Earlier Collections

The dade County Book of the Dead

Mzungu

ChicheĊµa for "white man"

He turns around, again his shadow flees him.
Mzungu's darkness giggles with children
who have marched in his big steps,
now scattered into doorways, hiding in bushes.
The look he casts over his shoulder is salt:
the taste of their world and his forever changed.
this place is always behind him: his eyes stopped by distance,
smiles that refer back to the red dust of a road
settling on his shoulders.
he is confused by profuse thanks for things he has not done.
So many things he must accomplish before the sun sinks,
fires light up the hillsides
and his night buzzes with worries and mosquitos.

Mzungu never buys boiled mice kebabbed on sticks.
Women and boys wave them anyway.
Mzungu is greedy for vision,
can seal whole villages int his black trap at one sitting;
can catch us, the way we catch mice in wicker.
Mzungu with his eye and his hawk-like nose,
his steel claws, his table draped with cloud.
Sometimes Mzungu stops by the roadside bar
and buys each girl a cold one.
But lately he will only laugh with them;
no longer taking the prettiest to the back room.
Mzungu says there is something in our veins.
and now I know we can ver become brothers in blood.

Vistor is dew, our proverb says,
but our land remains hard,
lie baked clay, like an empty bowl.

         in New Writing 4, eds. AS. Byatt and Alan Hollinghurst (Vintage,1995) and The Dade County Book of the Dead (NPF, 1995)

No Text

Sea Changes

The odd warm winds keep up. The sea’s
wrinkling with red weed. It weaves through the water
where slime hardens to stone. This jetty’s
just frayed ropes and rotten planks, warty

with limpets now. Half-sunk, a waterlogged
dory’s choked up on a frayed tether.
The low sun turns distance to fogged
film, sky simmering. The weather’s

so weird these past months. The sea
thickens nightly to a muscled slime, twitches
with the low flap of leather wings. At dawn, bees
swarm over drift-wood and drown. Smith’s bitch

ate all her litter. Nights I swat bugs, scan the heavens
for meanings. Old Ma Jones flicks cards. Paul
and the other others drink. I’d leave, but Stevens
says there’ll be work in the Fall.

I don’t know why I feel so bruised.
Migratory birds flit like erratic needles.
Strange winds buffet their plumage.
They take off, and land again, confused.

            in The Pterodactyl’s Wing: Welsh World Poetry, ed. Richard Gwyn (Parthian, 2003) and Esau’s Children (NPF,1991).

Strange Tongues

Nympholepsy

Nympholepsy. 1775. [after epilepsy.] A state of rapture supposed to be inspired in men by nymphs; hence, an ecstasy or frenzy, esp. that caused by desire of the unattainable. Shorter Oxford Dictionary.

In the sudden shock of noon
you seek out that bee-loud glade, the low hum
amplified in the fragile vibrato of a flower’s drum.
All else is a perfumed narcotic hush:
the sway of big colour on unsteady stems,
each bloom astonishing itself into drunken flame.

You follow the gargle of the river down
to where the breakers tumble hugely in your head;
knowing her wardrobe is racked with tricks of light,
think you have almost glimpsed her gown
in some evanescent shift of sky or sea.

There, among the dying surf, there’s that bright
static foaming through the sand…
– You try to catch her misty hem.
Her sleeve is water in your hand.

Come to – is it moments or is it hours later?
clothes ragged, slimy, wet;
face stung by salt and sun;
mouth stuffed with weeds and grit;
one low swollen eye
considering a crab scuttling the beach,
a trickle of blood from your nose,
as your mind is pinned by a gull’s screech.


Prophets

Wild-eyed, Moses-bearded, mostly;
ignored in their own land
– inevitably; maniacs or manics whose stand-
up routines make wrinklies hurry on, the young jeer.
God’s burning bushes, each thorny mind’s on fire
and put to the production of rhetoric and, often, ginger hair.
This means they stand in the Inferno
but are not consumed, just purified.
Their flames are fanned by the wind
that howls right through them; the desert within,
through which they wander each their forty years.

Then they have the right to blast down from on High
excoriating the weary, the work-bent, the God-shy
grey wash of homing commutation trudging up wet steps
to bus queues outside. As if Brixton
were not terrible enough admonition,
they pass down the Truth in tablet form:
smudged photocopied pamphlets, the toner gone
like all else to dust, staples like tiny bones
that snag your nails, catch your borrowed cashmere.

And on the crowded bus, jostled, mugged up close
with odours of stale perfume, armpit-reek and,
I have to say it, piss,
you read that, after all of this,
you go to Hell.

Well, I guess, the eyes have it: the candle in the skull
or the coals on every tongue.
you know the ones who crucify themselves slowly?
Each Good Friday nailing a piece of wood
(on which they have, painstakingly, pokered the XXIII Psalm)
to their left annually stigmatised, and no real wonder, palm.

Others with hair shirts, scourges,
a missal’s red ribbon sewn into the flesh above the heart
like some SM valentine.
Or, cursed with the gift of tongues,
speaking Hebrao-gibberish, tolling the rosary line
of petitioners for the Two Zone travelcard.

Or, scrawling warnings in the invitingly broad
margins of library books.
The Plague is coming, maybe already here.
they underline numbers people do not see
when the Devil’s in the detail
and knocking mind’s for Six Six Six.

Or, that divine amanuensis with his spray can uncapped,
taking down the whispered Enochian
of each Angelic Conversation
and putting it up, the writing on the wall:
New Scripture, the Last Testament,
luminous, hissing from the nozzle.

No Text

on Esau’s Children
“He has travelled widely and used the experience to provide the stuff of distinguished poetry... He is a poet of real gifts. There is not a dud here. Recommended!” Frederic Vanson.

“Forshaw’s writing is charged with exciting new metaphors. Redolent of ocean and landscape, his poems often read like shopping lists of redefinition in which he casts the ordinary in startling and telling ways. He demonstrates wit and intelligence.” Bound Spiral.

on Strange Tongues
“an inimitable and sometimes sensational poet. The antithesis of hum-drum.”
Mario Petrucci, Bound Spiral.

on Himalayan Fish
“A tour de force of poetic skill and decidedly shiver-making... these powerful and hard-hitting poems prove Forshaw’s claim to our attention.” Ore.

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