Air Too Pure For Slaves (After Mossman)

I wrote ” Air Too Pure For Slaves” in response to a poem called “Make a Desert” by Milton Keynes poet Mossman. You’ll find it below.


Make a desert and call it peace.
Wipe out the people and call it an empty land.

Making; by your empires, a bigger better world.

Explore with your weapons and your diseases.
Justifying actions through an empty God.

Photographer: Foad Manghouly

Making; by your empires, a richer poorer world.

Seeking a free, but not a fairer trade.
Shipping home the spoils from lands despoiled.
Oppressing the foes you made.

Then in your decline,
In your victorious inaction and withdrawal,

Let the others sort the mess of their own making.
Whilst you bank the cash of sugar, slaves, munitions and oil.

Photographer: Clem Onojeghuo

Put up the statues to the glorious heroes
And their guilty municipal munificence.

Pull up the drawbridges now against free movement of those others,
Fleeing your manmade deserts
Across cruel seas, hoping only for safe haven.

The lucky finding only the torment of camps and barbs,
Freedom and life the only losers.

#mossman2016


I wrote “Air Too Pure For Slaves” inspired from Mossman’s poem. The title for mine comes from a chapter from a book called Black and British: A Forgotten History by British-Nigerian historian David Olusoga.

“Air Too Pure Slaves” is a poem in which I draw reference from Europe’s colonial past and show how the immigrants of the past helped make the continent into what it is today.

Immigration is not a new thing, it’s naive to pretend otherwise. Despite being a mass importation of illegal workers, The Transatlantic Slave Trade is a good example. People have been moving from place to place as long as people have been alive.


Build a country and exclude the labourers.
Chain the workers and bask in the profits.

Put them in a box, and send them to Sierra Leone.

Explore with your guns and man-made diseases,
justifying your actions through law and order,

making a nation of millionaires, a poorer richer land.

Photographer: NeONBRAND

Mother seeking the help of unfair trade,
the grains of Demerara, the threads of Virginia –
Cotton is king; there’s mercy in a massacre.

In Berlin, you agree to raid the The Savage Lands,
or so you named them. We are a Coloured Empire,
children slaving with bloody hands.

Then in your decline,
when you couldn’t maintain your greed,

you left the natives in a swamp of your making.
Whilst you mined money –
the spoils of sugar, munitions and oil.

Erect the statues to colonial knaves,
like Winston and Victoria.

Photographer: Trisha Downing

London streets, air too pure for slaves,
dwelling in your man-made deserts.
Now closing the door on their descendants –

leaving the vast expanse between
The Bulldog, the Dark Continent and Jim Crow.

The lucky find peace, abandoning
ship. Chains cackling with the
notion that death is better than bondage.

Ode to Capitalism

With the world seemingly getting worse and worse, I decided to write this poem. I wrote this poem inspired from “Ode to My Bitch Face” by Olivia Gatwood.


You market mongrel,
hardnosed logo. Pursed-lipped,
free-handed, malicious money man.

You’re a chip on my shoulder.
You’re Woolworths gone broke.
You sidestep orphans on Park Lane.
You strainer of single moms.
You’re a fat cat’s laugh.

Capitalism, they call you
but there’s nothing free about you,
free like students who run home
to their moms when you break their legs –
knees crushed under the heavy boots
of Winston and Elizabeth
as bottles pop and bubbles fizz.

Photographer: Jordan Whitfield

Postgrads want to buy a house.
Thirty-somethings want to start a family.
And then you smile, like Botox
as coins chisel cheekbones.
Medusa looks into our souls –
stone-cold corporate stares.

One idea is that we’re born this way
but our existence predates these looks.
We came out kicking,
and see how we’ve learned to spend.

what’s wrong with you Capitalism,
what’s wrong with you?

Photographer: Anthony DELANOIX

Maybe we really were born with the Midas touch,
turning everything to gold with a poke.
But I don’t believe that, not for second –
that we woke up like this
and have been like this for generations.
How can we rest well
when health is a multibillion-pound industry
and the entrance to a hospital feels like HSBC?

The World’s Local Bank
They will tell you money is safety.
They will tell you finance is security.
Capitalism is a burning ladder.

Capitalism, I don’t blame you for
bringing the sword. I blame us for
putting it into position.

3…2…1.

Watershed (After Allen Ginsberg)

This is a poem that I wrote in my head in November and only articulated it onto paper two weeks ago.

I came into contact with “Howl” years ago but I only recently engaged with it personally last January, not long after starting university.

Allen Ginsberg is one of the figures of The Beat Generation, along with Jack Kerouac (On The Road) and Ken Kesey (One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest).

In short, “Howl” is a declaration of personal experiences with religion, sex, drugs and society’s absurdities. Part I is about individual cases.

Part II talks about the  Moloch of society, which represses feelings and forces the victim to declare themselves mad if they do not suppress the said emotions.

Part III is a proclamation of sympathy with Carl Solomon (he’s in an asylum). In that last part, Ginserg is standing in solidarity with his imprisoned friend, extending his hand in friendship. This is an act of emotion in the poem, an idea that society seems to be subjugate.

In this act of rebellion, Ginsberg is embodying an anti-establishment attitude, thus sticking it to The Man, to put it bluntly.

“Watershed” was written as a stark contrast to “Ode to the Millennial Generation” and a modern rewrite of parts one and two of “Howl”. The title comes from that time after 9pm on television when all the darker / morally-ambiguous shows arrive on air.


I

I saw the greatest people of my youth destroyed by society – pure, naked, rancour; hauling themselves through the streets in the midsummer looking for something to do,

music-headed millennials listening to the sounds of Paul Weller and Bob Marley looking for a connection to their parents’ generation,

the people who plodded through poverty and sat up smoking seeing the supernatural silhouettes of spectres floating across canopies of towns and cities in an existential crisis.

Photographer: Stas Svechnikov

These are the millennials who bared their knuckles to Snapchat and Twitter, hash-tagging their way through Wikileaks and Edward Snowden,

who passed through university swimming from the loan shark – dead eyes hallucinating like seeing giant chickens on the streets of Amsterdam,

those who cowered in cubicles making memes with nooses to hide their depression –

today’s kids who advertise their beards and long hair like Gandalf posing on the cover of Vogue.

They’re confused, like fish seeing land for the very first time, along with dreams, drugs and disillusionment. Walking nightmares, alcohol and one night stands that turn into functional relationships

on the blind avenues of a sporadic cloud and thunder in the landscapes of Bangkok and Melbourne, illuminating the rude awakening of real life.

Photographer: SHTTEFAN

Rookie soldiers of the twenty-ones to thirty-fours, responsibility and family life dawns while wine drunkenness catches their eye –

joyriding and jaywalking with no care, sun and moon and nature’s touch in the season of orange in Central Park, as poets and actors preach in the streets,

as feminists protest like Civil Rights activists marching from Selma to Montgomery under the threat of dog’s teeth and tear gas and police chants and horses and riot shields and batons and the legacy of Jim Crow,

and the millennials would yawp and whisper war stories about when they’d been arrested and on which march – the shocks of A & E, jail and combat – whole minds deteriorating in a seven-day layover with prison food, like vomit from concentrate,

those who disappeared into the cracks of Birmingham. Broad Street and New Street, leaving a trail of blood to the Rep Theatre,

watching poverty run riot by the riverside restaurants, as the homeless wander asking for change so they can live another day.

Photographer: Spenser H

The millennials who jump in taxis to go two minutes down a road, those who lay hungry and broke in cafés talking about literature,

and those conversations disappeared into the tattooed trees on the table and into the local narratives and told tales of Northampton, Bedford and Cambridge,

and further still – into the West Country of Devon, Dorset and Somerset, places that investigate newcomers and make you forget city life and its liquid lunches,

inflicting scorch marks on the anticlimactic nature of capitalism in The West – places where police create more black stars than Hollywood,

millennials who broke down in jail cells and wailed like sirens when they just happened to be wearing a hoody in a white neighbourhood –

who were raped by those who preyed on low self-esteem, taken advantage of like the slaves who worked the plantations in Mississippi and Morant Bay.

Photographer: Maciej Ostrowski

But the millennials went on partying through Manchester and Liverpool – a juxtaposition to the legacy of slavery. Myriads of slaves at auctions who stood all day with bloody feet.

My generation who watch Black Mirror and Westworld as Theresa May perfects the art of crashing the NHS,

the young people who read romance novels in Costa whilst plugged into bad music, who sit depressed under their own storm cloud,

who had suicidal thoughts in school and were told to get over it – like depression and anxiety were no different to burning your hand on the grill.

The generation that murmur all night, scribbling incantations on how to be happy in blank verse, who watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower like it was the story of their lives,

who cut their wrists at breakfast, lunch and dinner and were forced to open nostalgia shops when they failed, who hanged themselves in their bedrooms and were forgotten.

Photographer: Jens Thekkeveettil

The people who sang  in Warsaw and retired to their beds… forever to tend their war wounds like it was 1st October 1939 all over again,

who were given daggers for their “ums” and spears for their “likes” and electroshock therapy to cure their anxiety of the tomorrow.

Camden Town and Oxford arguing on how to talk and how to live, tongues wagging from midday to midnight,

and those who dreamt up stories on the bus in long sentences, trapping the metaphors and similes with semicolons and subordinate clauses,

who boobie-trapped the verbs and nouns with dashes and commas in long sentences like Oscar Wilde.

And in the spirit of jazz in New Orleans, saxophone’s cry across the water with the tears of a thousand years of blissful adolescence, and are good to grow one thousand years more.

Photographer: Jens Thekkeveettil

II

What foul creature carved out their souls and imagination?

Society – isolation – independent loneliness and inflation. Young people screaming in their homes. Children caressed by Hollywood divinities.

Poverty sleeping in the parks. Society! Society! The nightmare of society. Loveless in its mutilated Marxism, the brutal judger of broken people.

Society, the unimaginable jail. Society, the black dog walking through the graveyard. Society with its logos of judgement and stunned governments,

whose minds are machinery; whose blood is money; whose fingers are on the nuclear codes; whose torso is a bonfire of the youth; whose souls are stocks and shares.

Society where people sit alone, scared of their own faces. Society with its containment culture and cookie-cutter flats and invisible poverty lines and fake wars –

visions, symbols and miracles down the Thames. Dreams and aspirations gone with a whole truckload of toxic political correctness and fragile masculinity.

A storm. Epiphanies, politics and religions gone as the boat flips. Despair! Years of suicides and crazy crucifixions into a haze of holy yells.

An Ode To The Millennial Generation

I wrote this poem yesterday afternoon for our first ‘One Night Stanza’ event of the academic year. There were some great acts and it was a good turnout.

Born in 1995, I am a millennial (aged 21-34) and I think society gives us a bad name. We’re stereotyped just as much as every other group.

I wrote this poem inspired from Olivia Gatwood’s Ode to the Women on Long Island. Her poem is worth watching since it’s freeverse, and I think it’s better seen read aloud or on stage than read in print.

When I was writing the poem, a film was going through my head. There’s an unforgettable character in Marvel’s Ant-Man called Luis (Michael Peña) and his conclusion at the end of the film is what inspired the conversational and nonstop chatter-like-style of this poem.


I want to write a poem for the young people of
today who will tap text their way into arthritis,
as they silently socialise in Starbucks, ready to
key in the next emoji. #PumpkinSpice.

The protest generation: the 50s called them the Beat –
Howl, On The Road, McMurphy and the Merry Pranksters.
Kerouac, Kesey, and Ginsberg – a surge of counterculture
critics who showed that you don’t have to roll over.

Every generation has their Beat – more than just art.
The Sex Pistols, The Black Panthers, #NotMyPresident.
Black Lives Matter #Anonymous. The Teenies… featuring
Ed Snowden, Red Jeremy and JK’s tweets (mischief managed).

The young people. Millennials: aged twenty-one to thirty-four,
a progressive population. Not lazy – as the proud elders would
have you believe – not like the 50s’ and 60s’ society before, who
allowed “No Irish and No Blacks” plaques all over Britain.

Smitten with racism. “Burn the gays too”.
That’s what they said. A class of colonists with a love for
cigarettes, curry and corruption – fools love a fool.
Hate breeds hate. A digital nation: black, white, gay, straight…

Get with the programme. “Young people these days,”
my parents said. My grandparents too –
“You don’t know about young people, not like you use to”.
That’s what I wish I said, but I like my head where it is.

Social spiders: Snapchat and Instagram.
To be a millennial is not a crime. Raised with technology,
and my parents tell me about when they had Spam for dinner.
That’s when they knew their parents were broke this weekend.

I want to write a poem for the Millennials
who march like the Suffragettes –
those who sit like the Freedom Riders
and protest alone like the Little Rock Nine.

The young people who protest Trump.
The twenty-somethings who say “no” to the Alt-Right.
My generation who say “yes” to reproductive rights
and “no” to the oppressive methods of corporations.

I want to write a poem for the Millennial Generation
whose static slang and vocal tics twist and curl like snake’s coil.
This is the Protest Generation –
from London to New York to Mumbai to Paris to Berlin.

The people who work hard. Who create. Who throw parties
in their homes until four in the morning –
and then go to nine AM lectures the same day looking like
death warmed up because they mixed weed with alcohol.

And security at student halls won’t put it past
anybody because students can’t be trusted.
BA, MA, HND, PhD – it doesn’t matter, as all
he can smell is the pungent odour of bleach.

Today’s kids are young and old and angry and furious
but they’ll make you a martyr with Pot Noodle
if you hand in an assignment before the due date
or win a game of Ring of Fire or Beer Pong.

I want to write a poem for the Protest Generation,
who, when I make a cool meme,
reply “yes, old but gold”.
And it’s good enough for the wars to come.

One minute you’re at war
with a troll on Twitter.
And in the next, you’re debating with
your friends if Batfleck is better than Bale.

So when someone calls me lazy,
I look at them, and I say
“thank you, thank you very much”.


Crisis Of Confidence

I wrote this poem after watching Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women and hearing an excerpt of Jimmy Carter’s Crisis of Confidence speech in it. The same speech that has so much meaning but was the butcher of Carter’s political career as well, hence a double-edged sword.

It’s films and speeches like this that speak to me, as the UK and America in 2017 look to be going in the same direction that they did in the 1980s under the Thatcher-Reagan Administration.

America has traded one celebrity for another (Reagan for Trump) and doesn’t Mrs May look an awful lot like Maggie Thatcher? Didn’t Maggie pretty much screw everyone who didn’t live in London? Just a little thinking point.

This poem is written from the perspective of Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), the main character of Mike Mills’ film. And the film is about her raising her son in a world that she doesn’t really know, so she enlists the help of his best friend and their lodger.

The character in my poem may or may not be Dorothea’s ghost watching her son live a life from the other place.


Santa Barbara 1979: the era of Ford galaxies
and 40-year old moms, I got in late huh?
Late to this shindig, a great decision in this
Parisian dream, as I put my finger into his palm

and he squeezed, wheezing for breath with
each sigh lingering and I whispered to him:
life is big and beautiful, bold like a race horse.
There were fantastic beasts, cities, synced sounds

and moving pictures – we call those movies– and he
reeled his own love stories, like his own Casablanca
with passion and meaning, changing fashions that
gleam with hopes and dreams, and he’s living a life –

When Rick (Bogart) meets Ilsa (Bergman): a love story of Old Hollywood
(Casablanca, Warner Bros.)

unlike me, born in the 20s, raised in The Depression,
lived through a war, driving sad cars to sadder
houses with not a dollar to my name, – no phones,
no food or TV – the 50s gave birth to Technicolor

but not before I volunteered to fight at sixteen, with
the skies as my domain . Wondering if I was happy
– you could call that a shortcut to depression,
but the people were real.

The 60s came, and then the Me Decade.
I smoked Salems because they were healthier.
I wore Birkenstocks because they were contemporary
and listened to the best jams, those pretty little sounds.

Can’t music just be pretty? But then we’d have to
admit that society is corrupt. This is my son’s world
and it sucks,  I lucked out here didn’t I? Aw jeeze!

I grew up with The Depression and smogged streets.
He has Reagan, the Berlin Wall and the Black Panthers –
the Mac and intelligence-suppressing drugs that hug the
life out him like The Big Smoke in London, dark times.

Does it take a man to raise a man? History is tough
on men – the expectations are high, and not being
allowed to cry must be exhausting but then we have
problems like Breast Cancer and bloody sheets.

Man or woman; it’s all redundant when age is a
bourgeois construct, obstructing the capacity for
free thought in this common-senseless era.
We’ve lost the way, paying into a system

of greed and self-indulgence. Capitalism,
it’s an unsatisfying quest for meaning that
leans into the 2017 down this yellow brick
road paved with gold, in this crisis of confidence.