True Lies

My bro’s so good at dying, he shakes this way and that,
dancing in the shrapnel. Mama shouts play nice so
we bundle into the sofa bed, bodies clumsily naive.

Arnie’s on the telly, a CIA agent, a body of nothing but
muscle and man, chasing a terrorist (I forget his name)
trying to stop him nuking the world, stealing $60 million,

it doesn’t matter, because Arnie throws a knife so hard
the handle juts from the eye like a lever on a ghost train.
Good ol’ Arnie, he’d make a shoot-out funny, a sex scene

violent, a string of dead bodies entertaining. You’re fired!
they’re all bad guys after all, with hocked up names,
indecipherable lines, from countries too terrible to visit.

That’s the beauty of a blockbuster it can take you anywhere.
25 years later, Arnie’s a politician, my bro and I on the bus,
a man in full thobe walks on. The thought rolls in like a tank.



Arji Manuelpillai is a poet, performer and creative facilitator based in London. For over 15 years Arji has worked with community arts projects nationally and internationally. Recently, he was the Jerwood Arvon Mentee mentored by Hannah Lowe. His poetry has been published in magazines including Cannon’s Mouth, Strix, The Rialto and Bath Magg. He has also been shortlisted for the BAME Burning Eye pamphlet prize 2018, The Robert Graves Prize 2018, The Oxford Prize 2019, The Live Canon Prize 2020, The National Poetry Prize 2021 and Winchester Prize 2021. He was runner-up in the Robert Graves Prize 2020. Arji was provided a Develop Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council in January and has been using the time to interview and discuss extremism in its many forms. Arji is a member of Wayne Holloway-Smith’s poetry group, Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and London Stanza. Arji’s debut pamphlet ‘Mutton Rolls’ was published with Out-Spoken Press. in 2020