By Esme Allman and Ade Oyejobi

Word to my neighbours.
Word to my brothers and sisters.
Word to my past and future.
Word to my flaws and sins. 
Word to my hopes and dreams.
Word to my friends and enemies.
Word to my neighbours.

The Palace

The Palace

Bargains offered by the flower man.
A jester in disguise, crafted by this palace.
A cacophony of combusting horses argue under the Son.
Heritage is revealed to me. I caress Geoffrey’s Crown.
Roasted coffee beans. Burnt toast. 
It’s jewels warm my fingertips.
Transported into a world of stories. 
Transported into a  world of trophies.
Chickens laying knowledge on Mercury’s shelf.
Trumpets sing Kirkdale.
Willow’s World of Optimistic Misfortune.
Chickpea curry floods Eyes & Ears because Nose is occupied
by pollen and tears. Golden fragments of hayfever.
Summertime in this palace.
Son sets on my shoulder. My Sun
and I am one.



She was a pyrotechnician, 
the orange wall blazing
behind us. We three –myself, Daphne, 
and the pyrotechnician–
squeezed onto the antique sofa, its right arm
unhinged, screw holes gouging where nails 
used to be. “Are you into antiquities?” 
the pyrotechnician asked, produced a bomb
-shaped bag between her knees. She retrieved 
a punt of grapes with the pluck of her finger
and thumb, its stems entwined wires 
in an explosive. “We used to practice 
with old tatt” this triggered a trophy to fall 
off the shelf, igniting the breath in our lungs
then shooting the shelf a stern look, everything still
intact. The summer was relentless. A man loitered at its threshold,
the stairs descending into a discrete pub.
Pints arrived orange-brown, bubbles climbing 
its rim; I stirred, the bomb-bag strangely placed,
sat between me and Daphne on the antique sofa. 
There were books that matched my clothes; 
my grandma’s frock. A 1960s Greenwich spring, 
where the rage of June whistled up her dress, swollen belly
daring to burst its seams. Later that evening 
we hauled the rickety sofa out onto the street,
goggled up, detonator in hand.

Word to my neighbours.
Word to my brothers and sisters.



I pluck a rib from my body,

Do you know we have 8 true ribs?

the bone gleams white.

4 false and 2 floating?

I offer it to Steven.

This soul will forever float its truth.

He goes to the shop,

Encase my soul. I’m thinking

gets some ingredients,

creates a broth of food. Cradle this bowl.

and shares it in deep bowls with the room

Let me enjoy my chickpea soup.

Black Hair Shop

Black Hair Shop

Bold eye, the bar
in her ridged brow.
She is bad-
gal material.
People talk to her
nice. In the aisle
of the black hair shop
I scan the endless bottles
that will me
to look like her.
Gappy smile, purple blending
blonde hair. I try
oils, nozzle and dip;
slink to transform.
What is a woman
if not grounds for adoration
all in the aisle of those
who gather
in the black hair shop?

Shea butter, tea tree oil and coconut mist
fill my nostrils, place me
Outside; into my mother’s soul.
She speaks through
fractioned happiness. Beautiful
astral projection. I have transformed
a scent therefore speak
for beautiful black queens,
who gather in the aisle of the hair shop.

What I learned from Denise

What I learned from Denise

I am taboo. You refuse
my hand. A phenomenon
faced with butterfly stomach.

Conversations bound by
black skin, as in fears,
hopes, dreams.

I am a Yoga mat,
smiling crown
by next generation’s passion.

Kemets are Martin’s nation
acknowledged truth. I am
United with streets

ruler refuses to accept. Word in
will be healing, at least.

that’s what I learned through Denise.
Soften my features, keep my nose broad – kind.
Present lavender on the warmth of your forearms.
Be gentle with the twilight – they are a new bloom.
Tap and strum your fingers when you hear a good rhythm.
Share paper with babies, they’ll draw you an honest portrait
even with your bag slung on your back–

Word to my brothers and sisters.
Word to my past and future.

Even with your bag slung on your back,
Bare weight of the people
Burden gives you strength to
Withstand these burns.

Shoulders melted
Back crispened.
But, healed by folklore of my

By the folklore of my community
We carry hens in the crook of our arms
A masked woman does the checks
What happens when the air runs out?
I bare my back tattooed in bruises. It’s okay,
I’m a peach. We all are. Oozing sugar.
On Friday we gather at the dance hall. Roll
Ourselves around until skin glistens glycose. What rumour!
The police do not come.

These ghosts can’t tell i’m holding the five of hearts

These ghosts can’t tell i’m holding the five of hearts

After Roger Robinson

You’ll turn on a light and your hand will carry a faint scent of cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter skin. I rubbed
Before you rushed off to work
I told you to calm down because
self-love isn’t just the best love;
It’s the love that keeps you

Take a deep breath.
Hydrate your hands.
Your brown tint is reflecting off the ripples of this river.
I’m talking to myself
again. I stand alone
at Pool’s River.

Solitary confinement
with a catalogue of memories. Built for you.
I'll drown them.
I'll squeeze the circumference of your throat
I’ll hold you under this river.
I’m over.

Word to my past and future.
Word to my flaws and sins.



Draw of knife. Beckon to

come round corner. It’s not

his first time. Could be

his last breath.

Woman in hushed voice says

“he has a knife”

way you would ask someone

if they understood. What on my face

says I haven’t registered this?

Both men leave,

go have better days,

better evenings. Better

nights. Maybe

where the spill of

anger is innocent;

children goading

less lethal.

Futile blood leaks from veins
deoxygenated by experiences of life;
Carbon Monoxide.
Absent is the mind of a child,
Present is the wisdom of seventeen.
He sits on His throne as barber Olu moulds His crown.
Lineage vessels this body.

Word to my flaws and sins.
Word to my hopes and dreams.



Keep mind out the gutter

There isn’t a ladder to heaven,
Keep head high.
There isn’t an easy route to freedom.
Hope will propel
And faith will launch you over this.
Finished line.
When you finish in time
Look around, acknowledge those who support you.

Word to my hopes and dreams.
Word to my friends and enemies.

Someone threw up in Sydenham.

Someone threw up in Sydenham.

Right by Fresh and fruity.

“Are you ready for school? “ My mother interrogates me.
White school shirt stained orange from rice and stew
Rice & Stew is my favourite Knucks song.
Rice & Stew is the first Knucks song I listened to.
“Kingship and enrichment” I replied to Olu.
“It’s good that you know what your name means.” He said.

Why is the fan scared of me?
Every minute it turns away to face E.
But It keeps its eyes on me. Curiosity.

Someone cleaned the throw up in Sydenham .
We can talk to girls now.
In another life, my past life - I carried a gun, I held that knife.
I’m joking but it’s not really a joke, it's the mandem’s reality.
A choice.
I choose to be at Cobb’s Corner instead of the corner you want me to come around.

I have returned to the narrative.
The mandem can feel the breeze
We don't need the fan to face us.



After Lavinia Greenlaw

Too many things fell out the sky.
The lightning came later, that’s when

the railway line crashed. We grabbed a coffee,
Sena and I. I’d forgotten my roller skates

the clouds darkened. Tried rolling
something, dust between our fingers,

exhaled from our lungs. A bus
slammed from above onto the pavement,

arriving timely at the bus stop. Thank god
people went unharmed. My letter jested

refusing to land. Sena’s handwriting scrawled
all over it. Wait - my phone. Another flutter

from the sky. I thought I could give you
a tour, once the weather cleared, the railway still

broken, kids wearing octopus uniforms.
I wanted to walk to the river

but people kept calling me in There wasn’t enough time
to point to everyone. I find Sena in the barbers,

remove my rings. His face plastered
on the wall with Fela and Yaa. It’s a shrine.

Tell him I love him, thank him for his friendship.
The lightning starts up, Sena falls upward to the sky.

Word to my friends and enemies.
Word to my neighbours.

High Street

High Street

Crab hand pinching out the car window, clipping
the humid fog to the rumbling treble. A thick fume

clogs the street. The traffic lights spit rainbows, settle
on bottle green, cars moving in accordance.

Flowers shake out their hair, lilies raining orange
stains on the pavement. The roses wink, invite passersby

to stop and look a moment. An elderly woman
drags a boulder up Sydenham High Street, wrapped in

tartan, hoisted over a sturdy shoulder. No one
bothers her - she’s in prayer. Smoke curls

cloak the street, a garden now BBQ bustle works
itself outback. Whole street sprinkled with hunger,

the smoke curbing; the suspension of a good meal.
A boy talks with his mouth full, checks swollen

with small worlds spilling from his teeth. Everyone’s
trim was done with Shane’s razor, which is to say
boys are carrying the confidence of slick one-liners

open cans and smiling. A gust blows summer dresses,
umbrellaing, then subdue, falling to the floor.

Word to my neighbours.
Word to my brothers and sisters.
Word to my past and future.
Word to my flaws and sins
Word to my hopes and dreams.
Word to my friends and enemies.
Word to my neighbours.