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Two Poems by Ismail Bala

Reading Time: < 1 minute

(after Menka Shivdasani)

‘How come your hair is so lustrous?’
the tall pianist asked, and she,
half-awake, said Kano city was full of lustre
and sometimes the place got into your hair.

He was a pro, and they were playing
hide-&-seek with each other, sexed-up notes
on lustrous skin. ‘The problem,’ he said,
‘is you’re too subtle’, and played
music from the piano keys on her head.

It was when he got to the C Major
that something changed.
Later on, he asked, worried: ‘Did you,
baby, did you?’ for a critical moment,
there were silences that he didn’t anticipate.

(after Neil Rollinson)

You climb onto the bathroom scales
and stare at the dial twirl back and forth
beneath your weight, swift, unwilling
to stop. I’ve added weight,
you say, in anger, how can you afford
to lift me up? I lather in the shower and feel
my full gut rise in the foamy water.
I tell you about the scientists at the end
of subterranean labs, trying to parse the universe
in coats of pure white. They’re looking
for black holes, for SMBHs; for the missing
gravity that will bring us together. The cosmos
it seems, is contracting infinitesimally.
We are getting further apart by the minute.
You purse your lips and turn to speak to me.
I can’t take it, you say, half a kilo!
I tell you you’re pretty, that you look as beautiful
to me as you eternally have. You shed off
your shorts and get into the shower. As you adjust
your shape into the foam and move closer to me
the water burbles and bursts for a moment,
then drips from the face, soaking the bathroom rug.


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