dear cousin how are you over
on that side. i hear you lot get
a bit of sun and field. does the
heat cling. we don’t get much
on this side. i’m not sure
if you get much smog. sometimes
it looks like there’s more of us
than there are but then it rains
like it’s rainy season. everything
is grey-shaped. is it true you have
barrels just for laughing.
i’ve stopped talking. the one fella
i knew got on a boat. lucky bastard
wasn’t even happy. said he was going
to die. what is dying if not this. cousin
i know you’ve got your family.
i don’t want to impose. if you could write.
tell me is there a space for me there.
i hope this reaches you somehow
because i can find a way—warmly
cousin. i pray this finds its way to you.
my mum still talks about how we used
to run around in the rain chasing chickens.
don’t think i’ve been clean like that since.
i saw a painting—the way you lot look
over on your side—boy don’t you boys
wash up good. had me thinking black
was white for a second. i joke but i like
to picture you going on strolls with the king
in your frocks and your waistcoats
speaking your la di da. everytime i hear one
of them ships have come i wait to see if it’s you.
but those who come always look so broken.
here everything up to our tongue is breaking.
if you get this please write. and maybe soon
we might see each other again. maybe we
meet somewhere in the middle of this. yours—
Gboyega Odubanjo was born and raised in East London. He received an Eric Gregory Award, New Poets’ Prize and the Michael Marks Award, was an editor at bath magg and Bad Betty Press and the author of three poetry pamphlets including While I Yet Live (Bad Betty Press, 2019) and Aunty Uncle Poems (The Poetry Business, 2021). He was studying for a PhD in creative writing at the University of Hertfordshire and his upcoming collection, ‘Adam’, will be published by Faber in the summer of 2024.
Gboyega was one of the poets featured in IS&T’s Runaways London (2021, produced in conjunction with Spread the Word and the University of Glasgow’s Runaway Slaves in Britain project.) ‘Cousins’ is from this anthology.
Gboyega went missing early on the morning of Saturday 26th August, while at the Shambala Festival where he was meant to perform the next day. His body was found five days later.
His family have set up a fundraiser to support in his final arrangements and continue on his legacy.