John Agard writer and performance poet

John Agard is the author of more than forty books, many of them for children. His selected poems were published by Bloodaxe in 2009 as Alternative Anthem. He was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2012. His latest collection is Travel Light Travel Dark (Bloodaxe 2013).

 

 

Ancestry

Coal
born in womb of earth
you whose black heart burns bright –
you the eye of the hearth –
dark bulb glowing in the mouth
of night.

Chalk
born in bed of sea
you dweller in fossil-white-
keeper of these Albion hills –
you from whose rib flint
takes flight.

Slate
born of mudstone and water
you the blood of both worlds –
metamorphic child of clay,
you whose silver-grey veins
yield light.

 

Enemy

Pause to wonder at your enemy’s mouth
which, like yours, also boasts a tongue –
that little reptile that blossoms
into the gift of speech and song.

Investigate the ruffle of seaweed
that is your enemy’s hair –
a clump not unlike your own.
And one nose per person seems only fair.

How familiar are your enemy’s fingers –
a crablike entreaty that could pass for prayer.
Marvel too at those toes – ten, no more no less.
See how they barnacle an instep.

Observe, if you dare, your enemy’s eyes,
how they wrinkle their petals –
eyes that, like yours, have smiled and wept
long grounded in the skull’s coral.

Ask yourself what’s to be done
with this creature, part flower, part sea,
daring to be loved as much as yourself.
This miraculous mirror called enemy.

[‘Ancestry’ and ‘Enemy’ appear in Travel Light Travel Dark (Bloodaxe 2013).]

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