Leke Oso Alabi

Menelik


I’m stalking the mirror at night
trying to turn the husk of my youth
Into something that prepares me for the week ahead

When I peel back the layers all I’m left with is a series of questions.

Do we write too much about death?
Do black poets write too many poems about death?
Who gets thrown under the bus?
In every moment there is always a sacrifice
And at the spoken word night
That is often the idea of the black body.

Are some people’s lives just collateral damage?

I have no idea how my parents got together. My dad sort of makes me understand nationalism.

I think about the men in tin hats that this silence, or peace is built upon
Still, my mum tells me that the men who dug up the tin that formed the helmets in WWII
Were Nigerian, were forced into mines
So maybe we are all connected.

I drove past Grenfell the other day
After the fire we, flocked to it.

And it made me think of a scene from the Bible
Of a crucifix
of a God sacrificing himself
Or sacrificing his son
So much brutality
Compressed into one dense image

But Grenfell wasn’t a sacrifice
they placed that building behind flammable cladding to create the veneer of a life. They placed
those people behind plastic cladding
For the reason we get veneers fitted at the dentist
To hide the signs of age.
To create the impression of good-living

the dental record is something that might be used to identify you when you pass on

Mine will say, two fillings in his lower jaw and one route canal, it will not say
he stares at a light bulb for five seconds
Watches the filament burn
Those electric white pangs
He blinks.
He bites down and feels his molar bend
A few weeks later
there’s the smell of a dying nerve,

It will give the headline
But not the story.

Is poetry about the truth or perspective?
I think, sometimes that some day some alien species may use this poem to form an opinion on
what it means to be black, or young and I don’t want to enslave myself in the minds of people
that don’t even exist yet, I don’t want to enslave myself on the page. So I’m going to start writing
poetry about the everyday.
About the thoughts and feelings of everyday working class people.
Like the men who go to poetry events and think, shit, that was intense
Like the black kid who changes his barber and walks the long way home to avoid an awkward
conversation with the man that used to cut his hair, I want to find the people who made me feel
like my life wasn’t of value, I want us to smile at each other, knowing that we failed to live up to
the highest meaning of the word friend, or teacher, or son, or parent, or student.

And I’m going to read poems about the men who are trying to settle into themselves.

Who are trying.

 

Leke Oso Alabi is a poet from London, and Alumnus of the Barbican Young Poets Programme. In 2015, he was long-listed for the position of Young Poet Laureate for London and was recently commissioned by the Barbican to write a poem in response to their Subject to Change season. He is currently developing a poetry chamber concert with the Multi-Story Orchestra