Sometimes, love takes you by the mouth. Both of them.
Soyini Ayanna Forde‘s “Poem for a Gunman” tugs your underpinnings aside, curls urgency and sincerity upwards into your heart in slow, molasses-drugged strokes. The address of the poem is intimate, revelatory, confessional: we learn of a lover with “slow walk solid calf muscles nutmeg flesh / marinating in Rasta oil”, a lover who transmits need with the press of ganja-ripe fingers around his woman’s throat, a man who “could have / picked me up if you wanted to, crumple me, / throw me away”. Oh, forget Prince Charming. Fling off Rhett Butler. Heathcliff, who? If you want it good, go to yard.
I’m listening to vintage Beres Hammond while I write this. Yeah. Tings serious.
“Poem for a Gunman” is direct, so tender and ravenous in its address. It bares the nape. It hitches up the dress. It smudges the lipstick, reapplies it, then licks it off raw. It presses you backwards, knees bending, onto the bed of hunger still salted and leavened with the last afterglows of slaking thirst. Forde instills in us this same unbowed, primeval knowing of the speaker’s lover, investing us in a psychogeography of his planes, his angles, his moods and humours. We walk in his skin, and lie down in him, lying down in her. This great, genuine shapeshifting voyeurism of the spectacle of love, and loving, fuels the best romances. The best darknesses, too.
I so badly want to tell you the last two lines of this incandescent, hummingbird-hearted poem, but I think you should read it, and find out. Take yourself to bed, or be taken to bed, on the promise of it, the renewal and supplication and transubstantiation of that need. Pull it into your mouth like sensimilla, exhale slowly. Again.
Read “Poem for a Gunman” here.
Soyini Ayanna Forde is the winner of the 2016 Small Axe Literary Competition for Poetry.
This is the ninth installment of Puncheon and Vetiver, a Caribbean Poetry Codex created to address vacancies of attention, focus and close reading for/of work written by living Caribbean poets, resident in the region and diaspora. During April, which is recognized as ‘National’ Poetry Month, each installment will dialogue with a single Caribbean poem, available to read online. NaPoWriMo encourages the writing of a poem for each day of April. In answering, parallel discourse, Puncheon and Vetiver seeks to honour the verse we Caribbean people make, to herald its visibility, to read our poems, and read them, and say ‘more’.
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