POEMS: Returning Home and On Writing


Returning Home

I put on my small house
like a blanket
or a skin which expands
to make rooms, floors, windows

the space inhabits me with each breath
security in the flow of my blood
between the walls, a kettle placed
on the kitchen tops of my bones


On Writing

I left the strawberries
in a bowl to macerate.
That’s what you do
with strawberries,
macerate them.
Strange word – I always think
it means to chew,
a giant gobbling children
with his macerating jaws.

Actually it just means
I’ve sprinkled castor sugar
on the berries, and now
they sit softening,
and I sit
with my notebook
open in front of me.

I’ve macerated myself for years
in the words of other poets;
before I eat the berries
I must soften, dissolve enough to at least
pick up the pencil,
write some words of my own.

FICTION: The Whore of Kalakuta


They said I am a whore; that my mother was the whore of Kalakuta. I caught them whispering this, usually, solemnly, from the opened yellow stall with half-bent buttocks, to the end of the street that consumed all kinds of graffiti. They said our blood was hot for pleasure. Sex. And any man who came knocking found our knot doors, mother and daughter, wide open. And slack. For free.

Mama was used to the sassy talks. Me too. She was used to it so much that the day mama Segun came to our house and fought over the unpaid money for a paint of garri mama had bought from her some few weeks ago mama didn’t care. She asked me to keep quiet. She sat there too, mute, adjoined her legs on the pavement of our old house and watch as the lips of the young woman rain words.

Empty words.

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POEM: The Age of Miracles


Through drop of mercury, powered moonrock, warthog piss and hemlock leaf;
By incantation, Latin babble, Medieval spellbook, astrophysic equation and animal bleat;
In cemeteries, plague pits, sunlight groves, natural springs and mountains high;
Employing confidence, assurance, humility, disbelief, awe, wonder-dew and hope;
Drawing forth pigeon wings, blood vials, lacquered spiral gold and ginger root;
He was finally able to achieve Godhood in his North London attic space.

Endowed with such Heavenly powers, his first act — wiping the slate clean with a finger Click.
Down with life, rock, heat, light, dark, stardust.
Quickly he tired of the Nothingness, and clicked the world back.
There it spun in blue-green swirl. Oh, and there had to be a sun — click! — and other
Stars too; ill-defined twinkles on black canvas.

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“You don’t just want to show a bunch of freaks”: an interview with Edmund White

On a recent visit to New York, ALEXANDER MATTHEWS sat down with the acclaimed gay author Edmund White.

Edmund White

Before my interview with Edmund White, I walk along the High Line in Chelsea. I do this partly because it is my first time in New York City – and a stroll along the High Line is the kind of thing one does on your first time here. But partly, too, because I’m gnawingly nervous: looming ahead of me is a conversation with one of the greatest gay writers on the planet and I’m not sure I feel up to the task.

I first discovered White in the Cape Town Central Library, when, as an 18-year-old, I was hungrily searching the stacks for gay sex scenes. Some thoughtful (and presumably queer) sod had labelled the spine of every vaguely homoerotic book in the fiction section with a pink triangle – this helped my quest inordinately. Under “W”, there was White’s luminous, exquisite (and incidentally not-very-explicit) novel, A Boy’s Own Story. Much later, I read his personal memoir, My Lives, and what was then his most recent novel, Jack Holmes and His Friend. (Since our chat, an even newer one, Our Young Man, has been published.)

Weaving between the tourist throngs clogging the blustery spring afternoon, I feel woefully underprepared. Because aside from more than a dozen works of fiction, White has written essays, journalism (for American Vogue, Time and plenty of other titles), plays and biographies (including ones about the legendary French writers Genet and Proust). He’s a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was made Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French. Only three books in, I’ve barely scratched his oeuvre’s surface.

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