POEM: The Bitter-Sweet News


The doctor looked at me,
Smiled and said,
“You’re pregnant!”

Outside he waited.
In silence we walked to a nearby dingy coffee shop.
I ordered water.
He didn’t want anything.
‘Too much coffee while I waited’
He said nervously.
‘Doctor told you what’s wrong?’
‘I’m pregnant.’
I said flatly.
‘What?’ he asked cautiously.
‘I’m pregnant!’
I threw the words out carelessly,
the way the sea churns out dirt from its core.

A stare.
And then slowly his lips parted
revealing a row of snow white straight teeth.
A smile I had fallen in love with
many years ago.

That night,
he held me so tenderly,
as tenderly as he had done in a time very distant from now.
But I knew that the tenderness
was not meant for me,
but for the part of him
growing inside me.

POEMS by Wanjala Njalale

How they ‘loved’

I am terrified of the kind of love my father offered my mother
Because my father used it against her, against all of us
Do you know the details of it? Let me ….
Every time I saw them talking, he was always asking for something:
A hot bath, warm food, ironed clothes, babies
They called it ‘love’ yet it was just work for her
He sat in the sofa, satisfied with his dominion,
Watching TV and speculating about politics and soccer
He never even allowed us to play on his lap
‘These kids will dirty my ironed trousers,’ he said
I grew up thinking kissing was a behind-the-curtains affair;
My parents never did it in front of us.
Their love was a secret, a secret of work,
A secret of calculating expenditure, our school fees
Mother loved father by cooking, washing and ironing for him
Father loved mother by bringing home money at the end of the month
This kind of love, I don’t want
I want to stargaze at night, my spouse by my side
I want to ignore the inflation and my low income
I want to ignore the empty rhetoric of our politicians and their thievery,
I want to ignore the anger I have against the underperforming national soccer team
I want to kiss my wife in front of my kids, a long deep kiss to suck out all pain
Just to show them that the world cannot dictate my expression of love
I want to love my kids by loving their mother
I don’t want my father’s kind of ‘love’


Get out, kill him

Today when he comes back from the alcohol den
He will beat you up for three reasons:
One, he is not dead. You haven’t killed him
Two, he promised his buddies that he would do it
Three, he enjoys it very much; your ‘lovely screams’.
If you want him dead then hold the kitchen knife in both hands
and stab him deep in the loins.
Twist that knife until he cries out in a language you’ve never heard.
Close the door behind you and let him bleed out
Let him crawl around the house,
Let him beg the devil to come for him
But don’t let him smear his blood on you
Or anything else that you treasure

POEM: Defiance


I saw three black men in white
overalls painting a wall new yellow.
They had helmets on – building the immortal
kingdom is dangerous. Yet there they were
standing wryly on the roof, somehow still
awry and aloof. Somehow distinct and separate.
Somehow other and apart. Somehow resisting
a monstrous comprehension, lost and unaccounted for
by the vastness of a thing that, from the bottom,
looks burnt grey and in need of some paint
to help us believe in our evil again.

POEMS by Kerry Hammerton

We Walked Anyway

That morning. The mist. The mountains
and sea invisible. The streets
flooded with overnight rain. We walked
anyway. Lobelias and campanulas
showing off purple-blue. Ferns
bright green with new growth.
The hurry-rush of water over rocks
drowning anything we could have said.
I followed the familiar curve of your calf and knee.
Swartbas and Tree Fuchsias thin
and upright in the forest.
Buckled branches forming
a tree-cave at the end of a long uphill.
A peaty soaked-earth smell.
Red clay and slippery fallen leaf
mulch clinging to our boots.
The way down quieter
but we still had nothing to say.
You shook my hand in the parking lot.
Drove away. Left me in the coffee shop
ordering breakfast, trying to work out
how I could do this without you.


Journey of Tongues

The way my grandmother stressed
my mother’s name: Marie – mu-reee –
her lyrical Welsh voice fattening
vowels so even her sternest command
sounded like an invitation to tea.

Her voice indifferent to the years
spent within England’s borders.
And here at the bottom of Africa
my brother and I tailored
our voices at home to say words

like pin and water the English way.
At school slouching back into
the flat nasal whine of our friends.
Learnt to say fok not fuck and swear
words my parents didn’t understand.

I tease my niece now
get her to say pin, water, home
to pass the Englishness test.
But it is I who will always sound foreign
even to my own ears