Don’t take that plane to your country
because the country is in chaos.
I haven’t seen my family for ten years
and now, at last, I have the money.
But the towns are burnt and gutted
and corpses laid out on wrecked streets.
We are a massive land the size of Spain
and these events are only in the north.
But your cousin was attacked by bandits,
when he took a bus back to his home.
I saw photos of that damaged face
and he was lucky – the driver lost his life.
But I haven’t seen my mother for so long
and she is old and sick and needs medicine.
I heard there are no street lamps in your town,
how desperate gangs plan abduction at night
and I feel if you go now I will lose you:
you who replaced my loneliness with light.
I love the cool simplicity of you
that you’re not complicated,
that I know how to please you
and the shape of happiness today
will be the same in a year.
I love the way you wake and stretch
towards the promise of morning
that neither unkindness nor injustice
have tainted or diminished you.
You are spring dawn perfume
the suggestion of distant coastlines,
a wild enigma asleep in my arms
and it’s unreal you’re satisfied with me
when you could have the world.
I often dreamed occurrences
that made no sense at all:
a race around a supermarket,
six laps of the outside lane
with trolley wheels screeching
past the fresh fish counter
and neon plastic showcase vistas
where the poor and hungry
would come begging a chance
to participate for a prize
of past its sell-by-date rations
to take and eat or sell
in the lean streets
of vacant ghetto gaze
where toxic quagmires
bubbled, closed over heads
like Hammer horror
and out there in a palace
of impregnable tax evasion
land-grab billionaires desperate
to destroy rain forests
would banish humanity forever.
Passing under the railway bridge
by the church of Our Lady of Sorrows,
people seem to carry their pain
more visibly, cigarettes jut sadly
from wind-creviced faces.
A Nigerian girl descends the street
wrapped up for winter’s chills
returns with rice and Tilapia,
somehow happy in this foreign city
of grey clouds and homelessness.
In the flat she’s playing cards
and reading coffee cups all afternoon
for friends who call for company.
They’d find it hard without each other,
reassured by memories and music.
John Short lives in Liverpool and is a member of Liver Bards. He is active on the local poetry scene. Published in magazines like Poetry Salzburg, Envoi, The Blue Nib, Kissing Dynamite and One Hand Clapping; his pamphlet Unknown Territory appeared in June from Black Light Engine Room Press (UK).