2 Poems by Theophilus Kwek


Toby

After southern storms struck Alabama on 27th April, 2011, fragments of the victims’ belongings – including countless photographs –were deposited across Tennessee and Georgia. Some have been found and returned.

We never forgot the day he dropped in on our driveway, laughing,
a hole in his heart. Before the storm was over a card had landed
into the absence of his hand, its words woven over – when we found it
afterwards – by fingers of grass. Out of the blue! it read, just wanted to look
in on you and see how you were doing. Love, mom. Within a week it seemed
like all the children of Alabama were falling from the sky. We picked them
one by one from the lawn, the porch, Mother’s white rosebush; clambered
onto the roof to retrieve their siblings. A few had lost limbs (like the last child
who couldn’t follow in the Piper’s wake) but were lifted likewise, beyond
volition, into the upper reaches of our home. Most were happy. Others
had windswept smiles, eyes glazed and faraway, and wrapped themselves
around scattered things: A whistle. Bits of string. A granddad, and pages
from a family Bible: Father, You loved me before the creation of the world.
On the last day of April, Mother took them in a gilded box to where Toby lay
beneath the cross in the garden, knelt to give thanks, then buried them
by his side. He’s got company now, don’t you think? We watched the rain
fall unclouded to the earth, and knew.

_______________________________

Valentine

 

(after Valentine, by Carol Ann Duffy)

 

For Valerie Filtz (not her real name), a student of Columbia University, who was drugged and date-raped on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

 

The US Department of Justice estimates that 1 in 5 college women will be raped at some point during a five-year college career; 62% of rape victims say they were assaulted by someone they knew.

 

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

 

He gave me an onion. Said it was the moon
wrapped in brown paper, or something like that.
Then promised to be careful.

 

He was dead drunk by then. Said he would stay,
if anything went wrong. Write me a card, perhaps.
Marry me, eventually? Of course.

 

Said I could decide what to do with it when it came.
Said I loved too little, and longed too much.

 

Wiped my tears, asked why I was crying.
Asked, what are the chances, anyway?

 

But I wouldn’t let him. I didn’t want
to forget the sound of his voice, its arresting touch.
The bashful way it called my name. Or the way his fingers
once had with mine, wandering but respectful,
their gentle clutch. His face uncontorted, plain:
the fierceless smile of our first kiss.

 

Not the knife-edge of his breath

 

that kissed me again, above the din.
Only silence, then the hands that hit me
once, to let him in.

 

_______________________________

Theophilus has been writing for several years under the mentorship and encouragement of his family and friends. He is privileged to be part of the Humanities Programme at Raffles Institution, where he is a Grade 12 student, and has written for several school publications. A slim volume of his poetry, ‘They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue’, was published in 2011. His poem Toby was awarded Commendation in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2011.