This Town I Knew


I hear the women in the bus swaying, heavy as birds
I hear their breathing widening in concentric circles
I hear the ice in the souls of men collapsing onto the children
I hear the sirens of the silent train and the slobbering
Alsatians sniffng the air for faults, unkind fires in their eyes
I hear the good doctor panting and cursing, his claws scuttling
the glass, his life scrabbling for a window to jump out of
I hear there are seventy-seven colours of grief and only eight of happiness
I hear the hypocrite preacher sawing off his penis

on the courthouse steps to pay off a debt
I hear what seems like joy is often joy, yet a man walks through
the world as across a desert, his hands full of feathers
I hear the deaf barber reading Nietzsche in the last light of evening
and how he didn’t hear the stray bullet that cut short his life
I hear the dead dog dragging its carcass to the school field gleaming in the sun
like a promise, seeking a burial place in the heart of joy

I hear hear Iya Sodiq yank off her bra and croon into the well,
her body contorted with determination to get back her boy
Behind Isiaka’s wood shop, behind the vast doors of his solitude,
I hear two million bumblebees buzz and buzz
I hear the decades of the man in a greatcoat who smelt of gardens,
who planted pomegranates simply because they bloomed orange
I hear the scratchings and ceaseless susurrations of this hall of students
practising their spelling, learning one word over and over again: empathy, 
empathy, empathy