Spoken Word: Tariq Touré

“If under the night you get caught in the cold

With the hundreds of lights that were torn from the mold

And can’t muster the might to find morsels of code

Know the honey in life is sourced in the soul” ~Tariq Touré

I would offer you the rains

“The harvest was good this year” Nneka murmurs to her sleeping son. The silhouette of a bird, wings outstretched sails across the curtains as Nneka gets up to extinguish the kerosene lamp. Her nails are chewed and years of worry have peeled the surrounding area to reveal sore pink flesh. 

She treads out of her son’s room, silently passing through the wooden beaded partition. The sky smells of trepidation and holds the gargling trembling tension that precedes lightening. The air is murmuring with expectation. 

Nneka steps out and walks. She passes the house of the chief, passes the house of her paternal uncle until she reaches the furthest house at the edge of the clearing. Nneka walks to the end of the clearing where the bush begins. She kneels by three unmarked mounds and raises her hands skyward. 

“Ya Allah cure him”

The next morning Nneka is found serene, head bowed, in the same position. Cool rain has collected in her palms. 

A Requiem for Marrakesh

Karim sits on the edge of the curb

Coughing up the tail end 

Of last winter

Red sand clouds have billowed 

Into the old man’s lungs

and tinted his spit

 

His back lies against 

the brick storefront

Of an olive vendor. 

The sky tells him that it is 

The curious hour after fajr has ended

And before the sleeping city

Has awoken

 

The smell of baking bread

Wafts through the narrow ally

Rising to meet the makeshift thatched roof of the souk

Occasionally the morning silence 

Is broken by the sound of a woman

Kneading mnsemn next door

A stray dog quickly scampers past

Side hugging the wall

 

On this new morning Karim looks

At his weathered hands

His fingernails framed with black dirt

His palms calloused and yellow. 

Each line tells a story of

A bygone time. 

He unfurls his fingers 

and outstretches his palm

“Baraka”

Pothole

Nana balances the radio atop her head. 

Gently, intuitive feet shuffle stones from the path and tentatively feel for potholes in the red road. 

Simultaneously slender henna dipped fingers turn the dial, different stations screeching and scratching out of the speaker. 

‘This is BBC world service reporting live at…’

The fabric of Nana’s orange mulfa dances with the wind. Dipping, diving and coasting like a circling bird of paradise. 

‘… Mopti region in central Mali reports gunmen shooting over 150 Fulani herders’

A layer of red dust has settled on the radio such that it is impossible to discern the original colour. 

Once the fingertips have done all they could do with the dial, a station is decided. 

‘Fama yé demisein bèyé fama yé massakèba

Fama yé demisein bèyé fama yé massakèba’

Blood spill is not news for Nana, blood spill is like pothole on red road. 

happiness

conscious air softly bellows a frequency

that observes my still prayer

momentarily

a moment of haqq:

nothing and everything holds me upright

tenderly,

and the earth is my prayer mat

and creation moves with me and unfolds around me.

and He is certainly the most High.

 

Other

I nod too much and my face is

hardened plastic.

Is this a smile or a grimace?

My frozen face is twitching

to relax back into neutral.  

She tells me about Marrakech

and her French textbooks from her school days where she learned about La Rochelle. 

La Rochelle means to me another base

that we have settled into.

Driving through Tangier and Marseille,

bleeding our sanguine souls

into a mould that will

never hold our shape. 

La Rochelle is where

Mami seasons her Tagine

in a greying high rise flat,

where she stacks duvet covers

in clear plastic zip bags

and where she shops for dried mint leaves

at the local market. 

What does it feel like to live in a country

that was made for your wide nose and stung lips?

Where iron skies reflect your character

and the diction knocks you back into last week?

She is sweet when she talks,

kind, sincere even.

But I’m struggling to hear her

from behind these antennae.

‘Yes, yes’ I nod to another. 

‘Of course’ I smile at another. 

All the while antennas coil around

this disappearing smoke.

Uncle Jeff tells me about a place

that I will love at first sight.

Ghana is opportunity he says.

‘You can start anything there’.

‘You have to go’

Ms Addo chimes in

from the migrant support centre.  

And so I dream

of forgoing the ‘otherness’ I will feel in Ghana,

of dissolving the coiling mass around my body

under the glaring sun

and releasing this bated breath.