By Kayo Chingonyi
Read by Paapa Essiedu

Since I haven’t danced among my fellow initiates,
following a looped processions from woods at the edge
of a village, Tata’s people would think me unfinished –
a child who never sloughed off the childish estate
to cross the river boys of our tribe must cross
in order to die and come back grown.

I was raised in a strange land, by small increments:
when I bathed my mother the days she was too weak,
when auntie broke the news and I chose a yellow suit
and white shoes to dress my mother’s body,
at the grave-side when the man I almost grew to call
dad, though we both needed a hug, shook my hand.

If my alternate self, who never left, could see me
what would he make of these literary pretensions,
this need to speak with a tongue that isn’t mine?
Would he be strange to me as I to him, frowning
as he greets me in the language of my father
and my father’s father and my father’s father’s father?


*Selected for the 2021 Film and Video Poetry Symposium*

Directed by Matthew Thompson.

From Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi. Published by Chatto and Windus. Reprinted by permission of The Random House Group Limited. © 2017.