BY JEANNIE WALLACE MCKEOWN
My mathematics is functional.
It can balance a bank account
or divide a lemon meringue pie
into eight (almost) equal slices.
It can’t plot galaxies using radio waves,
or decipher an exploding star.
My maths could never be called telemetry.
It isn’t abstract.
It plods in the everyday; raincoat on,
umbrella to hand, sturdy shoes.
It doesn’t dance or make art
or draw meaning from the night sky.
My maths is proletarian.
It knows its place:
small change and headcounts,
cake recipes and monthly bills.
My mathematics suspects
that other people’s maths is different.
A numbered brick in a prosaic wall,
it dreams of being a window.
You text me from
the foothills of the Himalayas
full of litter,
Sometimes I still
feel the sweep of this
beacon. Not you, as much
as the love; not the cowrie
as much as the sea.
Your quietness turned
Things we keep
Walking in the dark,
between other people’s
houses once I heard
a puppy beaten softly,
to death. Its squeals
across the floor,
still count them.
The garden boy
has a beautiful floral garden
in his house, he spends at least two hours
on it before the sunrise
and after the sunset to cultivate
the soil and irrigate his plants and so forth
During the day he ambles around the
garden admiring his blossoms, pulling out
weeds and spraying insects away.
His old friends call him “the garden boy”.
Yesterday we went to visit
my grandmother’s grave. I for the first time
saw her name on the tombstone:
Mapalesa Rose Yatlholeho
and it all came together
We did not have enough space
for Christmas trees in our home
The only empty spaces that we had
were our moaning stomachs, and brains
starving for knowledge.
We were nothing else but young faces
wearing dusty veils made of thousand smiles
BY HANNA ALI
“If you are unwanted, then you are still alive”
Is written on the inside door of the ladies’ bathroom stall
The last time I was reminded of rejection, I was fully clothed in the kitchen
Stuffing leftover lasagne into my cheeks for the journey home (to my room upstairs)
It’s different with your knickers around your ankles, innit?
It reminds you that everything that comes from you is warm, at first
Eyes darting from ‘unwanted’ to ‘alive’
Cheer up bitch, you could be wanted and dead
I’d like to add, but it’s not my poem to interfere with
Next to this is a tampon advert, for a quid you can bleed quietly
There’s a massive queue outside of women waiting to come across this sentence
I stare at the message for longer than is necessary, because of him
It wasn’t love, just a chemical reaction to a fake smile on a real mouth
You see, my loose heart yearned for something secretive to hold
The steady ground or his shoulders
Either one connected it to the soil of the earth
Five days later in a Debenhams toilet, my face still smells of his mouth
His breath reeks from my bottom lip
I cut my fingernails as a way of letting go
Yah know, the only thing that kept him inside me was gravity
A brief journey of him coming without taking me anywhere
In the end, love is just thrusting towards trust
His sharp irregular breath on my collarbone, wheezing like
A dirty old man running away from something old
or not catching up to something new
Now I’m unwanted and he’s still alive