Poetry Rivals 2016

Taking poetry from the page to the stage!

Jjajja
(*Luganda For Grandmother)

I do not know you
I’ve composed you from
Dress cotton
Banana leaves
Patchwork quilts of quiet smiles and stores
That I could not understand
As I hold your hands
I know they’ve known more work in this past hour
Than mine will in their entire lifespan
I see the hardship of a thousand winds
That have blown across your face
So I trace a map of apologies across the fault lines of your fingers
And hope some amorphous ghost of my meaning lingers
You’re a goddess
I see your shoulder blades press together
Where your wings once met
And yet
We can only exchange awkward nods of acknowledgement
Because my world cannot slot into yours
Though I crawl on all fours for meagre scraps of my identity
Endless grieving each mistranslation
Misunderstanding
Misinterpretation
Each seismic shift in time
I’m inventing you
Through a generation gone by
And we sit in silence
Seedlings of the same wizened tree
I can imagine
I’d tell you of the short skirts girls in England wear
And the joys of Jeremy Kyle
How snow falls like capricious cotton balls of bliss
On nights cold as an Eskimo’s kiss
I’d ask of the past
The laughter shared
The songs one sung
What Mum was like when she was young
If I weren’t trapped with the handicap of my British tongue
I imagine the talks we’d have
Tucked in the candlelit cave of a power cut
Cradled in a culture clash
Hoping the Tower of Babel might bleed into oblivion
And somehow a tainted miracle might unfurl
I’m willing to bet we’d have been the best of friends
In a different world
But I do not know you
I’ve composed you from
Dress cotton
Banana leaves
Patchwork quilts of quiet smiles and stories
That I could not understand
In this land of lost language I am neither stranger nor native
The weight of my wasted words cannot be translated.

 

Vanessa Kisuule