‘Scratched Light’ by Raymond Antrobus

for Phoebe Boswell

The heart is circled by sorrows and bitter devotion – Derek Walcott

Southbank’s Security guards wake anyone sleeping
as if they don’t want us to miss
who we might bump into
like how I bumped into Phoebe today,
sat at the tall window,
drawing a man called Anwaar.

I pull an extra chair and sit next to them
and talk about maybe moving out of London.

Everything about Phoebe stays on the paper.
          Curving Anwaar’s left eye
she journeys the pencil in a circle –
finding something
but losing something else
in every new expression of Anwaar’s face,
which is softer by the time he says I miss Barbados,
my ex-wife, my children.

He tears a Tate and Lyle sugar sachet
as Phoebe’s hands press harder into his face.
We could all be crying or laughing
as the sun whips through the window
overlooking old stone banks and insurance offices.

We both hear the etching
while watching how Phoebe loosens
the grip on her pencil.
Anwaar asks who is holding me at night

I tell him half truths – no one,
I wake alone, I miss my ex,
my grandmother, my father.

There is nothing in my cup to spill when I tell him
that grief has moved me back in with mum.
Anwaar tells me about Swaziland and
Switzerland and places we could all be
if the right things stayed together.

      Phoebe finishes sketching the shape of the wall
and the light and shade of his eye,

and now she looks up
seeing both of us for the first time
as men
          in the scratched light.

(originally published in To Sweeten Bitter, Out-Spoken Press, 2017)

Raymond Antrobus is a British Jamaican poet and poetry educator born and bred in Hackney, East London. He has poems published in Poetry Review, POETRY (US), The Rialto, Magma and others. He is one of the world’s first recipients of a Creative Writing & Education MA (Goldsmiths University) and former lead educator on the Spoken Word education program. His latest book of poems is To Sweeten Bitter (Out-Spoken Press). He is co-curator of one of London’s most popular Spoken Word events, Chill Pill. Twitter: @RaymondAntrobus