portrait in abstract

her hair ain’t black
it’s mostly red
fierce
fiery
like the colours in her head

her skin ain’t black
it’s coffee ‘n cream – a golden brown
earth that breeds
a body that bleeds
she cannot be kept down

you can feel
that she’s real
sex appeal
nerves of steel

she paints her toes ‘n fingernails
Gaia green
since birth
she’s had worth
miracles unseen

like her legs
she thinks hard ‘n long
migraine
pain
too much in the world has gone wrong

you can feel
that she’s real
sex appeal
nerves of steel

a black queen
with brown skin
smarts
‘n secrets
buried within

copyright © 2020 KPM

sunset gin

it’s my own special concoction
utilised on those days
when I waft from room to room
in an unthinking daze
mornings when I feel unsettled
afternoons when I feel blue
after evening tea
when I don’t know what to do
made especially for those days
when I simply cannot win
a magic remedy
that I call sunset gin

no, I’m not gone tell you
what’s in the recipe
just believe me when I tell you
it restores your sanity
a quirky tri-coloured mix
of orange & pink & yellow
all angst disappears
one glass of this & you’ll feel mellow
it’s no antidote for Covid
though troubles it will drown
love me some sunset gin
it’s my solution to lockdown

copyright © 2020 KPM

sunset gin

eviction notice

dude
don’t gimme any guff
pack up yo stuff
‘n go
yo presence
brings naught but
fear
‘n you ain’t wanted here

yep
you heard me right
you caint stay the night
so go
caint have
yo monstrous
face
violatin’ mah space

puh-leeze
yo antics need to cease
dey wreck mah hard-won peace
just go
nevuh will
ah hold you
dear
you’ll nevuh be wanted here

copyright © 2020 KPM

just wanna stay in my bubble

it’s a good start to the morning
silky scented shower gel
bubbles that bathe my weary body
I face a new day of “new normal” hell

a squeeze of the Fairy bottle
prior to doin’ the breakfast dishes
sends tiny bubbles flyin’
like renewed childhood wishes

outdoors in the garden
red watering can tops up the pond
rainbow bubbles float on the surface
blue tits joyously respond

& at day’s end there’s Prosecco
dancin’ bubbles in crystal glass
alcoholic reassurance
that this too shall one day pass

copyright © 2020 KPM

Just wanna stay in my bubble

supposition

I suppose
lockdown
is better than bein’
locked up

stolen people – stolen culture – stolen songs
how many years beggin’
for those wrongs
to be righted
generations blighted

from the solid chain
from the whip’s pain
my people have moved on to
feelings of dejection
at daily, unexplained & subtle
rejection

gerrymandering
what do them people want?
politicians pandering
what do those people want?
centuries awash
with righteous screams
they echo in the ears of the young
booted feet marchin’
towards their dreams

their lives are greater than zero
shades of
Gandhi, Martin & Mandela
they’ve stepped up:
strong new heroes

all these kids
clear angry eyes
brown & blue eyes
steadfast in their determination
to win that prize
marchin’ by day
speechifyin’ by night
swimmin’ through tear gas
& rubber bullets
cause
black or white
they’re all willin’ to fight
they know what’s right

copyright © 2020 KPM

walls

she likes most music
(though she don’t like Elvis)
give her rap
rock
jazz
tunes that make her shake her pelvis

she likes to eat
you know she loves her food
Chinese
Greek
Polish
put her belly in a good mood

she loves movies
different accents, different faces
French
Indian
South Korean
tales from far-off places

she chats with strangers:
saying “educate me”
Asians
Germans
Sikhs & Muslims
in search of commonality

in her garden she likes to sit
where aromatic colours breed
embraced by concrete
iron &
stone
garden walls: only walls she’ll ever need

copyright © 2020 KPM

listen up

funny
how folks’ll comment
on animal pics
or pics of food
yet they remain silent
when a post
strikes a BLM mood

they ignore it
they scroll past it
‘n that’s cool
that’s their choice
but for the poster
that silence hurts:
‘s like you don’t wanna hear their voice

right now, black folks
brown folks
need everyone
to show they care
too long they’ve been mistreated
too long they’ve sought
what’s right, what’s fair

your black brothers
your black sisters
need allies
to secure a future bright
workin’ together
that’s how we all survive
search your conscience: do what’s right

copyright © 2020 KPM

work to do

As a young black woman growing up in the States, I often protested against the unequal treatment black people received. A boomer, I protested against many other things as well: the closure of the steel mills in my home town, the unequal pay of women compared to their male counterparts, the decision to admit men to the prestigious all-woman college I was attending.

Then I moved to Scotland. And yes, as some of my new friends have explained to me, I know Scotland is not innocent; I am speaking to my own personal experience. In Scotland I found laid-back, friendly, open and tolerant people. While I did get the odd person who felt free to plunge their hands into my braided hair (never ever touch a black woman’s hair!) I was never followed around in shops. I was never asked “what are you doing in this neighbourhood.” And when a drunk man in a pub used the n-word in my earshot, the patrons in the pub physically lifted him off the barstool and ejected him onto the sidewalk; the pub’s owner barred him from the establishment for a fortnight.

“Dinny think so, mate – off you pop! Ye no gonna say that around oor Kath!”

This was miraculous to me. I had indeed moved to – as I’d been told by one of my new Scottish friends – a “civilised country.” I was able to put the placards and signs away and use my feet for dancing instead of marching. I was able to just be me, unfettered by race.

Still, I diligently kept up with the stateside news; my family and my friends were still in the States. So when news of a certain person’s presidential candidacy was announced, I took to the streets with many of my Scottish friends who – like me – realised that electing this person to office would have disastrous consequences on a global scale.

Then, on the heels of so many other innocent black people, George Floyd was murdered. I wish every day that I had not watched that video, because now I can’t unsee it.

Floyd’s death sparked a movement bigger than any I’d seen since Dr King’s fight to get voting rights for blacks and end segregation. The US. Germany. Brazil. Italy. Mexico. London. Edinburgh. My beloved bonnie Dundee did not shy away, either: BLM Dundee was born, and I picked up my signs again. Braving the pandemic along with my friends and many other outraged Scots, we took to the streets armed with masks and hand sanitizer to make our voices heard.

I thought I was done with protesting. Now at the beginning of those so-called “golden years”, all I really want to do is grow old peacefully with my partner and putter around my garden. That said, puttering peacefully is no longer an option: this is not the kind of world I want to grow old in – this is not the kind of world I want to leave to my nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. This is not the kind of world we should be leaving to young people of any colour.

Below is the speech I gave at the BLM Dundee protest on Sunday, 26th July. Thank you for reading.

* * * * * *

“Here I am again. Wondering why I am here again. Wondering why we – why people not just in Dundee – but throughout the UK, the US and other places in the world – are having the same conversation about the same wrongs.

Maybe you’re here because you have kids. I don’t have kids, but I do have 10 nieces and nephews. I am a great-aunt to 12 incredible young black men and women. I am a godmother. I am here for them. I see many people have brought their kids with them today. I also stand here for your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews. Because those children – all children – are the future: I am deeply concerned about the kind of world they have inherited, and you should be, too.

They face a world where they have to contend with a virus, which disproportionately affects black and brown people. A world where they have to contend with unstable weather and even more unstable leaders who seem happy to remain wilfully blind to the economic inequalities and daily racist slights and micro-aggressions endured by black and brown people. A world where it is potentially dangerous for black or brown people to indulge in something as simple as strolling down the street, entering their own home or enjoying a drink with their white friends in a club.

Cause make no mistake: while I am delighted and heartened that this movement has garnered so many white supporters, the fact that you are willing to stand here with me – with your black and brown brothers and sisters – here today puts a target on your back as well.

We all – everybody here – need to be mindful of that target. And we must work together to eradicate that target. That means turning up at as many of these protests as you can. It means donating whatever you can to organisations dedicated to improving the lives of black and brown people. It means signing the petitions to remove laws which unfairly impact black and brown people, and working to dismantle the “hostile environment” policy enacted by a government that sees all of us as expendable. It means you must be willing to call out racist behaviour whenever and wherever you see it. It means being willing to educate yourself, because we cannot build a better future without acknowledging and understanding the past.

The poet John Donne wrote “no man is an island….any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.” So I say to everyone present today: we are the muscle and sinew and soul of mankind. So we must continue to fight – together – against overt and covert racism whenever it rears its ugly, divisive head. Because at the end of the day, when any blood gets shed, the colour is the same: we all bleed red.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting us. Peace.”

the social compact has been broken

when time ceases to have meaning
it can be hard to feel at ease
shakin’ off the spectre of guilt
at havin’ hours to do as you please

in an effort to live life “normal”
you dress each day as if for work
endin’ up on the sofa with Netflix
troubled by duties you think you’ve shirked

can’t sit still, must do something
upscale a table, mop some floors
work sustained you, gave you meaning
now you spend time inventing chores

all this is new to you
years spent runnin’ that rat race
no guidelines on how to act
when languor stares you in the face

‘n our leaders offer naught
save platitudes ‘n useless blether
Big Brother is runnin’ amok
we’re not all in this together

thus we re-paint our kitchens
spruce up our garden greenery
as we hold our breath ‘n wait
on the political machinery

but we’re expendable to them
they’ve no concept of what is right
we can only depend on us
to build a future both fair ‘n bright

copyright © 2020 KPM

the visitor (for LCL)

when my doorbell rang
my face broke out in a smile
cause I knew it was my friend
whom I’d not seen in awhile

Bryan Ferry was spot on:
love is the drug
so I met her with open arms
Covid be damned – I gave her a hug

into the lounge we went
so she could have a wee rest
there I read her a speech I’d written
for the next BLM protest

then, armed with iced tea
& the usual bottle of wine
we moved into the garden’s
warm afternoon sunshine

the morning rain had vanished
an unexpected treat
joyously we bared our skin
to the early evening heat

together in the garden
we spoke of everything
retaining optimism
for what the future might bring

a girl who’s entered womanhood
a woman near the end of her life
both unmindful of race or class
making plans for a world with no strife

copyright © 2020 KPM