What are you looting for? asked the evening News, & the crowd continued looting. I wasn’t there,
____but I thought I was – my brazen face live on the nation’s screens, half-tucked under a t-shirt
chucking bricks. An expert on riots was invited to speak about why these particular young people
__________were rioting. While he talked they showed more footage:
a bus set on fire,
hooded boys with overgrown nails,
a sky that refused to bring shine nor rain
(as if it had decided to mind its own business),
a police helmet with a broken visor,
horses clumsy-trotting through piles of debris
– all the chaos and poise of a camp fire story. They showed Mark Duggan & it was a picture of me even though I wasn’t dead. That’s what it feels like to be Black here: like you’re dead & alive at the same time. And though these experts spoke on the mayhem, nothing was said about the maddening of grief. Nothing was said about loss & how people take and take to fill the void of who’s no longer there. A correspondent in the riot zone asked an old man about the situation & he said
they demanded payment for death
& so they shook the city down for change
Unsatisfied, she asked a woman, but couldn’t make out the words
through her accent.
de man ded
all the [houses]
I have lived in sit in my ribcage
with faces like beggars
I dream my postmortem
unzip my skin & ask each [house], what
are you: a mother, a sculptor, a motionless meadow?
I take myself on a tour through my self
each circle of [house] is visited
you see this [house] here under my left lung
it taught me to eat with my mouth closed
in this one-down at my right calf
I did not know how beautiful the evening
sun was until it painted the walls
in this one I was a magician; in this one, a king
of a shabby kingdom & my subjects were bony
there nobody asked me to prove shit
asked why was I was standing where I was standing
or if I had an offensive weapon on me
I could not feed anyone a supper but I
kept love in this [house] – the old thing
I kept a shoobs invited the whole endz to this
cramped corner of the world we grew enormous
yak spilled on skirts air ached with sweet sweat
daggering gyal zoots ashed on my windowsill
I held a shoobs every night they swaggered
back like the legs of tarantulas swimming through
the dark we supped on this only
between songs we christened this [house]
new black[house] or [house] of commons
kept eight buckets of water in the [house]’s eight corners
because there were enough of us in there to die by fire
Caleb Femi is a poet and director who featured in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture. He has written and directed short films commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4 and poems by the Tate Modern, The Royal Society for Literature, St Paul’s Cathedral, the BBC, The Guardian and many more. Between 2016-2018, Caleb was the Young People’s Laureate for London working with young people on a city, national and global level. Caleb performs and speaks internationally gracing major stages, institutions and festivals. He works on global advertising campaigns.
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