SOMETIMES LIVING.
AND THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD LEAVE ME
let’s play truth or dare.
so we can mouth a hundred hymns at each other then remember
are the only things we believe in.
i want to whisper in your ear
say how i think
that the first person made a thousand sounds and called them gods
and named them all after you.
nobody has ever been so beginning.
tell me back.
how you love the ash you find in between the pages of my favourite books,
i want to know that i’m here, cigarette burns and all.
i know we are both missing and that’s okay because nothing is whole.
have you ever wanted to become a straight line?
have you ever wanted to learn every single freckle?
name them with your teeth?
taste them under your tongue?
i have never been more silhouette, more oil on water,
more ‘please don’t leave’.
i have tasted your smoke under my tongue.
i have wanted to turn myself into a whisper,
i have breathed your name at the back of my throat.
i tell you
a girl is a safe place you can make yourself to shake in.
a body is something you can grow into,
or out of.
when the door is closed and you say that you’re home,
i hope you know what that means.
i hope you hold that weight to your chest.
i say ”i hope you come back soon.”
she says “ring me when you’re home safe.”
“Woman does not emerge from man’s ribs. Not ever. It’s he who emerges from her womb.” Nizar Qabbani.
1. In the beginning
God asked himself a question and only made half the answer.
The Bible says
That when the Lord realised the world needed a woman
He searched through man, took a rib, and made her.
2. Eve, all apple and velvet.
I know you didn’t come kicking and screaming.
You, grafted onto man like a prize fruit
then cooked up like a red wine sauce all acid and hiss.
After the Bible took away the one thing it thought you were good for in the first place
it had you hold hands with the devil,
all flirtation and fashion,
made you sound like your body was empty of anything else.
Mother of mothers.
Carved yourself from the rubble the same way David pulled himself from the stone.
Don’t tell me a woman is ever a safe place to rest.
Don’t think Eve ever let herself be an after thought.
3. On the third day
before the flood and the fire and the rubble,
God made himself a garden and called it Eden.
He stopped, closed his eyes and finally smiled because at last he had made something holier than himself.
He tried every fruit, spat the seeds like broken teeth.
Over the next few nights Eve kissed her life into Adam’s ribs,
told him it was
When The Lord finally moulded Adam from the clay of the garden, the wind whispered and knew.
4. People say that a great woman is just like a fine wine - full bodied and getting better with age.
Tell that to your mother.
Tell that to every woman who has ever fought for a cause.
A woman’s blood is worth so much more than communion but men just love a commodity.
5. I close my eyes and I am standing in a garden.
Her name is Eve:
her hands are ripe fruit;
head a forest fire;
body sinking under the weight of a great flood.
I say: “Eve how do I think myself into forest?
Will you show me how to become forest fire? All skin and bones and burning map.
You perfect absolute.”
6. So I turn back. Pull her name from my ribs like I was the first and I came from her.
And then my hands, gentle gravediggers.
And later I looked up and there was nothing except earth and light and earth and light and her
and it was over again.
So I sat down. Took a breath - the first real breath, hands shaking like the corners of pages.
7. I looked for the first time and I could see for miles.
I could see for miles.