So I've been reading my poems first time for a couple of years, which is a bit of a surprise.
This is the main one tonight.
I saw a Somali migrant woman on the streets of Easton Bristol one cold wet dark night and it came in a rush:
They say that rain’s like tears.
What do they know?
I’ve seen real rain
run down the faces of my friends
while they laughed and cried
with playful happiness
to greet the huge warm drops
splashed down from
- not clouds
if these grey slops are clouds -
dizzy uproarious pregnant
white blue-black grey light-shot
sky mountains. How do they know
there are no gods in there?
What does a man of any colour know of gods?
Those trembling raindrops
turned tawny dust a bloody brown
and in a lightning flash (it seemed to us )
the magic world turned green.
That’s rain. This isn’t rain.
It’s more like a cold sweat
like the one drawn out when you
wake from nightmare
and fear to sleep again
in case you go back in.
But this is worse, the nightmare carries on
under the sun. You’re caught both ways.
Instead of thunder
we got bombs
instead of flames from dry thorn sticks
crackling to warm a calabash of stew
we got the spitting fire
of small-arms battle noise
and all that sunlit
brown skin life joy stopped.
This cold thin silver greyness
is not tears. Tears are hot.
Faces that shone with rain
went still as stones, eyes now forever dry,
open in blank surprise,
and dead teeth shining
cloud white in faces pillowed
in brown skin mother mud.
The sun forever left my land
only the burning stayed.
Dreamlike we travelled,
ran, hid and waited until
somehow that moment
when the big bird roared and pushed
and I was born again
borne off the rumbling roughness of the ground
smooth into sunlit white-cloud world
where gods live for a day
to wake up
stood on a tarry Bristol road
polished with streetlights
crashing with cars
cold water running down my face
caught here alone, alive
but in a cold dark hell.
Of course, it doesn’t always rain.
Sometimes I see a spark of good in someone’s eyes.
© Richard Lawson
I'm going to read the Jobbing Squaddie (here, and scroll down) and a few others too, because they've given me 20 minutes. And this is a reinvitation - I read the whole of Ogrin and the Boy to them a few years ago and they've invited me back! Very excited.