Malcolm Malcolm


When they ask of their father
you will tell them he loved jazz.
He had a mean sense of humour
and he was magic.

Hundreds of men in zoot suits
let cigarettes hang limp on their lips
their questions resting in the furrow of their brows
in the dip of their walk
in the roll of their necks
freshly permed side parts and tightly coiled ‘fros
looking for answers in the chaos of jazz
and oak coloured liquor.

They would
crush the glow out of a blunt
with the edge of their heel
tip their bottles to the ground
letting the liquid run through the cracks
of harlem pavements
like the revolutions to follow
so their vessels could carry the truth,

Tell them their father
could turn hundreds of men into thousands
without a wand or a hat.
And with a slight raise of his hand
cloak them all in silence.


Lullabies do not dress in black
completely veiled
sorrow passing through
slow like a bayou,
they do not snatch the air
from your lungs
leave loss in your palm
and your words wilting
on your tongue.

You threw yourself over your babies
your entire weight
they couldn’t breathe
but you’d rather
the muffle of flesh
than the piercing wails of women
be the soundscape to their dreams

Take Off Your Cool

He is an epigraph.
The build up to a beat drop
the grace before the feast
the beginning of something beautiful.

I think of the blackout often.
We found candles in the case
of his bass guitar,
love under
I learnt what made him warm.

Now his bookshelf is heavy
with literature he thinks
he needs. Lingering over words
he doesn’t know the meaning of,
the definitions sitting heavy
on his tongue.
They’re so unfamiliar on his lips.
I miss the shape of them when he smiles.

The word of the day is neanderthal.
• (of a man) uncivilised, unintelligent, or uncouth

• lacking good manners, refinement or grace

He’s convinced the dictionary is mocking him.
is mocking him.

He reads Fanon to name drop.
To make the load of conversations

A mind that knows
but doesn’t understand is only as good as
a hand that holds
but cannot feel.

He stands differently now
occupies space and time
in a way that I do not love.

He has taken off his cool.

Exposing something colder.

I do not love him anymore.

Time Doesn’t Always Heal

If you remove milk from a freezer it will still spoil.
If not today, then
Sorrow be like that sometimes. you cannot liken it to
wine, or
black women.
The things that get better with age.

Ndi Igbo

The ogene pierces the night.
The hollow echo of its metallic body
means it’s time to celebrate.
Women jump out of their seats
as if they were on fire,
land on all fours like felines,
and dance as if this was the last of their nine lives.

Their names are in the rhythm.
The drums call and their backs respond.
Soul bending,
arms waving,
legs twisting.
Brown limbs defying laws of gravity. These celestial beings
with hair that grows towards the heavens,
all the joy escaping their body
in droplets from their foreheads.

They unsettle the sand with their feet,
and make the dust rise around them
like magic.

They call me ‘Queen England’
before I have even opened my mouth.
‘Oyinbo’, ‘Onye ocha’.
My walk might be received pronunciation,
but my moves? Oh my moves are definitely pidgin English.

The ogene pierces the night,
and it is my name the drum is now calling.

I unsettle the sand with my feet,
and make the dust rise around me
like magic.
Like ndi Igbo.

Tania Nwachukwu is a British Nigerian born in London. She is a member of the Barbican Young Poets collective. She loves a good old chinwag.

:: more from this issue ::

Four Poems

Tania Nwachukwu

Two Poems

Amber Atiya

Rage in Color

A. Montgomery


Abdul Ali

Three Poems

Hanif Abdurraqib

Letter Twelve

Ekere Tallie

Three Poems

Rachel Long

Re: Surrender

Yona Harvey


Jacinta White

Three Poems

Derrick Weston Brown


Cheyenne Varner

Is It Sweet?

Athena Dixon