With Love From Fiji

Poet Keisha Thompson shares her pieces from our VAULTS event at The John Rylands Library last month. Like all our performers, she wrote the following in response to a collection of oddities from author Isabella Banks.

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Keisha performing at VAULTS

 

Bury Me

Bury me when the moon is on its knees

A needy insomniac aside my bed, begging to savour a timeless story

Fiction is a saviour, benediction for the mind

Praise to god for my thoughts, they have taken me across the cerulean seas

I have the crumbs of this old world in my pocket

 

In centuries you may come to call me a hoarder

A liar, a deluded collector

 

Can you bring yourself to excuse this old woman

For keeping what she can of this world?

For I have been truly robbed

Eight festivals of labour have paraded between these thighs

Can you forgive for thinking of my three children

Not as blessings but as those who have survived?

 

Like a Luddite to the machine I watched my husband’s defeat

Poured our marriage into a neat glass and drank himself into a stupor

 

And in these times I became a marauder of sunlight

And all those lands I could not see

My brain abundant, fertile and evergreen

Sprouting stories that would grow and come to love me

 

I swam in the tides of patriarchy, was twisted in the watershed of civil rights forgotten

But bathing yourself in politics can turn your the skin rotten

So bury me with those flowers plucked from Washington’s grave

Wrap me in the cranberry drapes from Princess Eugine

Lay me down where the wind waltzes into the wailing air

Bury me in the ivory of my bridal dress

It will look untouched and clean

For I have scrubbed my marriage to translucence

And wrung my love into tolerance

I deserve to end this life like a beautiful May Queen

 

Believe the tempestuous song of the failing heart

And keep your wits about when the raven calls your name

He is sure to want a treat, I will greet him like my favourite uncle

Have him sit at my bed as I soothe him with all the fantasies I have cleaved

 

In centuries you may come to call me a hoarder

A liar, a deluded collector

 

But I do not open my mouth to deceive

I have been waiting to meet my children at those blinding gates

I have been giving myself a reason not to grieve.

 

With Love from Fiji

Where did she get it from?

A superstitious missionary, no a nomadic anthropologist?

Maybe a peg-legged raconteur or a colonial philanthropist?

 

How did she hold it that very first time? Did she stroke it like a kitten’s brow?

Coddle it into a tissue, folded like an after-dinner treat?

Or pinch it like a spider for removal, little finger akimbo

Smiling through gritted teeth?

 

Did she compare it to her own?

Chestnut feathers fanning around the ears stretched

Alongside what could only be described as rope

Black as a vanilla pod or the devil’s tongue

Frayed at the edges like a dying man’s hope

 

Where did she put it when she got in that evening?

Was it something to be draped on the mantelpiece?

For guests to wiggle their noses at, the macabre of a foreign beast

And in the discomfort of curiosity, did myth and hearsay fester?

Oh to suggest a cannibal at the dinner table can make appetites cease

 

Did she decide to take it upstairs to her room away from all the gossip?

What did she do with it whilst she was alone?

Please it under pillow so it curled into her dreams?

Or did she lick it like the spine of fine warrior

To taste the essence of man she would never see?

 

Did she catch herself in the midst of an erotic fever?

Thoughts sweetened with more sin than Anais Nin’s

Did she think it would be better to put it in an obscure box?

A safe place for her otherworldly things

 

And in searching for this box did she stumble across another?

The one carefully wrapped holding five tufts of hair

A cold remembrance for an ever-brooding mother

And I wonder if at this point she found herself guilty?

The contrast of the sentimental and the novel

How would she feel if the hair from her dead children

Were tucked away in an unreachable Polynesian hovel?

 

Did she finally come to think about how this braid was taken?

Was it severed, ripped, offered or found?

Was the owner a victim, martyr, peacemaker, dead or alive?

And if all of this was taken into account from the beginning

Would Isabella still take it home as a worthy prize?

Our audience in the Historic Reading Room at John Rylands. Photos by Phil Benbow

Our audience in the Historic Reading Room at John Rylands. Photos by Phil Benbow

Extra bits

Keisha is a Manchester based poet and singer, and you can follow her on twitter here. She’s also got a show at Contact Theatre in Manchester next month, and you can find out more and book tickets here.

Read more pieces and guest blogs from VAULTS at the John Rylands

See blogs elsewhere on our event from writers Nija Dalal-Small and David Hartley

Join us for our April event, Nothing Up Our Sleeves, at The Castle Hotel on Monday 20 April

Find out more about performing with us and get in touch about future events

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