The best thing I did was
move my body from one side of the world
to the other. This required a visa
which required a bribe.
The bribe placed in the palm
of a man with a gun,
took my mother’s monthly wage packet.
The man with a gun
let you speak to a clerk.
He too wanted a wage
because it would be his job
to have words with a judge
for another month’s salary.
The official wanted his bribe
so listened to the clerk
escorted by the soldier as he held his gun.
As I sat with my mother
at the steps of the court
drinking soda waiting
for one man to say yes, my mother said
In Uganda a bribe stops men
doing nothing. It rolls away the stone.
Her sips were slower than mine,
each separated by this prayer.
(shortlisted, Arvon Poetry Competition 2010)
Promise to my unborn son
It used to be enough, to be my father’s son,
until he was gone. Neither of my two languages
could reach down the phone and ask him to stay.
Even when we lived in the same city. His voice only
ever spoke to me about the news. So when your mother
told me, our second child will be a boy, I panicked.
There were no memories to show me
how to love you and I knew a day would come when
I would stare back at you – without words
like faces on the billboards of the Barking Road.
This road will always lead you home.
It is important to be from somewhere.
I am Ugandan, living in the East End of London.
At your birth, look for me. My voice will be a river
flowing from my mouth, waiting to tell you – everything.
(published in Out of Bounds: British Black and Asian Poets, Bloodaxe 2012)
Nick Makoha was a former Writer in Residence for Newham Libraries. In 2005 flipped eye publishing launched its pamphlet series with his debut The Lost Collection of an Invisible Man. He represented Uganda in the Poetry Parnassus as part of the Cultural Olympiad. His 1-man-Show My Father & Other Superheroes will debut at The London Literature Festival at the Southbank with a special Father’s Day performance at the Unicorn Theatre. Follow him on Twitter @NickMakoha