This is not a poem by Anthony Anaxagorou

This is not a poem
and I am not a poet
when I’m unable to find a better way of saying that in 2012
48 people in Great Britain were killed by guns
and 120 women killed by the hands of their beloved partners.
I am not a poet
when I can’t find a more beautiful way to say
that no nation in the world imprisons as many members of its population
as America does
that more Black men in the U.S are incarcerated today
than what they were during the peak of South Africa’s apartheid
I am not a poet
when I can’t find clever words to illustrate the fact
that before 2008 Nelson Mandela had been on America’s list
of most dangerous terrorists for over 60 years
that Cameron is a liar, that Cameron was a key member
of the Federation of Conservative Students in 89’
that hoped to hang Mandela
forgive me
because today I am not a poet
and this is not a poem
when eloquent words fail me and I can’t capture
the struggle of the poor through the metaphysics of language
that by the time Margaret Thatcher left office in 1990
the annual incomes of the richest 0.01% of British society
had climbed to 70 times the national mean
and I don’t know how I feel about the fact
that key policy makers and leading
civil servants have never had a job outside of their politics
the same men who set the minimum wage,
with only 4% ever having worked in manual trades,
of which 68% went to private schools
that is why this is not a poem
and I am not a poet
because everything I’ve ever written suffers the weight
of its own futility when another mother comes to a workshop
with a fresh black eye
when there’s another empty seat in the place that James sat in
last week and when I ask the group where he is their young eyes open wet
as if his coffin in that moment was being lowered into them
but you see
I can understand all this more when they cut funding to schemes
that are aimed at inspiring people previously inspired by crime
and the insufferable dross of mainstream culture
private prison systems and prisons for profit
when young women are given more options than just
be someone’s girl, be someone’s mother be someone’s silence,
but you see, I’ve done it again
I’ve crossed themes
I’ve not followed traditional poetic form
and so
 I’m a terrible poet
because how do I speak words in prison
then tell a young black person
that they were once kings and queens of lands whose names fall dead on their tongue?
How do I return their history?
How do I mention The Marriott Excavation?
Cheikh Anta Diop and the skin-cell sampling of three hundred mummies?
How do I show them pictures of skyscrapers before skyscrapers even existed?
How do I do all this and then have them ask what part of the world I’m from
and why don’t I write poetry about 1974, EOKA and Kissinger
until I tell them
that I am not a poet
and nothing I can write will help dismantle this idea of race
that we’ve become so attached to.
Nothing I can write will include the importance of mitochondrial DNA
and the 99.99% of us that is identical
that a BNP member most probably has more Asian and Arab in them
than the mosque they conspire to blow up
that immigration isn’t a choice,
that people don’t come to the UK for great weather,
hospitality and quality of life
how do I explain all this and still retain artistic merit?
I spent days looking for a metaphor to put the Palestinian Nakba in
until I found a home that once stood beautiful and prim
and I opened the door
and saw its contents ransacked
its family massacred
and its garden on fire
from that day I abounded any hope of metaphor
and accepted that I could not write poetry about this
that everything I tried to imagine had already slit its own stomach
like the afternoon I spent with a woman who had been raped
and I asked her to capture it in verse, I asked her to use simile and alliteration,
until she looked at me and said I don’t know what those things mean
but I can tell you in a few simple words
what it feels like to live with the Satan of your own heart
isn’t for me
it’s for people who can use words like odoriferous
while putting red wine to the lips of their white skin
and applaud the technical endeavour of a poem,
its wit, its ingenuity, its meter and form
not its helping, not the ambulance siren
that screeches from the height of its title,
that is why
this is not a poem
and I am not a poet
because I cried reading Douglas Dunn, Arun Kolatkar, Borges and Neruda.
I cried when I went looking for female poets and found few.
I cried when I asked how many black poets Penguin had ever published and was told two
when my English teacher told me that language wasn’t my strength
that my anger crushed my intelligence,
that I should think about going and learning a trade
and I cried then too
when I spoke to a group of young men about what it was to be a man,
how we inherit this cancerous culture, how we inherit misogyny, objectification and the glory of violence while silently suppressing the sensual,
were all the hardest things to write about, to talk about and to live with
that is why I keep saying
that this is not a poem
and I am not a poet
because all of the above digress and ignore the rules set by the establishment,
but all that doesn’t matter
because it’s done now,
you’ve come this far in listening
endings are always the hardest things to write because the author knows
that’s the last impression the reader will be left with
so I chose the following wisely
we are made up of all the things that broke us
just to keep us alive
maybe I could have said just that
but I didn’t
because like I said
this is not a poem
and I am not a poet.
*My new collection of short stories The Blink That Killed The Eye is now available to buy in all good bookshops and online* 

15 thoughts on “This is not a poem by Anthony Anaxagorou

  1. Mr. Anaxagorou has given me courage to keep writing fierce poems and prose. Thank you to Reuben Woolley for re blogging and to G. Jamie Dedes for re posting so I could find it. Connections. So important in this time where forces work to dis-connect us. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thankyou. I read these words. All of them. You are a poet, clearly. I was completely engrossed. Thankyou to all those involved in getting me here. Thankyou Jamie D. for posting this where I could find it.
    Thankyou Anthony Anazogrou for the writing, be it poetry or not…..

    Liked by 2 people


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