We have to talk about the kick-ass PI in Hell’s Kitchen.
When you’re a vigilante, you don’t live life
by the same rules as everybody else.
When your agency is called Alias Investigations,
that’s code for “own your shit and protect yourself.”
And when you’re connected to a number of murders,
or if there are regular explosions outside your apartment,
shrugging it off and buying a big whisky,
or heading to Kilgrave Castle is not the best idea.
If you’re taking pictures of shadiness and then shady stuff
starts happening, like murder and torture, then maybe
it wouldn’t hurt to take a short break. If you killed the bad guy,
but he’s still in your head, a man that nobody else can see,
don’t just go to the public house cemetery –
in your neighbourhood, in your front yard, and in your bedroom.
When I tell you about the ghosts that live inside Jessica Jones,
when I tell you about the cemetery in her childhood home,
at Alias Investigations and everywhere she goes –
when I tell you trauma is a steep slide with no visible destination,
that the life of Jessica Jones is a photograph that shows
everyone she loves as a garden of bones.
That her panic for her loved ones comes from memoir,
that anxiety is the Grim Reaper and his scythe,
that depression is the bottom of the whisky bottle,
this is the part when most people run for their lives.
To love Jessica Jones is to love an alias,
fun to have for a little while but you will be tired before long.
Sounds like Kilgrave cherry door knocking her muscle memory.
Like the family she once had. Like the new sibling
who tries to love her, even be like her. You are not stupid or brave,
you are jealous and have never seen a haunting before.
This love will not cure me, and it won’t
scrape the glass from the floorboards, but it will turn the lights on
and give me focus. It’s the kind of love that sends chills.
When you tell the ghosts, “If you’re staying, then you better make room,” they start to fidget. We work the case. We turn the music up.
And you say “My God, this office, how whole it feels,
even in the days that nobody comes in or out of it, progress.”
The way that I love Jessica Jones,
like a gentle hand reaching out of the past.
“There are worse things than death. Once you’re worm food, it’s over. Painless. Quiet. While the rest of us are stuck digging holes, picking up the pieces and remembering.”
I wrote this poem directly inspired from Kanye West. His comments say that he believes the Slave Trade was a choice (for the slaves).
My poem comes from engaging with the memes and threads on the matter, including the frenzy on Twitter and the Facebook comments section.
I did not believe what he said until I saw it myself!
Kanye West said:
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”
No, Mr West, marrying into the Kardashian Family was a choice. Praising Donald Trump was a choice. Uttering provocative comments was a choice.
In 1619, the Dutch brought free blacks to America from Africa as slaves.
If slavery was a choice, master be like “I didn’t tell you to stop pickin’ that cotton, boy!”
And I’d be like “That’s my shift for today. I already signed out. This y’all problem now.”
Slavery was conscripted for the African, for those with black skin, button noses and knotted-hair; many thanks to covert and structural racism, what we now call White Privilege.
And then master starts tripping, belt buckle flipping, his feet doing that late-night tripping down to the slave shacks, like in the Rape Houses of Bunce Island (Sierra Leone), where he and our ancestors would be together.
Refuse, and he’d get angry, his temperament would change like the weather. And at the same time, the free Blacks of the Americas, like the Maroons, who fled slavery for forests, stuck it to the colonisers and their profits.
If slavery was a choice, all you’d have to do is text ABOLITION to 1863. Mr West, If you really think slavery was a choice, you’re going to love what happened next.
Just text JIM CROW to 1865. Just text SELMA to 1965. Just text MONTGOMERY to 1955. Just text Malcolm to 1965. Just text KING to 1968. And that was the fate of The Slave Trade’s offspring.
But according to you, slavery was a choice, published in the meandering mind of Supreme Overlord Kanye West. This is the same guy who had umpteen hits. Great tracks,
but then proceeded to call himself God and pledge himself to fat cats like Trump, superseding Samuel L. Jackson’s Uncle Tom-figure in Django Unchained. I concede, that you are worse because this is real life not a film, not a kid’s storybook written by children’s authors like Malorie Blackman and A. A. Milne.
You spout your shit on Twitter and TMZ to insight reaction, which is followed by media traction but this is the last straw. Slavery is history. It’s raw. See, that’s how you became you and I became me.
Black people don’t forget. We’re not mermaids just looking pretty. We’re the sirens in the stories of Odysseus and the Greeks. We’re on the rocks singing songs to drag the slavers down to the depths where they buried our ancestors.
Rip muscle from marrow with nine-tail whip. We are remnants of our grandparents’ grandparents. We derive from those who survived the Middle Passage trip. Not all were so fortunate.
“No master was ever allowed here to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he deserted from his service, or for any other reason whatever.” – Lord Mansfield
We are the descendants slavers feared. We lived. The strands of family trees survived the mutinies – Morant Bay, the Southampton Insurrection, the Haitian Revolution, the unruly witch hunts in the American South and in England – in places like Manchester, London and Liverpool.
If slavery was a choice, explain to me why the Underground Railroad existed. Truly. That’s history, sue me. Try telling Harriet Tubman who fled her master’s wrath and then went back to help others in bondage. She freed hundreds despite having a bounty on her head!
Slavery is written into the dirt. It is written into places like Selma, Alabama. Edmund Pettus Bridge named for the grand dragon in the Klan.
White hoods and confederate flags – flame-bearing, torch-wielding, black-lynching, our bodies swaying in the breeze of Jim Crow and that bridge still stands to this day, still called Edmund Pettus Bridge.
If slavery was a choice, it would be Starbucks saying “you can work here, but twice as hard for not half as much as is the norm, but for no pay.
If slavery was a choice, it would be Applecare saying you can work for us in the United States and not pick cotton.
Actually, it’s Applecare Plus and you would need to opt in within 60 days of choosing to become a slave. Hand on the Bible and… woah!
Mr West, if you get hurt on the job, how much does the Workers’ Union pay you again? Pension, health insurance, equal rights? But you need to fill out a form on the employee Wi-Fi.
And when the overseer calls you nigger you need to call the white, HR official. You are then fired, because HR isn’t there to protect employees but to protect the institution, the company, the Klan.
If slavery was a choice, there would be a field cookout on Labour Day.
If slavery was a choice, I’d be raiding master’s fridge for the cookout.
If slavery was a choice, I’d be making super fly outfits out of master’s cotton.
If slavery was a choice, I’d be at Slave University looking like Prince walked onto the set of Coming to America.
If slavery was a choice, I’d be telling Master to pick his own motherflipping cotton!
“You can’t buy a slave, you’ve got to make a slave.” – Connelly, Roots (2016).
I wrote this poem as prequel-sequel to “Grandma’s House” and it’s very loosely based on “The Type” by poet Sarah Kay.
When you grow up in a West Indian household most things turn into a joke, eventually (whether you like it or not).
Growing up Black is me as a child opening the cabinet of glasses to be told no. They’re there for display like a museum exhibition.
It’s going to the cutlery draw to set the table for dinner and be told “not them ones.” They’re mash up. “Take these; them the good ones” – from a big container in the conservatory inside a box inside of another box behind something like it’s the fifth Indiana Jones film.
It’s Grandma telling me to hide when the Jehovah’s Witness come knocking at ridiculous times in the evening.
It’s answering the door to that one relative who turns up when the word on the grapevine is that Grandma’s been cooking – the fried chicken, the saltfish, the oxtail, the curry goat, the rice and peas, – the full shebang!
You had him at saltfish. He’s at the door within an hour. We call him The Tupperware King and he’s as persistent as an IOS update. Not even a lie!
listening to Grandma Cathy tell me about her mother is like hearing about Nanny de Maroon. Grandma Toile she was called –
she was no school. She was no speak English. She spoke French and double Dutch. She spoke a version of English that some understood but she was pure Patois, ready to survive with head, mouth and heart.
Growing up Black was going to watch my grandfather do gigs in his steelband. Tune after tune, whilst the band drink dodgy beers that look like they were made in a popup factory.
Growing up Black is cringing every time the English say Goat Curry. Growing up Black is learning about Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam before you reach your tenth birthday.
It’s being introduced to N.W.A and Public Enemy at thirteen. It’s being told about your lack of privilege by your mom, that you ain’t like your white friends; you have to work twice as hard for half as much.
It’s being followed around the supermarket by security seconds after walking in. It’s being at Grandma’s House and finding anything but butter or margarine in that container.
It’s having aunties and uncles and grandparents who buy everything big. And I don’t mean big, I mean flipping enormous! Two-kilogram bottles of ketchup. It’s being at weddings and funerals and there being the token Caribbean buffet. Sweet Christmas!
It’s being told that there’s no pepper in the saltfish fritters until it’s lodged in your throat. Grandma’s joke at everyone’s expense.
It’s walking into the living room met with mustard gas, and by that I mean fog that burns. Not hot sauce from Tesco, I’m talking sauce fresh from our homeland, the small islands – the Caribbean, the West Indies and the Dutch Antilles.
Yellow liquid gunge, filled with bits and pieces. Someone has home-grown the Grim Reaper and put him into a plastic water bottle, labelled Hot Sauce in black marker pen. It should be called Put This On Your Food If You Don’t Want To Live Sauce.
It’s watching my grandfather and his friends slap dominoes on the table. Bloodclart!! followed by laughs and gulps of Wray, Appleton and what I like to call Cerberus, named for that dog that guards the gates of the Underworld. One sip of Rivers Rum is enough to knock a person out for a fortnight.
Growing up Black is being told you’re a great cricketer. You’re like a Michael Holding or Clive Lloyd. And those pioneers became my idols – Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Colin Croft, Viv Richards, Gary Sobers. Top top players of the game at the highest level.
It’s testing what your white friends say to their parents to your parents. It’s safe to say I lived… just about.
Growing up Black is living on a fault line between identities, it’s telling your family about the first time you were called nigger whilst ticking British on the application form. They will understand.
It’s being looked at oddly when you show your passport at customs abroad. Where are you from? No, really, where are you from? Making you feel you like you don’t belong.
From Slavery to Windrush; from the Nationality Act to Brexit; from curry goat and rice in a butter container to a hostile immigration policy,
growing up Black is family and community. It’s dinner round the table. It’s history and politics and West Indian superstitions.
It’s kakaje, sleep dust. It’s a childhood and upbringing in Dutch pots and crisp n dry. It’s immigration in plastic. It’s a family that spans thousands of miles and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
“Windrush” is a poem inspired from David Lammy’s speech about members of the Windrush Generation being evicted from Britain.
The Windrush are the people who came from the Caribbean between 1948 and the early 1960s to help with Britain’s postwar labour shortages.
Thousands of UK families only exist today because of the Windrush coming here; many fell on hard times when they came in the 1940s and the 1960s.
People like my great-grandparents came in the second wave of immigrants in the early 1960s, my grandmother from Grenada was six years old at that time.
They came for a better life. England was a land that had this myth-status throughout the colonies. It was dubbed a nation that “was paved with gold.”
This poem is inspired by David Lammy’s inspirational speech but it’s also directly influenced by “Directives” by American poet Olivia Gatwood.
The first British ships arrived in the Caribbean in 1623, and despite slavery they came when the “Motherland” went to war against Germany. Twenty-five thousand West Indians fought in the world wars.
When my great-grandparents arrived in this country under the Nationality Act, they came as British citizens. I’ve heard there have already been deportations. My Grenadian grandmother came on her parents’ passports. She has been here since she was six.
Is Grandma at risk too?
If it happens to you and yours, predictably you will ask the question why? You thought this only happened to stowaways, to the people who are caught sneaking in, but not you – who came by invite.
Not you who have been denied your rights after fifty years and more. You’ve worked too hard to be booted through Britain’s backdoor – with your careers as nurses in the NHS, with your careers as mechanics in the car industry, with your careers in housing and social work and recruitment and the media and employment and sports.
Grandparents, it seems your best is no longer good enough. This is not a place to set up shop and you thought you played this game of chess right. Do not be fooled by checkmate. Do not think by “winning” the battle you have won the battle. These institutions love it when you win like this. When you are at their mercy like this. When your pawn is one square from the end of the board like this.
You were told about streets paved with gold. Our ancestors were transported, bought and sold at the market. And now, like slaves, their descendants will go to live in countries they barely know.
And you, your children, (like my parents) and by extension their grandchildren – like my brother and I, this country was built on the backs of our labour. If you have lived here since you were six years old, are you really an immigrant? Raised and moulded in the view of The Crown, you are not a slave… you are of this ground.
When you’re black and British, the struggle is constant – like living inside your own heartbeat. Ripping apart your veins and arteries, convincing yourself that the white man is more worthy of the transplant.
However, Windrush, you are the solution. You have more than paid your way and you’ve earned your place. You are the National Health Service; you are schoolteachers, and politicians and judges and so much more.
When the bulldog doesn’t know how to speak softly, remember he has been taught how to bark and ask questions afterwards. When he uses his body like a battering ram through a steel door, remember he’s been taught to plunder and devastate. When he doesn’t answer your call, how can you blame a rabid beast for its lack of table manners?
How many have been deported? The Home Office should know. How many have been treated like prisoners in their own land, banned from free movement… constantly watched by the white-collar overseer.
This is not a game of chess. Checkmate or stalemate, these are people’s lives – those who arrived after the war and into the 50s and 60s and made roots.
So, Home Secretary, this is where bad decisions are made.
Do not masquerade behind talk, giving it this.
You are not a victim. You are a liability. You politicians are magicians, into smoke when it gets too hard. You are loose boots and loot crates of money for wars, not for pensions. Your uniform has seen better days. Your rope is frayed.
Windrush is marching through France not knowing whether to kill the bulldog or the Nazi. Windrush is saving the NHS from ruin. Windrush is saving the coloniser and becoming the colonised. Windrush is centuries of hard labour.
Windrush is putting out the flames of a hostile environment policy. Windrush is saying no to Enoch Powell’s River of Blood speech. Windrush is leaving paradise for a dystopia in hopes of creating something better for your children.
Windrush is a song in a strange land.
If you lay down with dogs, you get fleas.
Windrush is willing to burn in the apartment so the fleas do not get in.
This poem is inspired from grief, and a depression that grief can bring; I say “a” rather than “the” because it’s different for everyone and not definitive.
Furthermore, this poem is semi-inspired from “How to Fold a Memory” by Sabrina Benaim, in her book Depression & Other Magic Tricks.
I remember the feeling of pain,
like the crater in my leg after climbing that fence
on that holiday at my grandparents’ Alicante apartment –
whether it be: physical, mental or emotional.
I remember it in hope of avoiding it tomorrow.
Let’s begin there,
I remember the imprint my hand made in yours.
Like a paper prayer, you can always start over.
I remember when Uncle Morten gave you the Evenstar,
and I recall the smell of homemade lasagne.
I can’t eat that anymore without getting hungry
for your sorrow smile and slow resolve of your soliloquies.
I remember your exaggerated anecdotes
at Grandma’s House. I remember how you
hummed Cameo’s Candy in flawless harmony.
I wish I could forget you existed.
I remember you carrying this child as a little one.
We marched, my hand in yours on the streets of London
and there was no map. We just walked.
Let’s go to the last stop –
Camden Town in the warm bohemian breeze
unfolding into silence. In the quiet, it’s hard
to tell what others think without entering their eyes
like Lucy Pevensie with her doorways to Narnia.
With every journey back into my past, it becomes harder to find my way back again.
Since I have been practicing unremembering,
I’ve pondered living more times than not.
I take in the smoke of yesterday in attempt to pacify
the synapse between you and the scent of lasagne .
I drink beer as if I am trying to save the world from inebriation,
to get my childhood so pissed that the narrative changes.
But the trauma of daydreaming, the ache of muscle memory;
my body will always remember.
Like a goldfish, six-second slate wiped blank,
grief-stricken with an etch-a-sketch mind,
gumming the water I think is air.
The octaves of my voice box forget the long sounds
of the name my grandfather gave you.
How do I teach my ears to listen to song lyrics
free from your ghost inside of them?
I don’t know which way is up in these incandescent thoughts,
if the present tense is the present tense.
Or if the imperfections are slipping into past transgressions,
still my mind heeds your advice like proverbs.
I lose teeth like I lose days but you’re the wisdom tooth.
We cannot control what we see but we can control how we see it.
I eat lasagne easily, without thinking of you.
I say your name over and over, and I am content.
I fold my depression like an origami plane,
crafting those paper wings into a pleasant amnesia,
a collateral beauty in this newfound adolescence.