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19 poets on climate justice and change

edited by African Writers Abroad and PLATFORM published by PLATFORM


Cover images: C Words commissioned poets Dorothea Smartt and Sai Murai by Martin Le Santo-Smith Stencil image of Ken Saro-Wiwa

Paper has 20% post-consumer waste recycled content, the rest of the pulp is sourced from sustained forests in Scandinavia, produced without using chlorine for bleaching. All ink used is based on vegetable oil and fully biodegradable.

Robrook Design and Print, Leeds

Designed by Liquorice Fish, Leeds

PLATFORM gratefully acknowledges the support of Arts Council England


NO CONDITION IS PERMANENT 19 poets on climate justice and change

Written, displayed, performed during C Words: Carbon, Climate, Capital, Culture, Arnolfini, Bristol 2009 Edited by African Writers Abroad and PLATFORM

Published in November 2010 as a limited edition of 500 by

PLATFORM 7 Horselydown Lane, London SE1 2LN England email:

All rights reserved by poets. ISBN: 978-0-9567365-0-5


To mark the 15th Anniversary of the execution of Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni colleagues on the 10th November 1995, and to all who fight for climate justice and resource equity.


FOREWORD No Condition is Permanent features writing and poetry specially selected and written for PLATFORM’s season C Words: Carbon, Climate, Capital, Culture, which took place at Arnolfini, Bristol, October and November 2009. It takes its title from the packed night of performance and music which took place on 7th November in Arnolfini’s main gallery. C Words was a hubbub of over 70 events including talks, film screenings, discussions, workshops and courses with contributions from campaigners, artists, researchers, educators, NGOs and activists. It presented 7 new major art commissions from artist and activist groups, including African Writers Abroad. A year after the failure of the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP15, December 2009) to deliver a concerted programme for addressing climate change and resource justice, and on the 15th anniversary of the death of Nigerian writer and campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa, this volume crackles with incisive calls to justice and irrefutable observations written with aching and acute words. Words which through their beauty, hope, humour, and anger we are compelled to embrace and act upon. The collection features the new C Words commissions from acclaimed performance-poets Dorothea Smartt and Sai Murai, of African Writers Abroad (PEN). It also republishes selected poetry from the anthology Dance The Guns to Silence: 100 Poems for Ken Saro Wiwa (Flipped Eye, 2005). These poems by Helon Habila, Susan Richardson, David Eggleton, Tolu Ogunlesi, Carmen Borja, Zena Edwards featured throughout the C Words season. We also present work performed at C Words by established Bristol writers Edson Burton and Ros Martin, from the Bristol-based art+power group (Jeff Johns, John Lewis Vowlles) and fresh exciting pieces from participants of the sell-out Full Circle / Killing TINA, Embracing TABOO writing workshops (Yasmine Brien, Natasha Machin, Jesika Essex, Alexandra Walker, Doreene Blackstock, Marion Cox, Nkechi Ebite), run at C Words by Dorothea and Sai. Poets from these workshops also performed their work alongside a stellar line-up as part of the 7th November event. We thank all the poets and writers for permission to publish their work, and hope this volume fuels more new work, beauty, and action. We also thank Kadija Sesay, African Writers Abroad for unceasing support and our ongoing collaboration. PLATFORM C Words was funded by Arts Council England and Artists Project Earth.



CONTENTS 08_ A Sense of Denial_ DOROTHEA SMARTT 10_ as good as your word?_ DOROTHEA SMARTT 11_ Shake My Future_ DOROTHEA SMARTT 12_ Gaia breaks up with Humanity, her young lover_DOROTHEA SMARTT 14_ do you know what pisses me off?_ DOROTHEA SMARTT 15_ Killing T.I.N.A, Embracing T.A.B.O.O. _ DOROTHEA SMARTT 16_ The C Word _ SAI MURAI 18_...Stop_ SAI MURAI 19_ Full Circle_ SAI MURAI 22_ No Condition Is Permanent Photos 24_ Slumber_ EDSON BURTON 25_ When The Rains Don’t Come_ ROS MARTIN 25_ Can Anyone Remember?_ ROS MARTIN 26_ Edges Collide_ NATASHA MACHIN 27_ Not A Lullaby_ JESIKA ESSEX 28_ A Tree at Ashton Court_ ALEXANDRA WALKER 28_ My Backyard_ ALEXANDRA WALKER 29_ El Desierto Verde - The Green Desert_ YASMINE BRIEN 30_ Old Women Who Pinch_ DOREENE BLACKSTOCK 31_ Untitled_ MARION COX 32_ Joe Public’s Perceptions: TV Saves Them All_JEFF JOHNS 32_ Dockside Vomit_ JEFF JOHNS 33_ Politics Gone Mad_ JOHN LEWIS VOWLLES 34_ The Global Economy_ NKECHI EBITE 35_ Breaking News_ TOLU OGUNLESI 36_ Brightness_ DAVID EGGLETON 37_ Prudhoe Bay_ SUE RICHARDSON 38_ Still Life: Discovering Ice_ HELON HABILA 39_ Puedes Perderlo Todo/You Could Lose Everything_ CARMEN BORJA 40_ A Photo of a Girl - Tribute to the Ogoni 9_ ZENA EDWARDS


DOROTHEA SMARTT - African Writers Abroad

a sense of denial Denial looks black, panelled, silver-edged and gleaming. Car-washed in water enough to quench a dying village’s thirst, a Hummer, petrol guzzling in a London traffic jam. Its darkened windows seal out the day’s cool breeze, to keep in an Air-Con fool, a lone driver in his third car the one that’s just for fun! The tread of the rubber tyres bouncing me back to trees tapped of their strength to let us breathe. Denial is the clicking of a million light switches going on as the sun sets in the North (and scorches the South). A single home lit by countless careless bulbs, the hum of its appliances on stand-by. While clicking fingers coat the keys of a Playstation, and a car chase roars from the DVD on the plasma screen, while someone else plugs into a symphony of jungalist beats. Denial is the burning smell of toast, a third round of single slices under a gas grill. Or the blackened burnt out wreck of once Ogoniland. Stepping out into the city’s morning traffic fumes, smog clogging a child’s breath, inhaler at the ready. Stopping to pick up the rich roast of coffee in a Starbucks mug, and an over-sized, under-nourishing Big Mac for lunch. Denial is tasteless, with a dash of MSG making all falsified flavours more amplified. Even the blandness of the water-fat injected chicken, with enough legs for everyone. Coated in orange crumbs that were never bread. Garnished with a mutated modified tomato, ever-fresh and tasteless on the tongue, plumped in polystyrene buns.


Denial could feel warming, a cosy carcinogenic electric blanket heating up the cold night under thin sheets. Or slippery like okra or egg yolk, never to be held grasped in the fingers. Denial could feel rough like sand concrete, like a West Bank wall, watchtower beams glaring in the dark. Trickling like waters, diverted from the Gaza Strip, to irrigate agriculture for an, all but, gated community Dobermans in the yard. Security cameras, rolling. Denial is in that air-conditioned Miami house, sitting in a sweater, on a 90 degree day, then piling, a half-load, of wet clothes into a dryer. Or in Reading, taking the car across the road to buy a newspaper. Denial is walking London’s streets, complaining about the price of petrol and rising taxes, anxious to jet-set to another, anonymous, exotic sunny beach.


DOROTHEA SMARTT - African Writers Abroad

as good as your word? WHAT ARE WE BUYING INTO?! it’s a SPADE, not an ‘earth relocating implement’! Fishy fishy rulebook. Funky fish-eye cameras, set the ‘gold standard’ disrespectful starters awful words. What’s wrong with plain English? Why are they so many? The combination of gently melting Saturdays into Sundays. Every day tall-tales river make the ordinary extraordinary. WHAT ARE WE BUYING INTO?! it’s a SPADE, not an ‘earth relocating implement’! Crack a smile! We’re buying into an exclusive members club. But let’s spark something! Inside body mind, and deep sleeping states. It’s a SPADE, not an ‘earth relocating implement’. Their relationship - maths freeze the truth our days of freedom. Add up to a blind state station.


DOROTHEA SMARTT - African Writers Abroad

shake my future Shake my future. Push me past my complacency my taken-for-granted, my comfort zone. Shake my future. Let me source the unimagined be released from the sentence of the inevitable take control, empower myself past the dour predictions of the present and change myself. Shake my future. Challenge our ‘first world’s capitalist consumerist criminal zone of perpetual purchasing. Shake my future. Past the edges of the known launch me, out into the hinterlands of the intuited, the imagined. Beyond the droughts of apathy and quench my thirst for something different. Shake my future, with alternative endings. curdle the milk of corporate kindness the patronizing rattle of charity cans to preserve the poor and assuage my guilt. Shake my future with a kaleidoscope of tunes play some other melody, bliss me out of ignorance. Let my mind expand with a question and seeking the answers shake my future shake my future, shake my future! With tangential tirades and beckon me into a sustaining sandwich of: yes we can and hope


DOROTHEA SMARTT - African Writers Abroad After Phillippa Yaa de Villiers,

Gaia breaks up with Humanity, her young lover* Gaia! Darlin! I’m so sorry you feel that way! But you’ve got me all wrong I do love you! I do respect you! We’ve got something special Babes, I’m not like the other species. You and me, we’re different, we can understand each other, like no other. We’ve made each other what we are: My skin carries the shades of your climates, even my blood responds to you! You, brightest star in my galaxy. I love taking care of you Babes – I’ve un-choked your rivers, mapped your landscape, risen above it all to see you for what you are my gorgeous blue planet! My whole world. Where would I be without you? What about all that we’ve got going for us? Don’t they mean anything, all the good times? We’ve shared so much. All the new and wonderful things I’ve made happen for you – we’ve done it together Mama. I’ve gone places that others avoid, I’ve dived your very depths, and risen to the heights of you. All so I can understand you better. I’ve given order to your chaos, named your parts, uncovered your secrets! Surely, we can work things out? I know myself better for knowing you. It doesn’t bother me that you’re older, and it shouldn’t bother you I’m much younger. You’re my one and only, and I’m your Man. Sure, I’ve had some bad times, who doesn’t? I’ve changed, Sweet Mama. I can change. Are you gonna throw it all away, for a few mistakes?! Gaia darling, I thought we understood each other.


You’re not easy. Successful, you’ve got it all! Imagine how that makes me feel, Do you care how small you make me look? I’ve got needs too! I put up with you, your tantrums, your tornadoes, your earthquakes, ‘natural disasters’, your cycles would test any Man! You’re so erratic at times – Am I meant to sit back, and just say its natural! It’s the order of things! When I can be a Man, and do something about it! You test me Gaia, you really do! Is it surprising I lash out sometimes. It’s not easy being your Man! You keep your wealth secreted, away from me what kind of partnership is that? Good God! Any other species would have left out of here, ages ago. Look at the ones who have! They had enough of your mood swings. Be grateful, I care about you! You’ve been around, a good few million times, yet here I am. Is this the thanks I get? You need me darlin’ – and don’t you forget it! I take care of you Babes – you’d be a right mess without me! I love you! We have so much going for us. If you’d just stop being so hysterical, and see it my way.

*from ‘Taller Than Buildings”, 2008, Centre for the Book, Cape Town 2008


DOROTHEA SMARTT - African Writers Abroad

do you know what pisses me off? long paper receipts for just one item luxury scented toilet paper assuming the whole world has internet access digital radio exclusion by myopia being silenced being –hyphenated, ‘minority’ and ‘other’ being exotic only being booked during Black history month only being booked during International Women’s month the assumption of heterosexuality the smug assumption that as I’m Black I’m more homophobic libraries full of books that don’t reflect my reality science fiction fantasy futures where everyone is white – even the aliens being an aside a footnote a seat next to me on a full bus staying empty being complimented on speaking very good English being asked if I’m a dancer or a singer assuming its fine to touch my hair without asking assuming that I’m angry


DOROTHEA SMARTT - African Writers Abroad

killing T.I.N.A, embracing T.A.B.O.O* (for Simon Murray aka Sai MuRai)

There are billions of options, that we don’t listen to! Never get to hear. Never see, never make it past: the cynical fascism of Daily Mail headlines; out the mouth of the CNN correspondent propped up, in a hotel bar, miles away from the action. We never hear it, feel it, get to experience it – Imagine, a dreamer, a fabricator, a storyteller, magic-maker, a fablesinger. Telling it like it could be, like it isn’t, like it may be! Imagine. What if, possibly, there are billions of options that languish taboo’d. Never make it past the tip of the tongue, never see the light of new days, evolve past, and up into a eureka moment. They sit, these billions, mired in despair and apathy. Nobody cares to know – been there, done it, what’s the point! There is no alternative. Just the way we are, the way we’ve always been. One story? Chimamanda* cautions us: Go beyond one story. Experience the richness, the multiplicity of voices and perspectives.You might just break-through, a taboo, you might just break TINA

out of her tiny mind, out of our tiny minds and see, possibilities.

*With thanks to: Margaret Thatcher for T.I.N.A - “There is no alternative”. Sai Mu Rai for T.A.B.O.O - “There are billions of options” . Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for “The Danger of a Single Story”, Oct 2009, TEDTalks video,


SAI MURAI (SIMON MURRAY) - African Writers Abroad

The C Word as we move onwards ever upwards, forwards never backwards we see words and we say words but do we hear words, Connect words? C words: Culture Carbon Climate. over-used words, abused words deliberately Confused words by one unspoken silent C word


mr newsreader, mr newswriter, Cultural Commentator, master debater be brave, no longer fear the Client let this C word no longer be silent this C that lurks behind the door C that bring riches, yet devastates the poor C that stops us talking to one another fear of strangers, neighbours, fear of the other C – Cause of anger, hate, terrorism, rage turns the herd upon itself, inside its Cage. jailing the victim, rewarding the suited thief simple ‘solutions’ mask Complexities beneath selling, pricing, buying lives dinner of genocide, big C thrives rapacious insatiable beast C finds little profit in peace C – pacifies and distracts from its own true blame fireworks and Candyfloss while Continents flame. umbilical Chains of greed, selfishness, jealousy under a starry C, newborns drown in slavery


torture, death, ridicule, for those who oppose fame, fortune, legacy, for puppets who pose. C – supporter of Conservative, labour, liberal, republican, democratic governments C behind all Criminal Cartel Crusading Corrupt Corporate … stunts Chattel, Colonialism, neo-Colonialism, Corporatocracy, Consumerism, ‘Civilisation’ Columbus, Cabot, Cook, Churchill, Church Control, Coerce, Chaos, Crisis, Crunch, Crush, Clash, Culture, Capture, Crass, Class, Conflict, Convict, Complicity, City, Corrode, Crude… Coca Cola mother earth – we have identified your would be assassin we know the enemy’s shame this poem has been brought to you by: the Countless number slain and the letter C… let us speak the devil’s name and free ourselves from prison: “Cuh...” “Cah...” “Cap...” “Cap-it...” “Capit-al...” “KKKAPITALISM”


SAI MURAI (SIMON MURRAY) - African Writers Abroad

...Stop Beep-di-di-di-di-di-beep... STOP. I’m picking up a signal Our Mother is sending out an SOS. Beep-di-di-di-di-di-beep... STOP. She’s crying. Greenlandic, Antarctic, Arctic, Siberian tears. We must Beep-di-di-di-di-di-beep... STOP. Slow down... halt... beep-di-di-di-beep STOP. STOP. STOP. STOP. Stop making shit, Stop eating shit, Stop buying shit, Stop doing shit. STOP. ALL. SHIT STOP. believing time is money and realise time is of the essence... STOP. believing in kkkorporate responsibility or kkkorporate sustainability... STOP. believing that what is in a multi-national kkkompany’s interest is ever in the multi-national peoples’ interest… STOP. believing that kkkorporations will ever willingly tear up their legal commitment to shareholders and abandon their creed of profit over planet... STOP. smoking and passive smoking in its most damaging form – the exhaust pipe... STOP. the mass-mining of minerals… STOP. the mass-mining of our data, DNA, medical records, biometrics, and identities into pliable buyable databases… STOP. buying anything without fully investigating the entire chain of its ingredients, manufacture, labour and transport... STOP. buying period. And extend buy nothing day to a month, a year, & for evermore... STOP. to think whether our current employment is really actually necessary in the global-justice scheme of things... STOP. to question whether our daily actions are actually helping or hindering the biodiversity of this planet... STOP. suppressing our calls of the wild and begin to benefit from the fruit of our own labours and the non-air-freighted fruit of our collectively-owned land... STOP. building clone towns, cities, metropolises of factories, offices, businesses, luxury flats, car parks, slave-chain bars, slave-chain restaurants, casinos, malls, supermarkets, hypermarkets and start to convert those already built to libraries, social centres, social housing, care centres, hospitals, post-offices... STOP. All. Shit. And begin a global strike until the World revolves for the majority not the elite monied misanthropic mysoginist myopic minority... Beep-di-di-di-di-di-beep... STOP.


SAI MURAI (SIMON MURRAY) - African Writers Abroad

Full Circle

(for Jane Trowell, Dorothea Smartt & the C Words Family)

proposition I

proposition III

enough words! let us move forwards, but let us look backwards fly like Sankofa, this world is for turning

know yourself know the ledge test the edges embrace taboos

full circle back to nature, back to origins, back to Mama Afrika, back to Mother Earth connect re-connect to the womb-an wombanise our world re-capture, reclaim our world re-capture, reclaim our words proposition II reclaim the c word reclaim the cunt from the cokkks vagina monologue, vagina dialogue, vagina plurilogue. ken, kenne, können - be able, can – deep sense of profound knowledge where knowledge resides ja, ihr könnt – yes, you can ja, ja, ja – yes, yes, yes! ja, ja, jah, rastafari sellasie-i, i an i

reclaim the cunt from the cokkks never mind the bollocks be literal about clitoral cunning linguists cunnilingus clit on tips of tongue labia on lips life-affirming, life-giving, flowing, wet, cunt, the source, origin, full circle ken, kenne, können, knowledge, power, womb-an, language is power knowledge is power words sound power c words, hear words, reclaim words reclaim power vagina plurilogue: embrace taboo utter: “cunt”

one love one peoples one consciousness connection, full circle ya ken?


proposition IV

proposition V

come full circle come together cunt. cock. cunt, cunt, cock, cock, cock, cunt, ying yang creation

let the Iron Lady rust seed bomb the car-cass kill TINA, embrace TABOO, there are billions of options:

c-words, g-spots, a-spots come multiple positions in multiple ways in multitudes multiplicity millions billions of options we are the ones we have been waiting for trust in the power of the population never in optimum population trusts power to the people man. womb-an. child. holistic trinities, power to produce re-produce re-distribute.


open windows to air-conditioned capsules, open borders, open minds, open up art and activism aim to change the world practice art and dissent at home put the fun between our legs auction away artefacts reclaim the commons build social centres smash the centre decentralise de-compartmentalise desk-killing minds climb ladders unsupervised, say “shit� in speakers corner, take a shit in the gallery, drink water, eat forbidden foraged fruit touch the exhibits engage with the exhibition deconstruct, create, re-create, participate, write back at the madness that surrounds us, break down the Palace walls

proposition VI kill TINA, embrace TABOO, there are billions of options: create cross-cultural, cross-continental connection, connection without commodification critique creative economy controversial conversation circus, carnival, converge, commons, communication, communality, common-wealth, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, celery, cumin, coriander, cous cous, curry, cup o’tea. comrades, citizens, co-operatives, come together to create community -- co-mutiny a critical mass of convivial consensus, cultivating confidence in creative capacity crafting contraptions against climate chaos. campaigning, critiquing, constructing, considering, cooking, clowning, climate-camping, challenging, confronting, cycling, co-operating, collaborating, co-realizing. realize, re-member, re-connect come full circle. come together come as we are radical in our natural beauty. come cunts cocks cuddle.



photography: Martin Le Santo-Smith, Jane Trowell, Richard Houguez, Liquorice Fish photos L-R: Dorothea Smartt, Sai Murai, Zena Edwards, Edson Burton, Ros Martin, Yasmine Brien, Jesika Essex, Alexandra Walker, Doreene Blackstock, Nkechi Ebite, Ben Amunwa, Alice Ukoku, Sokari Douglas-Camp CBE, Moussa, Aidan Jolly, ....????



Slumber We snort virtual reality Weep with the highs and lows Of celebrity, are quickened By game show victories Still we slumber. In our name our mother is maimed Force-fed diets of waste Stripped bare to appease our discontent Abnormal seasons are her elegy Still we slumber. With every new conceit We accelerate disaster And greet our impending end With endless chatter. Still we slumber. Corporate clans join hands To feast upon the fat of the land Like hogs at the brimming trough. Still we slumber. Doom looms over Pleasantville Rich and poor plummet Life hangs on the price Of coffee beans Still we slumber. Justice drowns in Durban Old sins remain unconfessed As every nation has a nigger To keep in check Still we slumber. Bearing the brunt of broken taboos Rural idylls become open pyres Health and diseased stock tossed Into raging fires. Still we slumber.


Northern apartheid breeds Into battle-lines exposing the lie Behind chicken-tikka cohesion. Still we slumber. A child bleeds over backstreets His crime to shine amongst Peers raised to praise failure. Still we slumber. Arm chair generals goad Then unleash the British To tear limb from limb exiles Seeking sanctuary. Still we slumber And if we begin to sense We too are chips traded In a global casino there is retail Therapy to buoy the ego. Still we slumber Still we slumber Until white hot shots Smash the Twin Towers Earth and sky, all matter Atomised swirl in a raging cauldron. Iron mighty Uncle Sam mortally staggers. The camera is dumb and listless. We wake to horror.


When The Rains Don’t Come When the rains don’t come and the cows don’t moo Is there something out there that’s going to be frightening you? Has it got a tail? Has it got a horn? Has it any teeth at all? Does it slither, slyly into long grass? Does its eyes incandesce in the dark? Does it jump up and charge or not? Does it have a pungent, noxious smell? Does it make you all bothered and hot? Does it bring you out in terrible, itchy spots? Or does it give you a nasty, nasty cough? Does it decimate all your crops? When the rains don’t come and the cows don’t moo What will be out there frightening you?

Can Anyone Remember? Can anyone remember where we once lived? Those woods, those trees, those maize fields Those rivers, where we once lived gone. All of them, from where we once lived Fields of millet and sorghum no more but tea plantations aplenty. Where we once lived we have teas now Teas we cannot eat nor process Binds our lives in serfdom, averts our eyes to changes How we once lived, crises now the hallmark of our daily lives, so no-one dares remember How or where we once lived.



Edges Collide Speak to me edge because you are who I like best, so many spaces and relations into the world. In this sentence we have stance. Speak to me of your phrase - your dance. I want to hear where you feel vulnerable and why? They say that we won’t make change because we are too comfortable, find the edge and move beyond that desert of making. And we know that if you have every thing you need because of the privilege you seed then find a space where edge is for new life to breath. Breath can help when there is fear, breathing out will be the best defence against drought. On breath is water, on breath is fire, on breath there is a trickle into the vast hereditary worlds where two meets edge, meets one too many beats, our juices curdle when the spaces are not fertile and our worlds collide, create blood, collide, we collide to make new ways of seeing that our ignorance is something easy to hide behind. When you turn the simplicity of living into looking down the scope of fears and a killing, as I’m thinking of that great saying “you don’t have to fuck other people over to survive” just need to find a metaphorical rocket to explode the tiny mind of Capitalism. And I don’t fit into your small and pleasant land because I go off on tangents and never stop the power to learn how to bring ideas out of the sands of which we are full of surprises.

Brought to you by the collaborative dropped in words of: Edge-Sentence-Desert-Drought-Breath-Edge-Kaleidoscope-Curdle-Ignorance-Tangents-Sandwiches...



Not A Lullaby ive already woken praps beyond limits and now i wont ever get back to sleep silence the mind from the reams and steams of heavy deeds to be done battles to be fought maybe never won sure im fulla shaken speech and also alive with love for the world which drives me so endlessly trapped in the whirlpool of endless fuck ups we have created for ourselves causing self directed reckless angst to be forgotten and no longer noticed for an inability to sleep in exhaustion overcomes me daily



A Tree at Ashton Court I know a tree Grows not far from here. It is old, it is gnarled and almost bare of leaves. Inside is hollow, black and charred. Children climb through it like a chimney And poke their heads out at the top. Years before some came and tried to burn it down. They lit a fire. They sat and watched. They drank a beer and left the can, But soon got bored and wandered off. Sometimes people stop and look, And say ‘How sad. Some vandals, yobs, chavs and thugs, Tried to burn it down,’ Unaware that charred wood doesn’t rot so fast. The burning saved this tree to grow another fifty years or maybe more. Long after we are dead, The last fragment will invisibly ingest itself Into the surrounding earth. An insignificant mouthful for a wood louse That happened to be passing.

My Backyard ‘Not in my backyard!’ I shout, As I sit quietly under my own weeping willow. I don’t want to hear your tears, Not here on my neatly clipped front lawn. My world is clean and tidy, It doesn’t smell. I wrap my rubbish carefully And leave it for the binmen. I don’t care where they take it. Does anyone else want to know? Not in my street they don’t.


Keep your horrid tales Of filthy, cruel destruction. They interrupt the flow Of my happy, tidy daydream. They mess up my back yard Which is clean and pure and Doesn’t need your nasty thoughts.


El Desierto Verde - The Green Desert We don’t want any aggro guvnor No siree, none of that That corporate pushy shovey needs to stop - hear me Wanna settle this with a food fight? How ’bout a riot? What’s that got to do with the price of fish you say? Hah - it was the “we won’t take it no more” bread queues that toppled the Tsars Don’t know yer history, or yer science it seems Let me put it this way You can’t live off eating palm trees You can’t live off drinking ethanol Sure, the West might like a regular petrol nipple feed Chased down with a can of coke and some “ethno” food You can eat all the rice in China if you fancy, topped off with a bit of credit crunch But you’ll still be 2.5% closer to the fan as the shit hits it Talking your high art and how ya have a Black friend While you pump in yer hyper inflated paper queen’s heads To the growing monoculture of your own demise Think a few more fences and a few less papers Guarded by men in black uniforms are gonna Protect your 2.4? I heard your daughter’s last meal was Seroxat Eaten from shaking hands while cyber social networing the globe - all in the name of progress But I need my car you say... But I need to lay claim to this land... And this business flight’s essential... You just don’t understand We’ll see my friend, we’ll see Cos when our backs are to the wall And Canute throws in the towel You may reach for my hand with a pearly white smile But know now my friend, know now You can carbon credit kiss my ass. written an hour before attending this: and relates to my later article from Colombia:



Old Women Who Pinch Spiteful, dipped, poison darts Aimed at a little child’s playful heart For fun Amusement A loaded, cruel laugh. The pinch, Skin smocked between finger and thumb – delicious squeezing. Birthed out of a memory Lodged in that twitch behind the eye Fashioned in that grimace, We politely refer to as her smile The woman. Old Haggard hen Speckled with hatred From a time when she was beaten – Mistreated. Eaten – By a plague of locus She could have sworn blind were human. Flesh left to rot In a spot In a field On a land Owned by a man, bought by his colonel ancestry, For one dollar maybe three.


I watch as she turns the stew on the stove, That old woman. Peering over steamed glasses, casing all the arses she’s going to Pinch today Whip today Pray over today Obliterate today Because she never got her way Back then. The men, Watched with repulsion – disgust Daydream resignation As she was left to cry Asking why? As she lay dying As she laid dying Old women who pinch More than an inch From a child’s life Want to die Peacefully Need to sigh Peacefully Closed eyed, they prayed by and by For their dignity To remain Intact.


Untitled Wet. Desolate, But the library beckons Like a beacon Of computer assisted Less boring than Otherwise Opportunities To swott, Be learned, Score brownie points In the intellectualism score card of life And maybe Perhaps If all due volume levels are observed And not excessively Challenged By untoward And very offputting Speaking (An understandable And no doubt necessary Requirement In the learning process When Observing With no more than due And fair consideration The right of others To be boring).

You can Email. Hotmail. (If you’ve got an account) And you can get through Security systems Designed by the Obstructionalistically minded. And maybe Just maybe Maybe there’s maybe A chance That at some point You will feel Slighly less Alone Loveless Forlorn Destitute Abandoned by the graces that favour Those with prettier faces and bigger tits And that don’t Pratt around so publicly And objectionably madly In public.


JEFF JOHNS - art+power

Joe Public’s Perceptions:TV Saves Them All Push away the subject of the unwanted, bringing bare to blood of lives of plastic bottles, trudging on animal life. Rip up the roaring lions we don’t want them anymore. Tear down the trees, replace them with plastic fixings. Take down what is real, replace it with instant self congratulatory of a set design, ignore what is outside your sights and views, just because we do not see it on the news, does not mean it is not really happening. Rip up the ideals of the perfect life. Idols do not exist along with these contemporary practices, without costing a price, draining colour out until everything turns grey as we are pushing on the borders, down in the dwindling numbers, with the shrugging public thinking - what do I care? That ain’t me in there, so I will leave a little bit here and a little bit there, no one will really care, with plastic trudged foods, take a sip of coffee for that ain’t no reality. Wake up and smell the beans, you see there’s more trees that we don’t need. As green areas become indigenous to smoke, of broken arches, particles of happy-slapped faces willing to endorce anything with a soft toy of Disney with no remorse or feeling, hiding you underneath, ignore blue smiley faces turned black with another spillage on the slacks, coating hammer hammerhead sharks, bask, whites, birds plights, as I can see the average Joe pour clean water from his tap thinking thank fuck for that as he rips open mountains of wasted plastic for self-engrossed products. He yawns, God the environment is boring! Bring me Death galore that will keep me soon he says, watching the TV with his switched off brains, not heeding the troubles impending, that won’t affect me for it’s not in my back garden as he thinks the TV is going to save them all...

Dockside Vomit Construction changes the shapes of our land. As I stand in the waters eyeing up sick glands of posh council flats lining Dockside Edges like water rats, killing off slews of scenic views, just for the few that can afford a private view whilst many a building stands unused. I know what we will do said a council who had a few bob or two We will erect multi-coloured structures that look spewn Like someone has just vomited on our heritage and history As it used to lie picturesque had simply become grotesque Destroying the beauty that lay in the industrialism of years gone by Unless you have got more than a pittance in your pocket, then your opinion won’t rock it and the high risers stand out like something defecating from the sky People complain about obesity in health but that’s because their school greens are being felled for the hall of construction, coughing, spluttering and wheezing I see views decreasing especially those looking from the river up to Ashton Court.



Politics Gone Mad Politics It is going mad All the politicians telling lies To the world that I live in To stay in office one more day. They say we will do this Will do that If you vote for me But then they get into power They never do it. Politics It is going madder and madder by the day It’s all about oil Not about the people that they see and hear Telling them what they want They don’t care about the people Politicians - they love money and all things that make them rich So in the future - no more crap politicians Let’s run this world ourselves and do the things that we think are right Let’s run this world the way it should be run And make this a better place for the future for all mankind You and me.



The Global Economy Everybody go get their Niara. You deposit your Niara, care of underground market economy representing Nigeria PLC, eager to take Sterling or Dollar. The cat-calls from underground money exchangers “2 to 1, 2 to 1” call you to barter with them, for their passport to the luxurious Lagos lifestyle. No bank has this Niara. It’s moved, through the invisible economy deflated and made useless by the effortless entrepreneur. Who’s got it? Where is it? It’s recycled by force for the invisible market economy, a battered bastard backend of the global economy


TOLU OGUNLESI - African Writers Abroad

Breaking News I read the obituary Of a tree, and a toddler-fish I pen a line in the condolence Register of a cassava-stick I attend the lying-in-state Of a youth’s dream; a fisherman’s destiny I’ve heard of death By water And fire But death by Oil Is new, fresh, far From a cliché. It is night, yet day A streetlight of flares In a land where electricity Is an abomination, Where streams are caskets And the air is a floating pool of Timed death. Where sea-Shells Sing night and day in crude tongues, Throats drowned in oil slicks. I have read of rigged elections In this land But this news of Rig-ged Annihilation Is Breaking News to me… I lay a wreath For a village that used to be. And read the obituary Of a tree, and a toddler-fish.


DAVID EGGLETON - African Writers Abroad

Brightness Along the gloss of the coastal shelf drifts the taste of the ocean breeze, and a perfume that pours from trumpets of flowers. Up there the sky smudges pastel blue, as the sun’s fire flexes to climb like the flame of a matchhead held aloft. All the dancers of the silver meniscus are streaming and ribboning across green, glazed transparencies. Epic fathoms edge their speckled fingertips into the shallows. Inside the cloud of the oceanic self, soaked seeds begin to grow. A golden comb teases foam against sand, and the beach is dazzled to see a sudden clarity begin to burn through the silken morning, leaving the word netted in light that is caught, that is held, and then drawn tight.


SUE RICHARDSON - African Writers Abroad

Prudhoe Bay “I tell you, it sucks. It’s a freaking wasteland. Just shitloads of birds we’re not allowed to shoot. Food’s okay and there’s a work-out room, but it’s still a real bitch being based here.” “It’s awesome. I was, like – wow – amazed when I first saw that giant pipeline. Proud too – these fields are the world’s cleanest, no doubt about it, Jesus our Lord God be praised.” Two thousand men work here and hundreds more come to leer at all the rigs, airports, drills, roads, wells, waste pits, and power plants which gore the tundra, licking their lips as black blood spills. The boss, it’s clear, has big tumescent plans to pump it dead with his plump, slickered hands.


HELON HABILA - African Writers Abroad

Still Life: Discovering Ice Think of broken pieces That once formed a whole Think of alleys, And of dead ends Uncover the rage within and roar Think of stifled ambitions And dreams forever in abeyance Think of songs muted And of suns blinded Think of missions aborted, Think and rage, Discover ice and freeze Think of dinosaurs and dodos Gone, beyond recall Think of flowers undiscovered, Of rage suppressed, unexpressed Earthquakes, the ‘O’ in Ozone, oily seas, dead fishes Think of thunder and storm Think of inordinate polar nights Then open your mouth and scream, Never again talk of a brighter sun.


CARMEN BORJA - African Writers Abroad

Puedes Perderlo Todo Puedes perderlo todo. El olor de los prados en invierno, los cuarenta matices del verde, el sabor del pan, el perfil de la piel amada, el chillido gris de la gavioata. Puedes perderlo todo. La casa donde naciste, la tierra que cobijó tus pasos, la memoria del mar, hasta el sonido de la lengua de tu madre. Puedes perderlo todo. Lo que sabes, lo que crees saber, la profecía Puedes perderlo todo. Pero si no puedes amar más llora, porque te has perdido.

You Could Lose Everything You could lose everything. The smell of prairies in the wintertime the forty shades of green the taste of bread the profile of the skin of your loved one the grey screech of the seagull. You could lose everything. The land that sheltered your steps, the memory of the sea even the sound of your mother’s tongue. You could lose everything. What you know, what you think you know, the prophecy. You could lose everything. But if you can no longer love, cry, for you have lost yourself. English translation by Ana Osan. Dept of Modern Languages, Indiana University Northwest


ZENA EDWARDS - African Writers Abroad

a photo of a girl – tribute to the Ogoni 9 there is a photo of a girl 12, 13, slim wrists long neck she walks wearing peach with blue flip flops stepping with a familiarity over the slippery backs of 8 pipelines she is at number 5 she seeks protection from a gentle rain falling from the African sky holding an umbrella with a bright yellow shell on it behind her, between the giant palm leaves dragons roar, bellowing black billows belligerent belches of acridity in to sky when I put my ear close to the photo I can hear her asthmatic breath each clap of her plastic flip flop against her heel makes a poem in her step it is the sound of every day people who live with pipelines like tapeworms sucking the placenta and excreting toxic into the bloodstream of nation the rivers are graveyards the wetlands, thirsty for clean breath the land is haemorrhaging miscarrying cocoyam and vegetable seed boys who have given up waiting for jobs to come eye her as she walks by, a generation numbed by the futility of existence it is ironic that their most valuable asset becomes their Achilles heel the idleness of youth fervent for action dumps them in the hands of ak47 robber gangs who howl in the night to the tune of their masters - myopic mad men in business all grappling for a fist of flaccid dollars greed at the price of a village but then again everything has its price in the world like this girl with the poetry in her step, the poisonous air in her lungs is a currency as is her mother’s sludge garden and her father’s chest face and shoulders burned in the last accident


the truth is a jealous but patient thing it bide no hazes of the facts or credibility gaps there is only one fragrance that it harbours time, the scent of time moves from freshness, to death to rot, to the fertilization of new days it is between the pages of a day in court that a mystery can be solved why it takes twelve long years to walk the twisted violent gauntlet to justice why nine lives were thrown into a wound cut with a knife of lies how the spirits of the tortured and murdered can be redeemed from the dispassionate mouth of brutal greed and how with the wondrous alchemy of nature instead of the bitter bile rising to the mouth of the fisherman and the farmer works songs will rise over the trees, will dance with the fish along the creeks will paint across a sky uninterrupted by fire and towers of black smoke and how the poem of the girl in blue flip flops, can be fetched from under the fattened rump of human disregard and used to re-imagine the world how she can close the umbrella with the yellow shell on it and walk in the unpolluted rain falling from an African sky




NO CONDITION IS PERMANENT No Condition is Permanent features the words of 19 poets on climate justice and change written, displayed and performed during PLATFORM’s season C Words: Carbon, Climate, Capital, Culture at Arnolfini, Bristol, 2009. Featuring commissioned poetry from Dorothea Smartt and Sai Murai (Simon Murray), poets from African Writers Abroad, acclaimed Bristol poets Ros Martin and Edson Burton, writers from art+power, and participants from the C Words poetry and creative writing workshops.

ISBN: 978-0-9567365-0-5 Published by PLATFORM, 2010

Price - ÂŁ4


Profile for Platform London

No Condition is Permanent, 19 Poets on Climate Justice and Change  

No Condition is Permanent features writing and poetry specially selected and written for Platform's season C Words: Carbon Climate, Capital,...

No Condition is Permanent, 19 Poets on Climate Justice and Change  

No Condition is Permanent features writing and poetry specially selected and written for Platform's season C Words: Carbon Climate, Capital,...


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