The One in Which…
1. The one in which my children discuss jazz while we set out to watch The Lego Batman Movie in Blackwood
A crow caws into the morning drizzle as mist clings to the valley.
Tired, I bark at my five-year-old daughter (Derys) to, ‘Focus!’
on her seatbelt. She blubs, her nostrils dribble mucus
and I itch with shame. ‘This music’s emotions are angry!’
she wails. Hadan (aged six) snaps, ‘No. Sad and lazy!’
All the while, Joe Harriott’s abstract sounds whirl around us:
‘Sad and crazy!’ shouts Derys. We fall into silence.
As I drive, a smile curls – my Mixed-Raced children are listening
to something I want them to love: art that sings
Africa’s diaspora and raises skin to radiance.
But they haven’t asked to learn a history of defiance
or the Blues’ dark beauty. Is this upbringing
or brainwashing? Below the grey hills of Hafodyrynys,
Haden asks, ‘Does the trumpet sound like a forest fire or an arrest?’
My best mate’s mix tapes melted during the policing protest
that blazed on Broadwater Farm: should we tour the bliss
and sadness those high-rises hold for me? ‘Where we live’s not racist,’
I was once warned. Cymbals shimmer. A loneliness rests.
2. The one in which I contemplate The Handmaid’s Tale TV series whilst exiting the cinema’s Art Deco doors
In pick-n-mix dispensers, fudge shines like the 30-year-old scar
on my knee. To reach an anthology with Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and Anansi,
I tiptoed on a wooden box and wobbled. My slip was bloody.
Like the A-Team with their savage Mohawk and civilised cigars,
bedtimes were a whirl of imagery. That knee-wound night was dark as tar:
Mum read 1984. In dreams, rats still scurry in my belly.
Derys grins against Blackwood’s umbrella-filled noon:
the gloom recalls the Handmaid’s best friend, Moira
the Black sassy sister and murderer.
Is it over-sensitivity to worry about stories that bloom
into ‘truths’ and leave no room
for my children’s ancestors to be their own authors?
Tugging my hand, Derys yells, ‘Doughnuts!’ knowing we’ll pass Greggs.
I want some say in what takes residency
in my kid’s unconscious minds – Black is not mystery,
Darth Vader or death. Haden twirls by a shoe shop: ‘I’ve got Anansi legs!’
I ask them, ‘How about surprise eggs?’
Smiling, they ponder toys with which they’ll tell their own stories.
(both poems are from the unpublished sequence, The One in Which…)
Born in London to Jamaican parents, Marvin Thompson now lives in mountainous south Wales. A selection of his poetry is published in Primers Volume Two, (Nine Arches Press) and he has work in a number of literary journals, including Poetry Review, Stand, Poetry Wales and Long Poem. He has also had work shortlisted for the forthcoming anthology, Filigree (Peepal Tree Press). Hear Marvin Thompson read at Drawing Projects UK, Trowbridge, on Saturday 30 September. Twitter @MOS_Thompson