the view of my back, a hunched thing curved into itself instead of out in a 20-year game of hide and seek. here a trick you learnt a stack of books placed on top the spine (equivalent to a piece of paper trying to stand on its own) to straighten what is out of place. Oh, how could I have let this happen? it is not spoken but later soaked into skin at the behest of pruning hands, attached a grating sponge collecting in little crevices all of my failures. i watch myself wash away under it and the voices that protest now lost under the droplets and eyes that watch the scene, those same bag o’bones holding an apology in a clenched jaw. along with spices and cut vegetables, the recipe calls for: one stomach (my stomach) one liver (my liver) one heart (no longer ripe but usable). it is a favourite and oh, how you make it best! (mine always resides in extremes) (too much or too little) but the tongue remains still in a mouth that has forgotten how to express gratitude and yet will wash the plates without asking, catching soap bubbles. children dressed in black what is your father but a fragile branch waiting to snap under the weight of your foot? what is he except anger, born with and dying by? you take his place in the golden chariot that sleeps in the middle of the yard by the tree that rises from the earth (the centre of all his myths) and it gives its shade to bits of grass between concrete, not his sons and daughters. when he leaves there is no mourning, no ambiguity - you gather the troops under its shade and take turns to tell your stories before smashing in the windows, every sentence another hit, pipes and bats in hand. mourning period the water’s too hot. it’s scalding the skin, turning it red. i learnt in school that it’s because the vessels dilate and blood flows to the skin and it’s only now that i notice the cut. it’s small – bigger than a papercut, tinier than a gash – and the blood looks like it comes from nowhere, materialising on my hand. there’s soap everywhere, it’s on my best black dress, my only black dress, and it gets into the wound, singing and screaming! now tell me; is the blood supposed to turn to wine? or is it the other way around? It’s been so long since i read a holy thing. of course, i’m not the son of God (you’d call it blasphemy if i called myself that) but i am your daughter so shouldn’t that count for something? the blood continues and fills the palm with rivers under the tap and i pretend not to notice the people hovering over me. service A hand clings onto a bigger hand / a scared calf clinging to their mother. / A sea of sweaty churchgoers in fine clothes / in a tiny hall that did not deserve them. / So much noise, it leaves the gift of ringing in my ears for a lifetime afterwards. / In the safety of a larger shadow / oh how the light streams! / through stained-glass windows / just to materialise on the walls / and the crosses that hang on them / colours which did not exist before this. / For a second, I am big / but then there are the eyes / the eyes on me and the blood to my cheeks a reminder to keep my head down / A single mass takes its seat, hushed and quiet. / I dream of a pastor’s baritone / a hot knife cutting through silence / the verses that slip so easily as though they were organic thoughts / not just second-hand scripture / even in my dreams I am still lingering on them / finding myself in sweats and shivers / crying / an unfamiliar prayer on the tongue. Bio: Lisa Tesfai is an emerging black poet from London. When she is not writing, she is studying for her bachelor's degree.