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21 November 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 5:06pm

Guy’s and St Thomas’

A new poem by Kayo Chingonyi.

By Kayo Chingonyi

When I’m here in a particular
character of mind
any woman of a certain height –
hair plaited neat
to meet the working day –
becomes my mother
in that year of early mornings
she worked at GDRU
close to this stretch of the river
close to Hay’s Galleria;
the aquarium that is still here
though she is not
to walk with me as we scrutinise
tropical fish
laughing in the uncomplicated
manner that comes
of understanding. And after,
a bankside stroll

a cart-proprietor advertises wares;
varieties of ice cream.
It is 1999. My last summer as a native
of this side of the river
where the water brings pilgrims in search
of a cure for long hours,
bad coffee, friends
always catching up
and rarely giving conversation its due.
How can I set down
the passage of time? Who knew a face
becomes less and less distinct
the longer it no longer exists?
How to lift this mist
from my eyes, that I might see
this concrete and glass
for what it is and stop
writing my mother into it
that I might let her walk away
becoming smaller and smaller
until she disappears.

Kayo Chingonyi’s latest book, Kumukanda (Chatto & Windus, 2017), won the Dylan Thomas Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award. He is poetry editor for The White Review, and an assistant professor of creative writing at Durham University.

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This article appears in the 21 Nov 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The real Brexit crisis