Image by Caroline Forbes

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart

My birth father lifted his hands above his head
and put the white mask of God on his handsome face.

A born-again man now, gone were the old tribal ways,
the ancestral village - African chiefs' nonsense, he says.

I could see his eyes behind the hard alabaster.
A father, no more real, still less real - not Wole Soyinka.

Less flesh than dark earth; less blood than red dust.
Less bone than Kano camels; less like me than Chinua Achebe.

Christianity had scrubbed his black face with a hard brush.
'You are my past sin, let us deliberate on new birth.'

The sun slips and slides and finally drops
into the swimming pool, in Nico hotel, Abuja; lonely pinks.

I knock back my dry spritzer, take in the songs
of African birds. I think he had my hands, my father.


From Life Mask (Bloodaxe, 2005), copyright © Jackie Kay 2005, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Books by Jackie Kay