by Jennifer Rahim
Tyrannies reside in a vowel
history-lesson Ukraine bring:
how powers dat be conspire
to shackle a people,
an erase dey song.
Kyiv, we hear you.
We know well dem language wars.
Bombs draw blood first is tru,
like sword sharp, an dat history
is no blue moon, but it blue.
Gunman surround you, too,
put bullet in future brite-
brite like sunflower
is a colour
dat haunt a whole geography.
Photo: Diana Evans, Nick Makoha, Juliet Gilkes Romero, Alex Wheatle MBE, Colin Grant, Hafsa Zayyan
I begin with a confession: there was a time when I thought that working in the arts was not important. I fell for the oft-advanced argument that money spent on the arts might be better spent on hospitals or schools or a range of other worthy endeavours.
In 1994, I was in London for the announcement of the Forward Poetry Prize for First Book of poetry. I had been shortlisted for this prize, which was then a few years old, but already quite prestigious and much sought after. On the night of the event, Jean “Binta” Breeze, who was on the judges panel that selected the winner, met me at the South Bank Centre, brilliant with her smile, and lively as ever. It was great to hear her Jamaican, comforting and reassuring, and it was truly affirming to hear her say, “You belong here,” though I felt like an interloper on so many levels.
What is remarkable about this sentence is not Lauren Delapenha nor the obnoxious and unnecessary use of the third person, but the building. The lionshead knocker at 17 Kings Ave seemed reminiscent of Narnia, or Rastafarianism. When a smiling Jeremy Poynting opened the door and invited me inside, I found a place which was neither mythical land nor mystical religion but which was no less of a world in its own right.
“ore legar populi” - Ovid
The pages of the sea still turn
And the leaves of the trees.
The feathers of birds still rustle in the wind.
But there is a stillness, a muting, something missed.
Where is the voice that tolled out the names in the sea,
Intoned the oracles scratched on the Sybil’s leaves,
And chronicled the cities fled or flown to?
Take up the volume; turn up the volume.
Read him to your child, your lover,
To strangers encountered,
Image: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons;
Words: Olivier Stephenson
“To live with the conscious knowledge of the shadow of uncertainty, with the knowledge that disaster or tragedy could strike at any time; to be afraid and to know and acknowledge your fear, and still to live creatively and with unstinting love: that is to live with grace.”
-- Peter Abrahams, The View From Coyaba, 1985