Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Raymond Antrobus

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Tabitha: y haven’t u told me u luv me
Raymond: I’m literally writing you love poems

you’re trying to send me a portrait
of a lady on fire but the link won’t load

so I don’t know what it shows
and you’re in the cinema rustling

in the dark and we think we aren’t
doing things the old way, our marriage

is new age, no more you complete me crap,
have your own life and I have my life

and it’s tricky and easy while we’re doing
long distance but how can I show you

my love is unfolding if my words
can’t reach you glowing and wild?

 

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Raymond: in the dream I was in a packed cinema.
I had a remote for the screen, I flick channels,

turn on captions and no one seemed to mind.
Some forgotten Macaulay Culkin film came on

and laughter erupted, then a film trailer started.
I’m on screen talking to the camera but what I’m saying 

isn’t subtitled. Behind me, a man in a hood
wearing a strange shiny blue tracksuit, he takes off

his hood and it’s Macaulay Culkin! He’s looking around
and sees me looking at him and quickly puts his hood back on.

A woman with a wide chin is sitting next to me making hmm noises.
On screen, I’m peering up a faintly lit staircase and all goes grainy.

I see that the tattoos on my arm are just scribbled pen marks
then the wide chin woman, realising it’s me on the screen, says

you know, you really missed an opportunity,
you’re talking about your mother

but you’re not really talking about your mother
and I turn to see my mother’s face flickering in and out of light.

 

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Tabitha: Dreamt I was in my studio,
conserving this painting, slowly sharpening scalpels.

I’m neat and focused until my fingernails
became a large feeling that the painting couldn’t understand me.

Meanwhile my fingernails start scratching the canvas,
I lose it and hold the painting, tearing the whole thing in half.

Then there are twelve more paintings at my feet
(Warhol’s, Marclay’s, Hockney’s) and I’m picking up each 

and tearing and tearing until my finger nails fell off, became swords
and all the paintings became my uncle (who was murdered)

but there was no blood on his body, just bright blue
and yellow paint and someone kept saying

master, master, master, master, master.

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Photograph of Raymond Antrobus by Azumah Nelson.

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Raymond Antrobus was born in London to an English mother and Jamaican father. He’s a Cave Canem Fellow and the author of The Perseverance (UK, Penned in the Margins/US, Tin House) and All The Names Given (US, Tin House/UK, Picador) as well as children’s picture book Can Bears Ski? (UK, Walker Books/US, Candlewick). He is the 2019 recipient of the Ted Hughes Award as well as the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award, and he became the first poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize. His first full-length collection, The Perseverance, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and The Forward Prize. He divides his time between London and New Orleans. More from this author →