Ayitey, 1973 - Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Portent in the air, always – a sense of change
coming – in Hanoi, Manila, in the ring
of pugilists. Our father, undoubtedly watching
that haze of fists and feet, must have felt a twinge,

some primordial premonition of his seed’s skin flaming
in the kiln of his new wife, hardening in stance
as Marcos declares himself irreplaceable and George
Foreman, forearms like torpedoes, plants on Joe Frazier

the pin of defeat that Nixon couldn’t fix on his map

of Vietnam. The end of your second trimester was
nothing short of dramatic, but your coming, two days
preceded by the first cellular phone call, a day after
the opening of the World Trade Center, brings more fire:

propane expands with a bang in Arizona, France flexes
mushroom clouds in Mururoa Atoll, aeroplanes crash
like toys and an energy crisis grips the West – this is to say
nothing of the fiery gleam of a saxophone going dim
in a pawnbroker’s window, the abandoned music sheets

found years later turned yellow in a chest. There will be
better times – a spidery steel suspension, kin to another
that spans the Volta (the electric heart of Ghana), will reflect
its lights in the black waters between Asia and Europe, stitching

the space between two continents. Apart from the facts, I have

nothing to piton the drama of your birth with; I’ve seen the date
list: in order – the birth of Sean Paul, Oscar De La Hoya; the death
of Pablo Picasso; Haile Gebrselassie (birth); the fall of Bruce Lee;
the first cry of Nasir Jones (also the son of a horn

player, later known as Nas) then this – in one line, poetry and a dearth
of poetry – Pablo Neruda leans into his own shadow, inherits
its weightlessness, fades with the night. It is September 23, 1973,
you are almost six months old. There is a picture of you sprawled
in an ocean of bed, a hard thing, a pin on a map, a wriggling spider

in a cream web, crying.

Originally published in "The Makings of You", Peepal Tree Press, 2010. Reprinted by permission of the author.

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