Poems by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee and Shailja Patel
by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee
When I recount this not-really-a-war story
I call it the day I almost got Joburged,
verbing my city into something
that’ll shank you in places
only poetry can plaster
or in this particular incident, show you its gun
in fair exchange for the phone you were foolish
to check in a brazen morning while in the car
stopped at a robot surrounded by other cars with
drivers similarly distracted.
You’ve got to look up to survive I know this now
for sure give no fucks about who’s coming up
in the lane next to you get the hell out of there away
from that gun blooming from under and out a torn t-shirt
in daylight so broad, it must be performance art
but not today, my man, not today
my photos haven’t synced to the cloud yet
and there’s no password set on my lock screen.
Excerpts from LOVE POEM FOR LONDON
by Shailja Patel
The night Youssou N’Dour
sang at the South Bank
cicadas shrieked for joy
in Stockwell’s streets
gargoyles jumped off Westminster Abbey
to bump and grind in alleyways.
We leapt for red buses
flew into windstreams
bodies spun midair.
The night voices of Senegal
ran molten gold into the Thames
speedboats turned to clove-laden dhows
trade winds belled their sails
ice cubes clinked into cowrie shells
across the city’s wine bars.
Police truncheons fruited nectarines
tear gas canisters burped out
green coriander clouds
Hyde Park squirrels flashed neon orange
tree to tree like northern lights
banana trees exploded
greenhouse walls in Kew
coffee bushes flung
red berries to the swans.
by Shailja Patel
lush and steamy
from every cranny
a thousand cranes
ten thousand pylons
bridge that stretches to infinity
tessellation of traffic
vastness of water and
dense construction and
irrepressible green. .