Nikheel Gorolay

Nikheel Gorolay is 22, recently graduated from King’s College, and has lived in the same house on the outskirts of London all his life. Nikheel considers himself part of the East African Asian diaspora, and he aims to celebrate his multifarious existence and lineage through his writing. Nikheel is making himself very busy—he is actively working on a novel as well as a collection of poetry, and is organizing a regular reading group in his area. His poetry marries an earnest attention to sound with an attitude that goes from playful to grave and back again, all while never losing face.

 

One Size Fits All

 

Grief is buying new school shoes –

stiff, unforgiving leather

polished to bear your reflection,

and the scuffed memories of old

are left to rot, or charity.

 

I always knew it was painful,

dreaded it each year

and stuck to what I knew,

buying the next closest thing

to replace worn old with new.

 

They tell me it’ll be over soon,

that they can ease the pain

and mould the fit

as if this is not meant for me.

One size fits all.

 

A shoe-horn, metallic morphine

rigid against my numb heel

as I slump in under tears and grimaces.

 

I prod the toes of them,

wanting mine to breathe.

But there’s no room for breath,

a snug fit of suffocation –

a wreath welcoming death.

 

A proud day as I ask

for the next size up:

boy to man, please,

those tears parched

at the sight of one

coming into his own.

 

Alone, my feet rubbed-raw

and whistling to a strangled tune,

the price of growing up –

if only a year more

to delude what would always be too soon.

 

 

Stitching Strands


A parting piece of you

from a silvery bed

dew-dropped with sweat

wept from your delicate head.

 

Not a stir as I pluck

deftly, making sure

a stump is left,

our mutual mark of love.

Your debt, my surrogate.

 

A soft sigh goodbye tells me

you felt it, and I cradle

your withered claw

clammy with hurt

as I mirror your gift

with one of my own,

how photos say

yours used to look.

 

I bring both together

in your creviced palm,

knot the scalp-ends

and twine the strands

to meet in split-ends.

 

I clench your fist over

our two now one,

to prove my blood

if they enter and boast

of how they knew you

before my life had begun.

 

 

Mawning

 

The havan:

a wealth of offerings,

sweet, earthy, dripping

with the same nectar

the fire licks through.

 

A blur of incantation and incense,

summoning forefathers

with a sloppy tongue,

lips pouting a dead song

washed up on the shore of my throat.

 

I try to cough out the residue,

purity of millennia past,

but my oar lolls limp

and the fire tuts in reply,

spit-showering ribbons of smoke

to strand me in what has passed.

 

A coffin badged

with glossy crimson,

an omen marking the spot

as the hinges bend over backwards

to reveal the spoils.

 

The frail form within ice to the touch,

perfectly preserved and blast-frozen

to ensure lasting expiration.

 

Thawing to tears I weep

a ready-made pool of sorrow

deep in patience, shallow as

they crumble to sobs and sniffles

because nobody’s to blame

but everyone’s sorry.

 

 

Maverick Monotony

 

 

Now repeat after me –

sorry, I didn’t catch that,

my ears are clogged

with the din of fresh fish,

the salt of the sea

cuts into me as I run

my fingers over its scales.

Nguru they call it

Kingfish.

But I’ll be damned if you’re one.

 

Now repeat after me –

it’s just not working

my feet won’t stop moving,

heels pounding into scorched earth

head rocking

from sky

to hut

from sky

to hut

as we dance for weeping clouds.

 

Now repeat after me –

You’re a juicy one aren’t you?

Ruby skin taut as I sift through prickles

to find your sweet spot,

my nails perched on your flesh

as I eat you.

One half – shoki

the other half – shoki

 

Now repeat after me –

there’s a word for your lot over here

Mzungus.

You laugh and snap pictures

by shirts with your name

Flash Off! so only your face

is the one they see

back home.

 

Now repeat after me –

no, repeat after me,

hand on wrist

down narrow streets –

hug the piss-stained wall

as a white minibus passes

bearing goods of your kind.

They wonder why you’re with me

as the tailor asks if you like

his authentic garments,

and a boy tugs at the frills

of your silk shirt,

his feet red-raw from the cobbled road.

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