/ 21 December 2017

Poems by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee and Shailja Patel

'Gargoyles jumped off Westminster Abbey'
'Gargoyles jumped off Westminster Abbey'


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.


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


hustle springs

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