Adil JussawallaAdil tmb

from “Missing Person

(Part I: Scene from the Life)


House Full. It’s a shocker. Keep still.
Blood crawls from a crack. Keep still.
It’s all happening.

It’s a spear.
It’s your saviour.
It’s a quiet mirror with hair all over

to a middle-class mother.
God’s gift for further reflection.

There’s trouble outside:
crowds, stammering guns, the sea
screaming from side to side.


For The First Time On Your Screen
A slave’s revolt and fall

His first cry with his mother
his last look with a wall-
no round-up by sunset, no final corral-
his wit with his friends,
his seed with fugitive bodies
as settled as armchairs now
seething with other men’s children
No one believes                    [jump cuts here
from mother to mistress and back]
his sepia distant or lurid recent
Don’t shut your eyes. It’s only a movie.

‘That speeding train-
It is my life.
Those are my hands-
split-ends of sabotage.’
Again and again, buttonholes friends
turned strangers, strangers friends
‘Believe, that’s me on the screen
through the stuttering dust, through the burst-open door
The running dog runs but they’ve put out its eyes.
‘Once I was whole, I was all.
Believe, why don’t you believe?’


A mill of tubercular children
is what he wears.
The wretched of history storm into
they smash
his house of ideas.

Who puffed up an Empire’s sails
still fuel the big-power ships
still make him fly
high to jet-setter fashion.

Blood tumbles down sleeves
hung upside down
to dry in his flat.

He’ll wreck himself yet;
docked in a. bar with a criminal friend,
his shirt wrapping him like a wet
sail, his wood carcass breaking and burning
in mutinous sweat.


He travels the way of devotion
but no sky lights
his street.

A river of pills brings him no raft.
Death goes awash with wishing.

Cripples his own mouth then, sits
killing his tongue, sits
barred up behind his teeth.

Bright sparks
on the international back-slapping circuit
are picking up prizes like static.

He’s for the dark.


God of our fathers,
of the broken tribe
and the petrified spirit,
why did you send us this horror?

Nothing we put in stayed put.
We put in the family history and prayers,
they flew out as comics.
Fed him grandmamma’s custards, he spewed.
We poured in the tonics

but nothing sweetened his tongue.

He thrust it out
again and again,
the bloodied head of an arrow

made the girls run.

Drive your shafts through his neck
Switch your hunting lights on.

For years we prompted his first
words, scolding the servanys for theirs:
‘Sweetie, say:
Let there be light, let their be us.’
We heard:
‘Let there be dung.’


In the fist of a rioting people
his rotting head.
A mirror fires at him point blank
and yells, ‘Drop dead
colonial ape,
back under an idealist spell.
Yes, you’ve made it to some kind of hell,
backslider, get liquidated.’

‘Wait! you know whose side
I’m on,’ he shouts,
‘but the people, their teeth bright as axes
came after my stereo and cattle,
came after my bride
I’ve said all my prayers
O pure in
thought word and deed have I been
delivering sun,
yet you gild street-urine-

So what’s the scenario
for our two-bit hero
but sliding back further
into a gun,

but travelling on,
paling at riots and slaughter,
forgetting his family, rejecting his son,
men with raised arms, stripped of their skin,
passing him village on village,
seared in the blast of no food,
in the shock of no water?


Bright angels – where?
[the final scene: so choir]
so faintly heard,
so long and lost a pause
in this underthumbed compendium of joy
that’s still his earth,
his shouts for law and order
won’t shake the posse off;
its dogs
harry, attack,
are at his throat and back.
Watch his murder.

His cock, his ears, his eyes, his tribe
will have as penance. That won’t make him sick.
The better to feel your love?
He coughs and kicks
with historical poisons,
bookdust, lies
that turn his words to sand.

(Say the nigger does exist. You’ll save.
Smash his pride and enter.)

The trapped wrist says it all,
how barren branches fall,
how talents winter.

To break away. To stand
in steady confutation of the Law
is what the skunk demanded.
He stole his father’s bread. He spat on him
and said, ‘Your reign has ended.’

Students of Eng. Lit.,
still bunched round her merciful tit,
be up and about,
face more terror than you can take.
And this is how you will end:
Before the final fade-out, like an ad:

‘Here is our smug little watch that’s lost its hands.
Here is our own Bugs Bunny who acted funny….’

There in the dark with the dogs, in pieces,
your fucking fake.

And here’s an announcement:
which periodically triggers
some men to act
and looses the bonds of the earth,
has set a bright tide revolving inside me, a door.
Give up your seats and join the cast of thousands,
revolve about his pieces too
(brown slaves, black vamps, white faggots,
deceivers, women who rend and claw)

and hear that head still singing…

O fallen throats that went down in a war,
O waters of the dark connection,
O pit of blood and knuckles,
Open, open up your jaws,
and hold me there – your missing person.


Nine Poems On Arrival

Spiders infest the sky.
They are palms, you say,
hung in a web of light.

Gingerly, thinking of concealed
springs and traps, I step off the plane,
expect take-off on landing.

Garlands beheading the body
and everyone dressed in white.
Who are we ghosts of?

You. You. You.
Shaking hands. And you.

Cold hands. Cold feet. I thought
the sun would be lower here
to wash my neck in.

Contact. We talk a language of beads
along well-established wires.
The beads slide, they open, they
devour each other.

Some were important.
Is that one,
as deep and dead as the horizon?

Upset like water
I dive for my favourite tree
which is no longer there
though they’ve let its roots remain.

Dry clods of earth
tighten their tiny faces
in an effort to cry. Back
where I was born,
I may yet observe my own birth.


Evening On a Mountain

The valley sunned itself all day, its span
Curving up two foothills; then the shadows
Crossed like wings across its back; further,

Ferries embroidered a slim lake, stitching
Silk into its cotton, prows snipping…
How still it was then! the sky thin and hollow,

Deflecting the words stoned across the valley,
The ears straining at each rebound; far off,
A cloud, launched from a rock, streaked

North like a startled bird.

Halt X

I do not know what station this is, or why
We broke our journey; checked, here in Derbyshire,
One senses danger, disquietude only.

Pieces of smoke litter the huddled town-
Card collage on felt; no pattering movement
On roads of sliding newspaper, sidling dog.
No alighting or descending the steps of its drizzling doors.

Rain fell like a drizzle of fine slag
On an anonymous town in smudged Derbyshire.
I counted sixty chimneys in a quarter
The size of a burgher’s courtyard, wondered at smoke
Sliding edgeways through the dawn’s widening slats.

A flock of pigeons dissolved in the viscid air
Like a piece of mud in a current; 5 o’clock.
A streetlamp craned its neck for the spreading frogs.

© Adil Jussawalla