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.


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1The Waiting Lists

2Baby Lazarus

3The Tweed Hat Dream

4Brendon Gallacher

5Old Tongue

6My Grandmother

7In My Country

8In the Pullman

9The Red Graveyard

10Somebody Else



13Late Love

14Glen Strathfarrar

15The Spare Room

16There's Trouble for Maw Broon




20Gone With the Wind



23Things Fall Apart

24A White African Dress


26George Square

27The Shoes of Dead Comrades

28I Kin See Richt Thru My Mither

29High Land

30Old Aberdeen

31Dream Pier



34Moon Mask

35Life Mask

Books by Jackie Kay