Poetry | Schrödinger’s Black & Yard by Caleb Femi


    Caleb Femi

    Schrödinger’s Black

    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

    this time
    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

    Demanded what?







    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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