Guy’s and St Thomas’

A new poem by Kayo Chingonyi.

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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.

This article appears in the 23 November 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The real Brexit crisis