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16. Featuring: Maroula Blades

+ David Sparenberg + Setareh Ebrahimi + Terry Dammery

+ Tolu Ogunlesi + Zachary Bush + Emily Reim





Silent, slippery, bluesy swagger,

Fishy wriggles along a marble bath,

Electrifying spirit, nocturnal goddess,

Noble in her platinum-silk robe.

Trapped on the smooth cold expanse,

Slow is the falling of time,

Grids of winter-white tiles with moonstone eyes,

Observe her fragile pouch, her unborn eggs.

No waterscape or spawning pool awaits her.

Just the silver-plated plughole attached to the dark.

If the water gushed forth, garrulous in its fall,

What would she do, this shiny insect,

One centimetre long with fishlike scales?

She wishes for a pair of titanium wings

To rise from the bleached cell, ammonia strikes.

Here it’s too clean, too bright for comfort.

Light burns; vacuous black is paradise.

Is it food she seeks?

Almost everything indoors is edible.

She is partial to dandruff, tresses of hair,

Dried meats, gluey substances,

Yellow pages in dusty books,

The odd abandoned dreadlock,

And is crazy for the sweetness of sugar,

A synergy of tastes, slips down, palm oil smooth.

She’d be at home in this landscape if there were

Split ends, flaky skin, and grubby rims to eat from.

She wouldn’t say no to a cake of soap

Or needle grass in the Gobi desert.

A rain shadow region is a jazzy prospect.

Her kind can go without food for a year,

So why leave the safety of a dank dim home?

Rapacious boredom?

Perhaps she’s singing syncopated beats

While probing for chinks to lay her brood in,

Once hatched, nymphs are alike, except in size.



When talk is no more look for the words of old,

When the earth smoked in the wake of a comet

Where drawings on ancient stone showed the way.

We blew chalk from our hands into the air

And the particles rushed to enter the sky.


We remembered the green growing wild,

The seas plump with life on obsidian tiers,

And the Earth’s nation breathed each other’s breath.

Sleep stretched over us with the wind braiding our hair,

Dreams took hold, shaping seeds to flourish.

Asylum for Joshua

(Joshua is a four-year-old French-speaking child

 from Africa who attends a German nursery.)


Witch, ape, turd; every name you’ve ever heard,

A skittle is thrown at Joshua’s worn ear,

Two bruises big as hooves from a deer.

Red brick fortress, ‘Joshua’s a jailbird,’

God smite the devil’s hard and dirty word.

Perched on beanbag he sits on their fear,

Cloudy eyes pop to thresh out a sad tear,

Headbanging windows like a pecking bird,


Eight hours a day in his painful world.

His charcoal frame remains a silent rock,

Poised in the hunger of friendship curled,

His mum said, “In class he’s laughing stock.”

They say, “Go back witch; to the underworld.

Joshua, you’re a stinky, black dreadlock.”

Angel Blues


Undress the dark singer of angel blues,

Moan a modal current, molasses sweet.

Reach through the library of sound,

Prospector of ebony smiles

And stay loose my friend.


Visionary of sweet tomorrows,

Hook the notes, do the speak,

You heard long before you dreamt.

Saturate the night with soul.

I’m on your rhythm, sweet, pure thing. Sing.


For Rosa Parks


          It takes a movement to bring about change in dry infinity or in some cases, the lack of one. Your tired legs could stand no longer. In “no man’s land” you sat, clasping painkillers on your lap. A colourless rider stood in the aisle. The bus driver’s coarse voice punched the air with, “All right, you niggers. I want those seats.” Your quiet “No,” a distended cloud, rained on Montgomery – Alabama 1955, where the eyes of whiteness stalked the streets. Phantoms with spiked tongues ran, flaunting coshes to thrash “uppity niggers.” The Jim Crow law marched without a curfew.


          The wind felt the freedom movement in the distance and blew the sentiments of the invisible others in the right direction. A paper chase settled on the lawn of the Supreme Court. The puzzle of names screamed as they came together, counted. Even the ghosts who cut their nooses from budding Memorial Trees, faces with crooked lips, gouged out eyes and abysses where their manhood should be, rallied. The wind morphed battered features, floating on the Mississippi River, a painful exhibit of fathers, brothers and youths. Snagged, waterlogged bodies defiantly rose from the river root, some with bobby socks and plaits, and others who had once the form of gazelles faced the sun, anaemic and bloated. Black peeled itself away from the backs of mirrors, a transparent happening. No excuses not to see through the window. It took 382 days. The mandate: Alabama’s bus segregation laws unconstitutional.


          You became our planet, radiant like the sun for black folk to turn to. Swarthy necks grew out from your orbit, gravitating towards freedom’s light. “Onward Christian Soldiers,” armed with a protest, a pillar of blackness with an aim as sharp as a pickaxe. Soulful voices echoed for miles out of the ghettos, over moonscapes and down through the tree-lined suburbs. A future ran straight into our hearts, designed like a main road.


          The stone which fell, is still falling, your word freed it, but it still feels the burn of repression in the free fall. Your titanium smile is etched in the core, a fire of light in the dark, a flickering universe of hope that tomorrow will be brighter, wiser and full of release.