Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

New poems by Nick Makoha





The only thing that was certain was that it was June and we had spilt a pepperoni pizza between us. An ultraviolet light set the room: Basquiat channel surfing looking for cartoons, while Icarus prodded a canvas to see if the image fitted precisely in the frame. He was certain that someone had broken in. I am getting set to coast towards the front door when the girl of my dreams walks in. Now, I have to make some lame excuse about how I’m off to the bodega to get some smokes and how I have a craving for meat. I am bound by this habit. She just smiles. I smile back. Then a voice from the back of my throat says you can come with. Cut to me and her at a stop sign. I don’t want to play the right game the wrong way. In the silence that has followed us from the front door, I swat a crown of mosquitos above her head. There is no water, but I can smell the ocean. The man at the store is sweeping the street at which point I ask her name. I have only ever seen her in a gallery with a glass of prosecco in her hand. I watch the man watching us in that night in that long summer. She pulls out some ice cream from the freezer and adds it to the bill. The pulp of her lips is flint and fire. The birds are silent and so is the wind. The rest of the night falls away. In another magic, she calls me by my original name. It is difficult to know what to walk away from. She asks why my eyebrows are raised. We are sitting on top of a park bench watching time. We are a part of it, right here in New York City. This is where the road delivers us towards the edge of difference. Butterscotch drips from my fingers and falls to the tarmac. A beautiful suspension. Then I or you or whoever decides to look, hand-rolls a cigarette as we rummage through our back pockets for a light.


“There was a silence”
Douglas Preston, The Codex


Basquiat asks the Poet about Death

At a rooftop party, the night is the night, and we are watching death.
Or should I say Bruce Willis is walking barefoot in a skyscraper? I wish
I had taken a picture. The host, some newscaster you would recognise
from TV, has hired a firm to project the film onto the hotel wall across
the street. My date has just returned from the bathroom. I am her plus
one. Pointing to the open bar, I can feel the sun’s heat reflecting off the
building. She has me speaking in my fourth language but my thoughts
have us undressed in my first. By the pool a waiter asks Are you ready
to order? You recommend the pad Thai with chicken for two and if they
are out of that you say we’ll go for the snapper with a snake bean salad.
DJ Shadow is connecting speakers to his decks when his left elbow
knocks the Blood Orange Champagne Mule to the concrete. Even falling
has its grace. Bruce Willis is at the top of the Nakatomi building ready
to face a paradox: terrorists intend to blow it up. A building burning
is a way of saying, you’re not welcome here. The waiter returns with
our cutlery, I can see my country in the steel with only weeks to go
before it’s bankrupt. How is it that I can be in two places at once.

Equals Pi

The three of us paddle in our kayaks to Pumgume Island. Before the third morning, the
future separates into sea and sky. In the fractured extension of broken time, everything
depends on how you interpret it, just as a prayer is more than the order of its words.
Take that corner of the sky? Notice how the brightness of a gleaming sun retreats from
the world. The journey picks us up in Stone Town where all our food and drinks are
catered for. A lone fisherman beckons us to the far side of the beach. In the brief history
of his silence, we set up camp for the night as the fisherman tends to a fire beneath the
baobab trees. I fall asleep to the flame. What if the spaces we use for testimony are equal
to Pi? Here is a burning bush. Moses was a fugitive who saw the whole of Egypt’s harvest
destroyed. He stood against a troop of magicians and had to believe that the God who
called to him from the flames of a burning thicket would terraform his reality
In the brief history of this other silence, he was talking to God, in the same way I’m talking
to you. What theatre, to catch God mid-sentence. I wonder if he stresses his Ts? I wonder
when Kanye burns his childhood home to rubble on stage if he is really drawing a line,
a parallel to a burnt city which Equals Pi. What if the burning bush was God’s cover
blown? Or what if the flames were God’s primer and the flames’ crackle was the sonic
he embodied while he awaits another voice. The kind of voice you might hear coming
out of the drum kit of Max Roach while recording Money Jungle in the Now. By now
I mean, today is equal to Pi. The pistol of a dead man is equal to Pi. The year 1976
is equal to Pi. An Entebbe airport with its floor on fire equals Pi.
The opening scene of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing will, if you allow it, have you
standing on the cliff’s edge for ninety minutes. The dance your heart makes in the closing
credits is equal to Pi. So are the amount of times you watch it again as if for the first time.
The world trying to reset itself is equal to Pi. As is the burden that arouses men to labour.
That too is Equal to Pi. Do you notice a pattern? Ok! Don’t focus on the spine but on
what it holds up. The Future is an eroding witness, and she will tell you that war is not
about protecting the border but how much blood was spilt within it. Tragedy belongs
to such whispers. The bodies of your friends in a morgue are equal to Pi and whatever
flame is burning. Fame in a world like this is worthless – that too Equals Pi.

My country is a woman in heat,
a bridge of lusts. Mercenaries cross her,
applauded by the massing sands. – Adonis


Codex 9



We begin here in transit, it is September, I am asking to invent
a kind of time the way Coltrane did in Alabama. I am looking
for a hole in the ground or lightning from a skinned tree with its
fragile brightness, that spikes below the waterline, not to be seen
from the dirt road. Where is my old city perched on seven hills?
Where is the sky in its height to watch the evening crawl in?
Where are the horses that broke loose? I know I come from
another world that is both sheath and blade, both bruise and blood.
You have me in a room. Your boss is using my last name
outside this door to express the relationship between me in part
and its whole. The name sounds strange at the edge of his mouth,
like bait at the end of a hook. I glance at a clock. The ceiling tiles
are perforated, and you ask Why did I move from the home I once
had to this home? Your silence is also a hole. The soil from which
I came does not want my return. Men who look like me in the eighth
century came to the hem of your shores. They used the wind like
a stone in a sling. I used an airbridge. I used a runway. I used a loud
flight path. I used an airport lounge of a country known for its invading
army. I used who I am in this night with its far-off star. I used what
nobody would admit, that geography is everything. (END TAPE)


In the summer of 1976, the future
dies. My city becomes an unfinished
sculpture on a colonial map and
even time itself becomes thinner
than paper. Give me a wide shot?
Wider! Notice how the sky is late. In
this place – in this kingdom – in this
undergrowth we are the wrong
people even to ourselves. Ospreys
are in flight in search of a nest. I too
am hunting. Away! To the dark that
tries to hide us. I am the watchmen
cloaked in its shadow who left his
wife and child asleep in the mud
hut. Soon I will become death. I am
waiting for a metal bird to land on a
runway. Its wings are fanning the air.
Here death comes, so be it. This is
for what God has put us through.