Every dawn i played tennis with James Baldwin

but  i didn’t mind it was a fantasy because i can come out of de smog


i didn’t mind         it was a fantasy         because i can come out         of de smog

to meet him          anytime he played dat cross-court winner                he said negro

             Go Tell It on de Mountain & Another Country                 his volleys have a beautiful

black smell                  on de back of my hand         thank ya’ for de reflex of liberty     it is

de instinct of a scar    it is de yawn of a lion in my head                  negro you’ll have to play

against de wall someday         against ya’ self                     against de jaws &         


in de crowd                      heightening de wall               de membrane dat barricades de race

have you discovered       de protein in Burning             Spear’s Identity?

Michael Jackson                          is caught in a postmortem                 of being reengineered

i heard my uncle jabbering                in de conservatory            i command      de     lethargic

             fan-blades                to rip de fibre in his squabble        i distaste politics not detected

                          by de intuition of a wind vane                    ignore de ragged fathers

             begging for alms in traffic                our children            will pay with demma children

             maybe just maybe                coffee stained wind            i don’t make a lob with it

     escaping de fear is twice de death         i am liberated             by de pandemonium

on de phone call my girlfriend is mad at me           Gabriel you lie        you lie you lie a lot

              i do not want a man              who lies to me             she breaks up

breaks up                    breaks me up all de time         & punches me             into a morass

              like an expired ticket            i’m finding ways                      to marry her without consent

                                     de irony of the issue              she laughs                    she plays

she laughs                   she plays a lot             not knowing

                        she needs permission to be happy                   Pumpkin                     step back!

                        de land you are standing on                is bisected                   it is mortgaged

             which means   you are a stranger in ya’ house                       ya’ body is de function

     for different things            your genitalia is de shyness                      of a sunflower

your excrement            is a picnic for scavengers      don’t tell me you make breathing a leisure

ya’ heart is a discarded litmus            in a sea-diver’s rucksack                    you were dead before

                                      a black-tridarn of revenants                  don’t let it scare you

my stomach is blushing on a grave     under de untimely regime           of wraiths in eternal coma

allow me to understand how               de dead is kind to each other                at de construction

site yesterday              my father said death is a height           dat begins on de ground

              which means we are in a paradise     of a turning crane        only waiting to come down

                           fuck de gunshots         fuck de summits                                fuck dat chaplain

de dead will wake                       to kill us all            my anger is an eyesore               malnourished

             Ukrainian dolls                           whining for bun crumbs & raincoats     i hold de tasteless

    spectacle back                       & tie it into a single ponytail                Go Tell It on de Mountain

& Another Country                                     de dead will wake                           to kill us all.

About the author

Gabriel Awuah Mainoo is a Ghanaian creative practitioner and an author of poetry books. He won the Africa Haiku Prize (2021), Singapore Poetry Prize (2022), LFP/ RML/Library of Africa and the African Diaspora Chapbook Prize (2021), and others. Mainoo’s craft can be found in FIYAH, London Reader, Prairie Fire, Wales Haiku Journal, EVENT, and elsewhere.