Jackie Kay

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