I feel a long way from America
and America is what I was learning.
Through books and film and music and people
I straddled the Atlantic
imagining the galleries
and the libraries.
But the waves were strong,
and much like Salvador Alvarenga,
the man who got lost on a boat for 14 months,
I sometimes felt I had no nation.
I could be sure of.
But countries are like that.
Strong and invisible,
Rooted deep into our psyche.
I could never mistake
that it was the streets of England
that my visions of America were contained within,
that down the road and near the water
was the screen that has long projected Hollywood,
that in the houses, next to the worn furniture
are the books that transmitted New York
past the eyes, to the brain
where I again will build
a place that someday I won’t have to remember.
I will just be able to look and see.
Until then I will shave
and turn up for work
at the university that lights up lecture theatres at night
for talks on the slave trade.
Legacies are in place
but let them not get overblown,
our people will soon see eye to eye
and speak of common things.